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A Girl's A Gun

Poems

Haunting and candid, A Girl's A Gun introduces a poet whose bold voice merges heightened lyricism with compelling narrative. Steeped in storytelling traditions, the poems in Rachel Danielle Peterson's debut collection exhibit linguistic dexterity and mastery of form as the poet mixes lyrical paragraphs, sonnets, and interview-style poems with free verse.

Hey Yvonne! The memoree of some stranger
his shoulder's shadow plunges inta our place:
thunk, thunk. Run! Mother's vowels pierce haze.

Mother, can we distil the pink threads, fabric,
black ball cap, the odor of Bud Light, fills the door
she walks through, dust, Mamma. Dust is all we is

Taken together, the poems present the coming-of-age story of a girl born in the mountains of rural eastern Kentucky, tracing her journey into a wider world of experience. While the early poems are steeped in Appalachian speech and culture—a hybrid of a child's diction and regional dialect—the language shifts as the collection progresses, becoming more standard. The speaker engages with hard issues surrounding gender and violence in contemporary life and explores what it means to be an artist in a culture that favors a literal interpretation of reality. Exploring issues of identity, place, and the call to create, this collection tackles subjects that will shock, touch, and bewilder readers while giving voice to an underrepresented and perhaps even unprecedented perspective in poetry.

About the Author

Rachel Danielle Peterson is a contributing editor at Poet's Quarterly and a member of VIDA. Her work has received numerous honors and has been featured in Front Porch, Literary Imagination, Arsenic Lobster, Midwestern Gothic, Los Angeles Review, Upstart, Her Royal Majesty, the Inspirer, and Revolver.

Reviews

"Rachel Danielle Peterson's collection, A Girl's A Gun, reads as part tall tale, part bildungsroman, part geode. These are poems meant to be enclosed in a palm and pressed against the heart. Peterson's strengths are in her cinematic depictions of women, her vibrant imagery, and the precision with which she code-switches into the tongue of the mountains. The heady combination leaves the reader a bit breathless and we plummet with her into a line that feels like proverb, such as in 'Birthday,' 'The heart is cruel/an organ with no song.' These poems do not balk at their own content, circling around love that is tough or risky or absent or misplaced. They press on, lead the way, suggest that there's no way around but through."—Bianca Lynne Spriggs, author of Call Her by Her Name: Poems and The Galaxy Is a Dance Floor and coeditor of Undead: Ghouls, Ghosts, and More and Black Bone: 25 Years of the Affrilachian Poets

"With a mouth full of sticky mountain laurel, Appalachian soul liquor, exclamatory verve, iconoclastic Biblical gospel, and tender purchase, Rachel Peterson's A Girl's A Gun cross-talks with a prodigious and prodigal personal and poetic tribe that includes family members, figures from mythology, Jeanne d'Arc, Apollinaire, and a host of hymns and rock ballads. 'Home is in the vocal chords— / the sound,' she writes in 'Harlan County.' By turns vernacular and soaring with lyricism, Peterson's foray into the emotional violence, Eros, and beauty of the places that hold us, and that we hold inside, evokes another American innovator, Emily Dickinson, who not only felt her life to be a loaded gun but who also, like Peterson, puts language under such unique psychological pressure that it almost seems to be its own tongue."—Lisa Russ Spaar, author of Vanitas, Rough and Orexia

"Wickedly powerful, powerfully wickedPeterson has an honest authority, she wields language like a sharp knife, she cuts clean."—Michael Dennis, Today's Book of Poetry blog

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