torrin a. greathouse’s debut collection of poetry, Wound from the Mouth of a Wound, doesn’t shy away from the hard topics,instead she opens her arms and holds these issues close, makes them her babies and her protégés. This collection tackles issues of gender, shame, family, disability, survival, illness and acceptance head-on.
Her poems don’t just show the reader these issues, they pull the reader into them, making them wear them like a skin. The reader feels exactly what greathouse is telling us to feel when she writes “Woman was taught to me / in a language of subtraction. // So, I skipped meals. / Trimmed fat. // Dreamed of another body, revised / again & again like the rough draft of a coast.” (from All I Ever Wanted to Be Was Nothing at All) How many of us have felt this way? Maybe the better question would be, how many are lucky enough to have not felt this way?
As I read this collection I was in awe – and sometimes horror – at how often I found myself in greathouse’s poems. She so adeptly captures the hardship being a woman can be: “Sometimes, a strange man called me BITCH when I will / not shift for the “big-dick” of his stride & this is a conjuring, / a spell, a blessing. Sometimes, this is the most woman I feel / all day.” (from An Ungly Poem)
She also dives into disability and chronic illness, how a body can fight and disappoint the person who lives inside it, how every day can be a battle. From Still Life with Bedsores: “The way that rest means / to lay dormant but wrest means / to tear away.”
And then greathouse tops all of poems in the collection with its final poem, whose title explains it better than I could: Art Poetica or Sonnet to Be Written Across My Chest & Read in a Mirror, Beginning with a Line from Kimiko Hahn. As I stood in front of the mirror reading this poem, I felt like greathouse had torn my guts out, spilled them on the floor and said, “Look, aren’t they beautiful?” Yes, these poems are both beautiful and brutal, both enticing and horrifying. They are the car crash you can’t help but stare at, they are the familiar face in the crowd, the one you can’t look away from because you are almost certain it belongs to you.