“A poet of great heart and brave directness.”
In Protection Spell Jennifer Givhan explores the guilt, sadness, and freedom of relationships: the sticky love that keeps us hanging on for no reason other than love, the inky place that asks us to continue revising and reimagining, tying ourselves to this life and to each other despite the pain (or perhaps because of it). These poems reassemble safe spaces from the fissures cleaving the speaker’s own biracial home and act as witnesses speaking to the racial iniquity of our broader social landscape as well as to the precarious standpoint of a mother-woman of color whose body lies vulnerable to trauma and abuse. From insistent moments of bravery, a collection of poems arises that asks the impossible, like the childhood chant that palliates suffering by demanding nothing less than magical healing: sana sana colita de rana, si no sanas hoy, sanas mañana (the frog who loses his tail is commanded to grow another). In the end, Givhan’s verse offers a place where healing may begin.
In four rich and imaginative movements of poems, Jennifer Givhan profiles the suffering and the love of a Latina girl and then mother coming to terms with sexual trauma. Her daughter is a touchstone of healing as she seeks to unravel her own emotions as well as protect the next generation of budding women with a fierceness she must find within. Givhan exploits changing poetic forms to expose what it means to mature in a female body swirling with tenderness, violence, and potential in an uncertain world. Girl with Death Mask is a cathartic and gripping confession of the trials of adolescence and womanhood.