Elisabeth Blair is a poet, editor, and workshop leader with an extensive background in music and the visual arts. She has been artist-in-residence at the Atlantic Center for the Arts, Wildacres, the Kimmel Harding Nelson Center for the Arts, and ACRE. From 2016-19 she hosted and produced the podcast Listening to Ladies. Her publications include forthcoming full-length collection because God loves the wasp (Unsolicited Press, 2022), two chapbooks--We He She/It (Dancing Girl Press, 2016) and without saying (Ethel Press, 2020)—and poems in a variety of journals, including Harpur Palate (forthcoming), Feminist Studies, cream city review, and Juked.
A memoir in verse, Elisabeth Blair’s because God loves the wasp documents two and a half years she spent living in two abusive facilities for “troubled teens” during the late 1990s. The wilderness camp and emotional growth boarding school were modeled on the teachings and tenets of Synanon, a mid-20th-century cult.
Alternating between painful clarity and surreal metaphor, the poems grapple with the shock and disorientation of being taken away in the middle of the night by strangers; the bewilderment of navigating expectations in an environment of institutionalized bullying, shunning, and sleep deprivation; and the gravity of the adulthood that follows.
Writing in the second person, Blair confronts the reader, withholding the potential relief of distance. Ripping through a patchwork of disturbing descriptions—of violent staff, isolated and terrified children, and decades of brutal nightmares—she cradles her fierce testimony in sonorous language and striking imagery.
The book’s tight corralling of traumas takes aim at the notion that inducing fear, despair, and shipwrecked helplessness can rehabilitate a child—the catastrophic doctrine of “tough love.”