PORTLAND, OR; August 30, 2022--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.”
Praise for Elisabeth Blair
Elisabeth Blair writes as a survivor of a sadistic and dehumanizing facility for “troubled teens”—or perhaps the word is “camp.” It certainly reminds us of the other, more famous camps, gulags, and re-education centers we’re aware of. Because Blair is also a brilliant poet, she can take us into the perceptions of the shattered person or, in this case, child. The child understands only the contours of coercion: “the storm wants specific things.” In fact, she no longer identifies as human, and, at times, that seems like a good thing: “You tell them you’re a slice of grass where a shadow falls—/your greens seem burnt/but they’re not.//They don’t believe you.” Blair’s language is barbed, destabilizing, and very much alive. This is an important book.
-- RAE ARMANTROUT
About Elisabeth Blair
Elisabeth Blair is a Montréal-based poet and editor with an extensive background in music and visual art. She has been artist-in-residence at the Atlantic Center for the Arts, the Kimmel Harding Nelson Center for the Arts, Wildacres, and ACRE. Her publications include 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, Feminist Studies, and Juked. This is her first book.
About Unsolicited Press
Unsolicited Press based out of Portland, Oregon and focuses on the works of the unsung and underrepresented. As a womxn-owned, all-volunteer small publisher that doesn’t worry about profits as much as championing exceptional literature, we have the privilege of partnering with authors skirting the fringes of the lit world. We’ve worked with emerging and award-winning authors such as Shann Ray, Amy Shimshon-Santo, Brook Bhagat, Kris Amos, and John W. Bateman. Learn more at unsolicitedpress.com. Find us on twitter and instagram.
because God loves the wasp is available on August 30, 2022 as a paperback (78 p.; 978-1-956692-28-0) and e-book (all major retailers). The title is distributed to the trade by Ingram. The author is open to speaking with the media, holding readings, and engaging in other author opportunities.
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