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The Wishbone Dress by Casssandra J. Bruner

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Winner of the 2019 Frost Place Chapbook Competition
selected by Eduardo C. Corral

“To wish with a wishbone means to break the wishbone. The poems in this chapbook enact another kind of breaking—the speaker veers from binary thinking and living. ‘Every girl must know her annunciation,’ writes the poet. In this instance, the annunciation unfolds over years as the speaker transitions. The slow work of bringing forth what has always been there complicates her bonds with family and lovers. (Not everyone can veer from binary thinking and living.) It complicates, too, her own sense of self. The imagery—dazzling, uncanny—brings us close to the emotional and intellectual turmoil orbiting transition. ‘I paint the mirror / white, a frost no bulb could sprout from’ and ‘a wish for recognition, for his budding breasts / to hide themselves away like fawns.’ The poems not only record the struggle to become, but also make visible the chaotic wonder of living. The language itself is never chaotic—it’s always wondrous. The metaphors are mind-blowing, the use of mythic and Biblical motifs deft, the lines are tight but elastic, the diction music-rich. The craft choices are exact and exacting. Language, in this poet’s hands, never breaks; it remembers, it yearns.”
—Eduardo C. Corral, judge of the 2019 frost place chapbook competition

“A book mid-crisis, a crisis amid the book, The Wishbone Dress addresses us from the all-too-common intersection of transness, sex work, disability, sexual violence. The work’s forthright statements—‘name us a god who is a hooker’ or ‘your death always a joke’—are tempered with sincerity and exactitude. ‘Let’s enumerate my crimes,’ Bruner writes, ‘I burned the beautyberries ringing your apiaries.’ While prophetic, The Wishbone Dress is without doom. Its scenes—at turns romantic, transactional, civic, legal—are less accusatory of the distance imagined between the I and you, poet and reader, as demonstrative of this I’s alienation: an alienation that conditions, saturates, even enables, address. ‘Who can survive / becoming allegory,’ she writes. Cassandra J. Bruner offers us not a cipher for survival, but a report of the possible despite its lack of guarantee. The book attends, awaits: ‘lean / closer & hear.’”
—Jos Charles

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ISBN

978-1-4951-7882-5