Lindsay Bernal's What It Doesn't Have to Do With explores through sculpture, painting, pornography, and performance art changing views on gender and sexuality. The elegiac meditations throughout this collection link the objectification of women in art and life to personal narratives of heartbreak, urban estrangement, and suicide. Haunted by the notions of femininity and domesticity, the protagonist struggles to define the self in shifting cultural landscapes. Ezra Pound, Louise Bourgeois, and Morrissey coexist within the unruly, feminist imagination of these poems. Through quick turns and juxtapositions, Lindsay Bernal navigates the paradoxical states of grief and love, alternating between vulnerability and irony, despair and humor. Her wry, contemporary voice confronts serious subjects with unpredictable wit.
The humor of Lindsay Bernal is rife with allusion to the history of American poetic tradition and cut with merciless self-reflection . . . or as Bernal herself says, 'Something there is that doesn't love melodrama.' But this is not a book of self-involvement or melodrama. These poems question what we take for granted about language and the ways our own words can bind us: 'Darkness doesn't descend suddenly at all.'
—Jericho Brown, author of The New Testament
The poems in What It Doesn't Have to Do With
feel like right now
: this raw moment and this vertiginous landscape and a used-up world. Emojis and a mouse named Heathcliff and Mark Rothko. The aching body and the wounded heart. Reading this book, I smile. I wince. I want to turn off all the lights, everywhere, and let in the light of the sad moon above.
—Paul Guest, author of One More Theory about Happiness
Has there ever been a poet so wry and yet so generous of heart? I can only think of Lindsay Bernal, whose irreverent voice somehow harmonizes truth's cacophony with the warm hum of doubt. In What It Doesn't Have to Do With
, she gives unsparing attention to the awkward, the ambivalent, and the tiny ecstasies of minor moments, asking always, 'Tender or horrific?' That the answer is both betrays the uncanny feeling and intelligence of Bernal's stunning first book.
—Jennifer Chang, author of Some Say the Lark
Bernal uses a contemporary, sometimes humorous, voice to confront serious issues and the struggles one encounters on the road to defining "the self."
Complicated, beautiful, risky, and successful. . . . Bernal's poetry thrills as much as it illuminates.
—Claire Denson, Glass: A Journal of Poetry