In Call Her by Her Name, the poet and performance artist Bianca Lynne Spriggs creates a twenty-first-century feminist manifesto suffused with metaphoric depth. This collection is a call-and-response of women—divine and domestic, legend and literal—who shape-shift and traverse generations. Through these narratives and cinematic poems, a chorus emerges of stories and lives rarely told.
Call Her by Her Name seeks to give voice to the voiceless, including lynched black women, the biblical “Potiphar’s wife,” and women who tread the rims of phenomenal worlds—the goddess, the bird-woman, the oracle. While these poems reflect an array of women and women’s experiences, each piece could be considered a hue of the same woman, whether home-wrecker, Madonna, or midwife. The woman who sees dragons was perhaps once the roller-skating girl-child. The aging geisha may also be the roots woman next door. The woman who did not speak for ten years could have ended up sinking to the ocean floor. Spriggs gives each one life and limb, breath and voice, in a collection that adds up unequivocally to a poetic celebration of women.
Bianca Lynne Spriggs is an amazing creative voice in the Bluegrass community-an Affrilachian poet, an incredible visual artist and a stellar actress. Every few years we meet in the throws of theater and have marvelous talks about writing, race, self-image and magic.
She’s a vortex of expression and art. With a few sentences she can make me feel like a naive white girl who doesn’t listen enough, and the next moment she’ll kindle me to roar with glamour and color and words and soul.
I was so excited to see she’d had another book of poems out. It came in the mail yesterday, too impersonally.
I gobbled this poetry collection like a teenager running through her first art museum. I have to remind myself not to read so fast.
I’m lucky, I’ve heard Bianca’s voice in person. I can catch her smile in some words, heavy thunder in others, a mystic’s question, a-not-so-subtle pointed glance.
(All those sentences started with I.)
(The words pull me inside myself, turn me inside out.)
They’re all women, these poems, and they shine, and have a flavor. Sometimes they’re rough. Sometimes they’re sharp. Some are sex and guts and glory and longing. They all tell stories. The deepest and most haunting are those of The Lynched Woman.
My favorites are the witchy ones, like “Alchemist,” though the pieces all have a touch of that, the woman-magic-power.
The book sits on top of the stack by my bed; a folded page corner on “Recess: A Bop,” because Mami Wati makes me grin, and I will go back and read her for comfort when I need it.