- “What happens when rage and grief transform us, when our bodily fury makes us feel animal? What language do we use to howl such feral moments? These are the questions that animate Skaja’s taut, ferocious debut, Brute. . . . This is a book about survival, and a welcome, confident debut.”—The New York Times Book Review
unafraid of anything, flea-spangled little yard rat, runt
of no litter, queen, girl who wouldn’t let a boy hit her,
girl refusing to be It in tag, pulling that fox hide
heavy around her like a flag? Let me look at her.
Tell her on my honor, I will set the wedding dress on fire
when I’m good & ready or she can bury me in it.
—from “Brute Strength”
Brute is absolutely sure of its capacity to insist not only on the truth of what it says but the truth of its right to say it. “What am I supposed to say: I’m free?” the first poem asks. The rest of the poems emphatically discover new ways to answer. This is a timely winner of the Walt Whitman Award, and an introduction to an unforgettable voice.
“[In Brute], the anguish comes from an emotionally abusive lover and the abrupt end of a relationship. As the speaker excavates her grief and disbelief, she slowly moves from self-condemnation to a fiery insistence that she can overcome her boyfriend’s damaging assessments of her worth and reclaim the power she once had. . . . The speaker’s brutal honesty and emotional transformation offer an engrossing guide for anyone dealing with a devastating loss.”—The Washington Post
- “The first section of [Brute] ends with a poem of exile: self-imposed, absolutely necessary, freeing. . . . There’s everything in this strong debut.”—The Millions
- “Emily Skaja's [Brute] is lyrical, visceral, sharp like a fang, and filled with lines that pierce and prod and stay embedded inside your skin.”—NYLON
- “Skaja’s poems [explore] experiences of violence in an abusive relationship and their transformation into beauty. . . . Skaja’s ability to hold contrasting feelings in relation yields the tenderness and triumph of this book.”—Publishers Weekly