review by José Angel Araguz
In my research (read: Googling) as I spent time with La Movida by Tatiana Luboviski-Acosta (Nightboat Books) I came across the following lines shared by more than one Tumblr account:
There’s a weapon I wish
I could wield
when I feel the vomit of your gaze
hit the side of my face.
I want an education
and I want an education
I fast until the basket is done,
throw my maidenhead into the trash,
and relish the solidarity
of absolute feminine horror.
These lines come from the poem “Men Who Cannot Love” and serve as a solid example of Luboviski-Acosta’s poetic sensibility throughout this collection. The direct engagement with metaphor juxtaposed with the pathos of the speaker’s voice here make for an immediate and visceral reading experience.
And yet, for the dynamic flex of technique, the lines–here and elsewhere in this collection–feel relatable, biting but not bitter. I would call this a bright emotional range: bright meaning joyful but also illuminating, like flame. Just the kind of thing to share across the glowing screens of social media, a glow sought out for the intimacy it promises.
In an interview, Luboviski-Acosta calls this a collection of love poems, and to a refreshing extent this is true. These poems call out for love and enact it through linguistically surprising phrasing and an ability to draw out a range of tones from raw, honest meditations.
This love, however, comes not without an awareness of what one risks in loving. There are times in these poems where the very language breaks. In “Saw You in My Nightmares / See You in My Dreams”, for example, we have a number of lines that break a word in half (e.g. “wan / der,” “thou / sand”).
These moves force the eye to simultaneously halt while also be urged on by this word-break: halted on a number of possible meanings, and urged on to the meaning of the moment (the moment colored by the break). It is in these cracked words and the flux and urgency created that one feels briefly the cost and the joy of the kinds of love Luboviski-Acosta is celebrating here.
While the title phrase has political connotations — and Luboviski-Acosta is indeed creating feminist and punk liberatory spaces in these poems — I couldn’t help but think of how I knew the phrase growing up. “La movida” is what my tia would tease me about, encouraging me to make a move on whatever woman I talked with on the phone as a teen. This brief anecdote has its problematic tone to interrogate: while my tia may have encouraged me because I was a boy, were I a girl she would be warning against boys like me trying to dar la movida.
This conflicting albeit toxic-heteronormative take on the title feels like something Luboviski-Acosta would have readers engage with, especially in light of the the title poem itself, which also closes the book.
In this poem, the speaker engages in a breathless direct address to another person that ranges from casual flirting to an all-out cosmic declaration of love. As the poem develops, the speaker makes their move, so to speak, in lines that ring across the dance floor with clear, lyric vibrancy.
La Movida can be purchased from Nightboat Books.
Also, here’s the dynamic interview mentioned above where Tatiana Luboviski-Acosta discusses this collection.
Lastly, check out the opening poem as well for a further treat.
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