cover image Girls That Never Die

Girls That Never Die

Safia Elhillo. One World, $16 trade paper (144p) ISBN 978-0-593-22948-4

In this spellbinding outing, Elhillo (The January Children) examines misogynist attitudes in religion and culture that incite violence against women. “Infibulation Study” addresses female genital mutilation, once a common practice in Sudan, from where the poet’s family emigrated. Conversations with relatives about this practice are relayed with a clinical frankness, “I begin with speculation about our mothers, that each continues to have a clitoris. False,” and with grief, “a body to be sliced like festival lamb.” Elhillo excels at description and resonant, musical imagery (a former love interest had “fingers long as spring onions”). In the prose poem “Memoir,” she narrates a period of her youth spent in New York City with vivid detail: “We slept on each other’s floors & never asked. Dollar/ pizza darkening a paper plate, our bodies crowding the F train,/ crowding the Lower East Side.” Though many poems address the darker aspects of life as a woman, Elhillo also celebrates the powerful bonds among women who support one another, as in “Ode to My Homegirls,” in which she exalts the joys of female friendship. This is an astonishing paean to the women who endure and triumph together. (July)