Review: Wild Invocations by Ysabel Y. González

Ysabel Y. González’s debut collection of poems, Wild Invocations (Get Fresh Books, LLC), argues in favor of the body. In these poems the body is magic, is resistance, is holy and abused. The poems invoke and pay homage to the ancestors and each poem holds multiple voices even when the speaker is singular.

Wild Invocations tirelessly exalts the body’s work. It documents the body as it loves and grieves, as it rejects and is wounded by the imposed narratives of beauty myths, colonialism, patriarchy, and white domination. González writes with a steady voice, as in the poem “Weight of Extinction,” when the speaker states simply, “I love us even when they say I shouldn’t.”

González creates intimacy by speaking plainly about body shaming, and by asking probing questions like, “What body hasn’t done this before?”

This state of interrogation can be a call to those who came before, their answer to us, home for the living, the dead, and those who walked away. There is a deep love resonating throughout, which is at times complicated. In the poem “Shade” Gonzalez writes:

González conveys the pain of loving in a world that meticulously attempts to erode you. Yet these poems love fiercely despite that. They open wide to embrace everyone, even people who have caused damage— with a protective understanding that trauma was a factor in the harm done.

González deftly locates the complexity of relationships in which the participants are the targets of attempted genocide. Her poems decolonize by recovering memory and taking back place. Puerto Rico, Newark, strip clubs, Ferris wheels, green mountains, mental hospitals and rivers are called upon to glow and heal. In the poem “Praise” she writes:

We look for ways to make magic, brand the land,
prove we’re here But the body is the mark: a flesh-mound harvest, gleaned from
kicked-up dust after one wild long run.

González exhibits a keen sense of how we’re destroyed and how we renew, the magic of existing and the weight of grief. Her poems hold space for all of this. The natural world is woven throughout Wild Invocations with exquisite beauty while also doing the work of healing.

In the poem “Invocation for the Odd Woman Out,” she writes:

These poems reclaim nature as they reclaim the body— González doesn’t impose a false separation of the two. This can be seen in the poem “Recalling Where I’m From,” when the speaker says,

I’m here shifting myself
thinly across the planet
molding to prairies,
threaded to mountains.

Wild Invocations wields a spell of revolution, freeing the people and spirits that bless its pages:

And this is how
witchcraft began
stealing back
a sober mind
through fiery prayer
but not to their god.

Ysabel Y. Gonzalez was born in the Bronx, NY and raised in Newark, New Jersey. She received her BA from Rutgers University, an MFA in Poetry from Drew University and serves as the Assistant Director for the Poetry Program at the Geraldine R. Dodge Foundation. Ysabel has received invitations to attend VONA, Tin House, Ashbery Home School and BOAAT Press workshops. She is a CantoMundo fellow and Wild Invocations is her first full-length collection.

Leila Ortiz was born on the Lower East Side of Manhattan and raised in Park Slope, Brooklyn. Leila is of Puerto Rican, Cuban and Irish descent and works in NYC public schools as a social worker. She is the author of two chapbooks, Girl Life (Recreation League 2016) and A Mouth is Not a Place (dancing girl press 2017).

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