A torrent of angst is unleashed in Tiphanie Yanique’s edgy masterpiece, Wife. Throughout, her candor is unyielding. She is brutally raw and incendiary. There is an unmistakable sense of exigency that can prove unnerving. Many will balk at her cutting words. She bends tradition, challenging mores at every turn, and appears to only hold court within the spiked boundaries of her creation. There is an undeniable fatalism, a searing acrimony, and even a pervasive atmosphere of self-destruction in Yanique’s work. Within is a gaping wound, and a mind wrought by an existential crisis that has transformed her feminism into open rebellion, not against society, but really against her inner tranquility.
Yes, Yanique can be a provocateur, but that does not marginalise the relevance of her work. Although interpretative, her work is not weighed down by abstraction, and readers will get the haunting, taxing message of Wife from its first salvo – ‘Dangerous Things.’ Here, she likens herself as having a Jekyll and Hyde personality – a shape-shifting being – unpredictable, deceptive. “The island is a woman, therefore dangerous things live below . . . And so I am the island and so this is a warning.”
But there is an underlying paradox in the transcendental ‘God and Monsters’ where she envisages nature and every living thing breaking free from their entrapment. Her words are softer and endearing: “Love, I remember we were trees. We bent and worshipped each other. God had not forgotten us, after all.”
She implores for sexual candor. “Are you threatened by intimacy or individuation?” she queries in ‘Feminist Methodology: a found poem’; “Why on earth don’t you declare yourself? Well, I’m a bitch,” she ends.
And in steep symbolic language she concedes her shortcomings in ‘Last Yanique Nation.’ Her body is moved by selfish, uncontrolled passion. Compared to a nation, it is guarded, finding satisfaction “in the backyard or bedroom of wherever I carry it.” She is regretful, though, as she touches on the selfless heroism of Che Guevara – a custodian of a persuasive ideology that has impacted multiple nations. This is Yanique at her visionary best.
“There is always blood at a wedding,” she writes in ‘Blood Wedding,’ “its mirror bright like the rise of a pulse and the flesh that goes with it . . . A marriage is a myth cleaved from the mirror. And that is life despite the phantom of all us amputees.” And in ‘Divorce Myth,’ she opines on relationships and their fractious nature.
For Yanique, love is elusive. And with painful longing she writes in ‘Confession of the Five Foolish Brides,’ “Our bare, tardy palms rap on the church door. Our voices call open, open Lord. But did you ever love us? We were ready with our love if not our light.”
In ‘To Fall or Fly,’ Yanique is mired in a horrid relationship. Her self-worth is shredded; there is ambivalence and a disquiet mind. “I want to survive my Diego, my own ugly older man who degrades me but loves me like a photograph. Loves me only when I obey, like the click, like smile and say cheese.”
She adds, “Still, I wanted him worse than a broken spinal cord . . . I would call him Daddy and allow him to outlive me, despite his age . . . The truth is I don’t want to survive. I want to die of my Diego.”
And in ‘God is not broken,’ she cries out for attention and healing. In flights of delusion she imagines possessing another whose fate is not doomed [as hers]. But she celebrates the overwhelming masculine libido with stark metaphorical prowess in ‘C—k,’ no doubt, a puritan’s nightmare.
And the provocatively sarcastic ‘Everyone needs a white husband’ invites a discussion on race, entitlement and privilege.
‘My brother comes to me,’ ‘A Slave in the House,’ and just about all of Wife’s offerings bear her signature élan and brutally honest and challenging philosophy
Yanique possesses a unique artistic gift that bleeds profusely through every page. This is intuitive poetry housed in a pugilistic, reactionary subconscious. Yes, psychoanalysts would scramble for a piece of Yanique. Her mind is so incisively complex.
Arguably, her radicalism will attract those already reeling from institutional excesses and camouflage societies. Traditionalists will recoil at her individualism and intemperance. But what side of the fence you sit on is really inconsequential. More meaningful is the originality, authenticity and flawless delivery of a starkly vivid and imaginative work.
Wife by Tiphanie Yanique, 2015
Publisher: Peepal Tree, Leeds, UK
ISBN 13: 9781845232948
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