Book of The Week

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In a moment of extreme heartbreak, wouldn’t it be great to be able to send your heart on vacation? Well that is one of the many themes in Meliza Banales’ book of poetry “Say It With Your Whole Mouth.”

This is Banales’ first book, but she has been published many times in various collections, as well as two of her own personal collections, “Girl with the Glass Throat,” and “Scratching a Surface.”

Her poetry covers a vast spectrum of issues and themes; from growing up half white, half brown, to lovers, to war. One of my favorite individual pieces is entitled “Do the Math.” This poem tells the story of her life through all the numbers which fill in the variables of her personality.

“One white mother plus one brown father divided by two different worlds equals one daughter…one night a week I go-go dance in a cage in a Hollywood club, ten dollars an hour, plus tips. I am only eighteen back then, and already I know the equation for lust: one bare-ass gets a twenty plus one crotch drop earns fifty plus one tongue licking cage bars while slowly gyrating hips equals I am the first in my family to go to college.”

Many of the rest of her poems are divided into sections, like chapters, with individual pieces collected within. Two of my other favorite pieces are found in the section entitled “Circumference.” In this poem, verses five and ten are written as letters to her heart, whom she has so perfectly named “Little One.”

Verse five is her asking her Little One to run away and take a vacation. She has been hurting for too long and needs a break from feeling too much. Banales offers her heart many locations to visit, like being the first heart on the moon, or sipping margaritas on the beach in Cancun.

Later, in verse ten, Banales reassures her heart that it’s safe to come back home. That from now on, it’ll be just the two of them, and that is all they need.

Banales is a wonderfully active poet, one who has visited our campus a couple of times. She was invited for a reading by Katharine Harer as part of “Culture Comes Alive” and she also appeared at one of the “WOW” conferences. She grew up in Los Angeles, but currently resides in Oakland and teaches Creative Writing at San Francisco State University.