- Felix Dennis Prize for Best First Collection 2016 Winner
- OCM Bocas Prize for Poetry 2016 Winner
The title of Wife is both ironic and deeply serious. There are wittily sharp poems on the gender inequalities and potential prisons of marriage, that are in dialogue with poems that celebrate the physical joys of intimacy and poems that explore the processes of self-creation that take place in the closeness to the male other.
Poems that are cutting about male self-deceptions and arrogations of power speak to poems that display a deep sensitivity to the aloneness of the embattled male psyche. This is not verse in the confessional mode, but poems that take on other voices, other histories and explore the relationship between experiences and the way we mythologise them.
These spare, elegant poems are not only intensely body focused and attentive to the minutiae of domestic space, but that they make connections to the worlds of family, church, village and nation – and even, in a poem the references the parable of the wise and foolish virgins, to the soul. Their context is a Virgin Islands’ past, a Black American present, and an enlarged human future.
What people are saying about Wife
Becky Varley-Winter in Sabotage Review
“Her collection is unafraid, bearing marks, stains, and scars, and comes through its own bloodletting. In ‘Everybody needs a white husband’, she wryly asserts the authority of women’s bodies, disavowing shame:
Just make sure your kinky pubic hairs leave imprints on his face.
Everybody knows that’s a symbol better than a wedding ring. Read in full
Raymond Antrobus talks about the Forward Prize and Tiphanie Yanique's debut collection, Wife.
Read about the 2016 Forward Prizes
Frida Kahlo famously said: “I never paint my dreams or nightmares. I paint my own reality.” In Yanique we have a writer whose images are similarly not dreams or symbols but truths, premonitions, histories. Fiercely so. A writer who reads the air and trees for what they teach about convergence, violence, history, and love. Courageous in its honesty and breadth of position and attitude, Wife is an investigation of story–the languages we use to tell stories and what those languages reveal about power, history, and tenderness.
Aracelis Girmay, author of Kingdom Animalia (BOA)
Tiphanie Yanique’s Wife is a compelling collection, full of sharp and insightful poems written with great passion. Yanique’s surefooted, relaxed and adventurous poems are lively, thoughtful and thought-provoking as she talks of family, rituals, and relationships, but chiefly of marriage with all its challenges, real and imagined. I welcome this fresh, new Caribbean voice.
Velma Pollard, poet and fiction writer
Tiphanie Yanique’s Wife is a domestic panorama that hovers in a netherworld between anchored narrative and fantastic suspension. The poems manifest the female body as an object of transgression, as possession, as slave, and as denigrated flesh “no more than a pail of water.” Perhaps most exhilarating is the inherent autogenesis of female voice, a perpetual insistence on self-creation with which the speaker transcribes the body, the “space where she cannot exist,” as a soulful apparition that is an “island” as well as a “nation” where female want prevails. Here, desire permeates a world where masculinity is “a pistol” and where “God is broken.” Yanique is a talented writer whose spell-binding language offers the reader an experience of transformation and song.
Ruth Ellen Kocher, author of Ending in Planes (Noemi Press)
In Wife, Tiphanie Yanique ventriloquises a range of historical and imaginary female figures and ventriloquises herself. This donning and swapping of masks becomes both a poetic practice and a livity against captivity. In this urgent book in which each poem is a “blood wedding,” Yanique shape-shifts through hybrid forms to deftly express a tough ambivalence—the risk of intimacy, the utter strangeness of love.
Christian Campbell, author of Running the Dusk (Peepal Tree Press)