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ISBN: 978-1-937854-38-6
Categories Poetry

Freak Show

Publication Date: September 2013


“Valerie Bandura’s clean, crafted, headlong-into-the-breach poems are scary in their intensity. They are full of the violence of history, and Europe, and family, and motherhood, and bodies, and fate. Reader, there is a little of hell in them, and a ferocious desire for truth, which is to say, their speaker is engaged in the brave, sometimes appalling struggle to turn into a human being. Freak Show is a terrific book.”

-Tony Hoagland

Staged in the space between utterance and mother tongue, Bandura’s poems recognize the limits of language while embracing it as recourse, offering us a boy ‘burning the hunger out of his mouth’ and a girl ‘tasting each syllable with her spit.’ Bandura’s Freak Show is a book of power and a book of movement.”

-Beth Bachmann

Valerie Bandura’s Freak Show is an investigation of alienation and resilience; social history pushes against personal history as a Russian family contends with a daughter’s schizophrenia and the speaker refuses to let cruelty crush her. The costs of prejudice and the impotence of family love are central preoccupations in poems that speak in conversational tones charged with song. And there’s little consolation despite beauty; even the birth of a son is recorded with equal parts suspicion and love, fear and devotion. Bandura’s poems open out and out, their belief in the power of speech counteracting other forces that threaten to silence the speaker and her beloveds. Pain and pleasure are in mortal combat, and ‘it’s hard now to tell / in the ecstatic hysteria between the two.'”

-Catherine Barnett

About the Author

Valerie Bandura

Born in the former Soviet Union, Valerie Bandura's first book, Freak Show, was a 2014 Patterson Poetry Prize Finalist. Her poems have appeared in American Poetry Review, Ploughshares, The Gettysburg Review, ZYZZYVA, Alaska Quarterly Review, Crazyhorse, Mid-Atlantic Review, Third Coast, Prairie Schooner, River Styx, Beloit Poetry Review, Best New Poets, and many others. She was the recipient of fellowships and scholarships from the Vermont Studio Center and Bread Loaf Writer’s Conference. She teaches creative writing at Arizona State University.

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