Wasp Queen

Publication Date: December 2016


During the month of June, Black Lawrence Press will donate $1 to Edge NJ for every copy of Wasp Queen sold through our website.


Claudia Cortese has given to Lucy what Anne Carson has given to Geryon: a life as desperate and fraught as our own, which is to say, a human rendition of the poetic potential. Here, memory is a potent point of inner excavation, where the threshold of danger and love are often one beam, a beam in which Cortese navigates with harrowingly deft eyes and ears, where Lucy, like so many of us citizens of earth and flesh, “shines like a gun.” Wasp Queen possesses something permanent and searing at its core: the will to live, even thrive, despite the shackles of childhood, despite even oneself. I finished this book only to read it all over again, finding and losing myself, gladly, at every turn.

-Ocean Vuong

Open this book to ANY PAGE! Then buy it and read it from start to finish, running the length of the strangest of lives. I LOVE Lucy who has been waiting to inform us that “the button that ignites the blaze is hidden in a mountain and one man knows how to find it.” Claudia Cortese’s masterpiece Wasp Queen will open you all the way up!

-CA Conrad

Wasp Queen is astonishingly, importantly, disturbingly alive to so much that most writers would be afraid to engage with and then perform. Cortese graphically exposes and explores what it would mean if a young girl, brutalized by all that is considered allowable by the social norms of our debased culture, could actually speak her mind. This is the poison without antidote that positions us to experience with dread immediacy the suffering hidden within so many ‘normal’ homes. A subversively political work, Wasp Queen navigates the boundaries of a girlhood, conjuring damage with image after image-nothing is rationalized into explanation, only razored into our psyches. Cortese’s syntactic torsions are tight, rapid twists that expose a complex of contradictory desires and demands. All ring-no, I will say vibrate-with revelations regarding how such a childhood is formed, which a reader will find impossible to ignore or refute. Dare yourself entry, you too will “never forget when we fingered the dirt-it glowed.”

-Rusty Morrison

About the Author

© Boris Tsessarsky

Claudia Cortese

Claudia Cortese is a poet, essayist, and fiction writer. Her debut full-length, Wasp Queen (Black Lawrence Press), won Southern Illinois University’s Devil’s Kitchen Award for Emerging Poetry. Her work has appeared in Bitch Magazine, Black Warrior Review, Crazyhorse, Gulf Coast Online, and The Offing, among others, and she writes reviews for Muzzle Magazine. Cortese received a 2018 OUTstanding faculty ally of the year certificate from the LGBTQ+ Center at Montclair State University. The daughter of Neapolitan immigrants, Cortese grew up in Ohio and lives in New Jersey .

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