Salamat Sa Intersectionality by Dani Putney is raw, honest, lightning-rod poetry. Putney conjures a series of poems that understand the body and that are willing to explore the vulnerability and physicality of our captive selves. While not every poem sticks the landing, the dance and vault across every page certainly holds the attention. It would be impossible to levy any accusation of boring when confronted by such fearless words.
The Foundational Id
The book is set up as a triptych and moves through three distinct growth periods: youth, an adult exploration focused on queer sexuality, and a more ruminant closing stage that addresses the intersectionality of the author’s various selves.
Rarely do I meet poetry that seems so in touch with its id, with a fully developed sense of self that is unapologetic, facing the light, beckoning at what may come. Through it all, unafraid. And it’s all the more notable for its fearlessness, for when the poetry takes a darker turn and demands you gaze into the crystal ball or the world map right alongside the authorial ghost.
“Filipinx” opens with the evocative lines, “Ghosts swim across the Pacific, / say hello through my tap.” And in “Frogs”, one of the collection’s individual gems, Putney writes “I thought about the life / we intended to steal.” Life is there for the living, but these are not poems that ever pretend living might come easy or that societal stigma directed toward certain identities may not present a barrier.
A Dancing Physicality
Many of the poems, particularly in the middle section titled “Salted Pores”, explore queer sexuality with a self-awareness and honesty that makes every line leap from the page. Putney tackles the subject with both eyes open, honest and unassuming, trusting that readers will come to the intersection in good faith.
Poetry was always made to unearth and display the self. Putney is a poet born to take advantage of this element. And Putney’s mode of expression pays off, delivering a poetry that brings an honest harshness even as it provides enough soft edges to let the reader in.
The third section includes a devastating portrait of reckoning with self in an era and country that has yet to allow equitable space for who Putney is let alone who Putney may want to be. “If They Equals You” ought to be taught in schools among the classics for how life-breathing and yet eviscerating it is. It is the type of literature that goes to show empathy does not require that you overlap with every aspect of another’s identity. It merely requires a recognition of your equal humanity.
In “Michelangelo”, Putney yearns for the chance to self-define. To be a free agent in the world as the poem closes with “Let me be / the sculpture I’m creating.” And isn’t that what we all deserve? To take up whatever identity markers we please and be given the same dignity and respect as anyone else for the fact of our humanity. Books like Putney’s do not come along often. And when they do, it is best we pay attention. We might learn something if we do.
Salamat Sa Intersectionality is published by Okay Donkey Books.