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Praise for Ms. X’s Ocean
“These are poems delivered from the dark treasury of what lies beneath the skin—soul news, pain-weary and deep hearted. What defines the regular here is almost unspeakable, and far more cruelly, unbearable, but the poems form a rising testament to the enduring narrator that she can find a personal place to stand in order to tell these stories. In doing so, she is giving word to the wordless, both to herself and to those who are also her. In one poem we share with the speaker the wish for “A moment of yes in a world of no.” Finding that singular yes seems impossible until we realize that the book itself, the entirety of these poems, is that yes, that solid and cooling affirmation, that indescribable something so fearlessly shown and daringly sung loud.”
—Alberto Álvaro Ríos, Arizona Poet Laureate; Chancellor, Academy of American Poets
“The mysterious title of Elizabeth McNeil’s stunning Ms. X’s Ocean invites us in, but watch out! The powerful current of this collection sweeps us off . . . . A searing story surges through these tautly controlled and exquisitely crafted poems. It takes a lifetime to write a book like this, vast and deep as the sea.”
—Cynthia Hogue, author of Revenance; Maxine and Jonathan Marshall Chair in Modern and Contemporary Poetry in English, Arizona State University
“Ms. X’s Ocean is a child self praying curses and pleas. And more curses. To GOD. Not for salvation nor for forgiveness, but for simple gifts like kindness and love. Gentleness. Read Elizabeth McNeil’s Ms. X’s Ocean. You’ll know exactly what I mean.”
—Simon J. Ortiz, Regents’ Professor of English and American Indian Studies, Arizona State University; author of Woven Stone, Out There Somewhere, From Sand Creek
About Ms. X’s Ocean
Like Anne Sexton’s Transformations nearly half a century before her, Ms. X’s Ocean harbors a host mythical revisions—Daphne, Mary Magdalene, the mermaid, the fairytail haired girl—while presenting, in broader strokes, an allegory of contemporary femininity. Scouring the ground of trauma, Ms. X shapeshifts her way through incest, rape, sexual abuse, and abortion, “the meat of [her] turned inside out”. Yet rather than drowning in her misfortune, Ms. X endures with unflinching grimness, driven by the fact that she simply has to survive. With a masterful grasp of imagery and craft—ranging from the ragged grit of hard-boiled noir to the high, transfigurative lyric of an aboriginal dreamtime—McNeil creates a shattered looking-glass, its language sharp as shards, portraying a woman who, through the sheer determination of her self-authorship, through her re-immersion in pure mother earth, finds a way to fit the jagged pieces of herself back together, walking “unafraid at last / into the church of [her] beating heart.”.
About the Author
Elizabeth McNeil is an instructor in Languages and Cultures at Arizona State University. She also teaches memoir and poetry writing in the greater community, working with children, veterans, inmates, church groups, and writers over fifty. She has published numerous scholarly and creative works, including poetry in Hayden’s Ferry Review, Fourteen Hills, Flyway, and the Chaminade Literary Review, among other journals; the award-winning chapbook Why We Need to Come Home (Butte County Poetry Center & Press, 1988); a monograph, Trickster Discourse: Mediating Transformation for a New World (Lambert, 2010); and, as lead editor, two scholarly collections with Palgrave Macmillan, Sapphire’s Literary Breakthrough: Erotic Literacies, Feminist Pedagogies, Environmental Justice Perspectives (2012), nominated for the 2013 Association of American Colleges and Universities’ Frederic W. Ness Book Award for an outstanding book that “contributes to the understanding and improvement of liberal education,” and Mapping Queer Space(s) of Praxis and Pedagogy (Queer Studies in Education Series, 2017).