WWJD by Savannah Sipple

Disclosure: Savannah has taught as guest faculty in my MFA program and I have met her personally.

I loved these poems, the irreverence with the reverence, the frank talk about bodies, the attention to detail. They make sense to me in a way that poetry rarely does. Sipple’s poems are about people and relationships, violence, place, queerness, sex and love, fatness and body shaming, and religion. The title really comes into play in the third of three sections, and I read those three sections as being about three eras in the speaker’s life, in which she is (first and foremost at least for this reader) coming to terms with her sexuality. In the third section we get the WWJD poems, and the speaker claims her lesbian identity and continues to work on making peace with her body. The earliest two sections held perhaps more trauma and violence, where the third approaches a safer place. It’s also (perhaps logically) got more humor in it, as when “Jesus and I Went to the Walmart” and bought lady plugs and helped a young man pick out condoms.

                                              …Jesus found him, took him by the
shoulder and starting talking about how to please his girl. Jesus
held the ultra-ribbed and had just said something about clitoral
stimulation & remembering this wasn’t a 50-yard dash when I
said Jesus, what are you doing? and snapped the condoms out of his

There is some outstanding sensual work, as in “WWJD / about letting go.” I loved the writing about fat as in “And the Word Was God.” From “Jesus shouts, Amen!” I loved this final line: “My body is a holler I’ve tried to escape / time and again, but now, with this woman, I am home.” And the closing poem of the collection, “[Jesus rides shotgun]” was the perfect finish.

I’ve encountered a few poems this week (and not for the first time) in a form that I think is the cleave poem. (From Cleave Poetry: “In its most basic form the cleave poem is a vertical stanza on the left hand side, a vertical stanza on the right hand side, and a third horizontal poem which is read straight across from left to right, as though there is no gap between the left and right vertical stanzas.”) Sipple has one called “Rain, Love” that intrigues me greatly; I’ve been reading it over in the two ways, in two columns and then as a single right-to-left piece. But a friend of mine then suggested reading it in sort of a U-shape, down the left column and then back up the right from top to bottom, and it is a whole, third, outstanding piece in that way, too. How exciting and mind-expanding! (Thanks, D.) This has me thinking as well about the poems that can be read from top to bottom or from bottom to top, with two different meanings. (Sometimes you see them printed twice, in the two orders. I’ve seen these called palindromic, although I think that only works in the literal sense when it’s printed twice.) If anybody has a great example of that other form – or favorites of the cleave poem – I’d love to see them.

This collection excites me. Thank you, Savannah.

Rating: 8 times.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

%d bloggers like this: