When my mother was diagnosed with cancer, her doctor said, "If we live long enough, we all get cancer." This is the world we've created: where life ends precisely because of living. To live is to die. Is a better world possible? In The Velvet Protocol, a new treatment protocol for metastatic breast cancer is envisioned as a series of dishes given to nourish rather than poison the patient. Such upending mutates language: "We respire it." Such upending, as unfolded by Julia Rose Lewis and Nathan Hyland Walker, brings us to poetry refreshed and enlivened: "A little feral besting the eggs, salt" for the "tired bodies, / they are fried in the deep sense of tried" until, ultimately, "in the dominion nausea, / see saffron crocus sings autumn, / and the crows flower a darker lilac crocus sunlight." From homophonic translations of ugly meds-Zofran into Saffron-these upended recipes result in poems of hard-fought luminosity.
-Eileen R. Tabios
This is an odyssey of 'history' and 'satin navigation', featuring not the ancient mariner but 'a woman in the doctor's office', whose presence is no less epic. This is a book of alternative 'wisdom'; of listening, conjuring and nourishing. A 'protocol' is a kind of procedure: a record of scientific experiment or observation, a set of rules governing the exchange of data between devices. The Velvet Protocol offers a devious medical protocol: one of nutrified, domestic gesture within the present immanence and possibilities of prosody, where 'Today is the day to take the kitchen sink inside the veins'. These sumptuous poems, written between a highly trained chef and highly trained poet, dish up a multisensory feast of healing in the face of terminal cancer, enriched with Julia Rose Lewis' inimitable trans-corporeal imaginary. With nuance, attention, repetition, 'wish' and play, these are poems of what Joan Didion calls 'magical thinking': bringing together fragments of mattering - from chemo-drugs to culinary spices - as spell-like, polychromatic sensory encounters. The densely piled, 'weathering' threads of Lewis' poetics offer textural materials for care and covering, activity and rest. Where 'The End of the Beginning' and 'Beginning of the End' wrap us in the participles of loss, this collection teems with lyric vitamins, a dream-speaking sustenance for boosting our 'mutual tomorrow'.
- Maria Sledmere
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