Winner of the 2021 Gatewood Prize, selected by Joy Priest
One doesn’t read i take your voice, so much as advance meditatively through its adhesive architecture. In this innovative, cyclical poem, the speaker makes an all-consuming attempt to inhabit and engage with the voice of her mother, like a method actor immersed in a character. “i take your voice / and add it to my own. there’s no space between / what i want and how you heard it,” Blitshteyn writes, and, in doing so, brilliantly reflects back to us the coincident phenomena of our needs and our manipulation, our love and our control. The mother’s multiplicitous voice in i take your voice is the parent in our head, but it is also the pursuit of self-awareness and concession: “these are empty gestures against your will” admits the daughter-speaker, but they are also self-less gestures toward seeing oneself as perceived by a beloved. --Joy Priest, 2021 Gatewood Prize Judge
In i take your voice, Blitshteyn reaches towards bridging languages and generations, mother and daughter, both of whom are given unfiltered voice, or—and we are provocatively invited to question—how and whose voice is taken. In their intimate dialogue, we find “a space for you / to enter into / the conversation,” a place to be held in language even when its voices cannot hold one another. We find a book that gives us voice in spite of the losses it bears within itself. --Julia Kolchinsky Dasbach
With virtuosity of language matched only by its emotional clarity, Marina Blitshteyn’s i take your voice manages to distill the life’s work that is a family. These poems form a pas-de-deux in a trick mirror (“there are two of us / in every conversation, / a conversion”), perfectly rendering the plaintive longing between daughter and mother: the too-muchness, the never-enoughness. They remind us what love is: that what we want for each other we want for ourselves. Blitshteyn’s spare lines reveal the grammar of an attachment informed by Jewishness and immigrant experience, moving ever closer to that honest place where a conversation “isn’t even talk.” Her articulations of trauma and of love are precision-tuned and unabashed. This is a searingly beautiful book, and a true record of faithfulness. --Jay Deshpande.
Marina Blitshteyn and her family came to the U.S. as refugees in 1991. Her first full-length collection, Two Hunters, was published by Argos Books in 2019 with a CLMP Face-Out grant. Prior chapbooks include Russian for Lovers (Argos Books), Nothing Personal (Bone Bouquet Books), $kill$ (dancing girl press), and Sheet Music (Sunnyoutside Press). A chapbook of lyric essays, imagine a future, will be published by Ghost Proposal in 2022.