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“I thought I forgave you,” Eugenia Leigh tells the specter of her father in Bianca. “Then I took root and became / someone’s mother.” Leigh’s gripping second collection introduces us to a woman managing marriage, motherhood, and mental illness as her childhood abuse resurfaces in the light of “this honeyed life.” Leigh strives to reconcile the disconnect between her past and her present as she confronts the inherited violence mired in the body’s history. As she “choose[s] to be tender to [her] child—a choice / [her] mangled brain makes each day,” memories arise, asking the mother in her to tend, also, to the girl she once was. Thus, we meet her manic alter ego, whose history becomes the gospel of Bianca: “We all called her Bianca. My fever, my havoc, my tilt.” These poems recover and reconsider Leigh’s girlhood and young adulthood with the added context of PTSD and Bipolar Disorder. They document the labyrinth of a woman breaking free from the cycle of abuse, moving from anger to grief, from self-doubt to self-acceptance. Bianca is ultimately the testimony of one woman’s daily recommitment to this life. To living. “I expected to die much younger than I am now,” Leigh writes, in awe of the strangeness of now, of “every quiet and colossal joy.”
Eugenia Leigh is a Korean American poet living in New York and the author of one previous collection of poetry, Blood, Sparrows and Sparrows (Four Way Books, 2014), winner of the Debulitzer Prize in Poetry. Her poems and essays have appeared in numerous publications including Guernica, The Massachusetts Review, The Nation, Ploughshares, Poetry, and The Rumpus. Poems from Bianca were awarded Poetry’s Bess Hokin Prize and selected for the Best of the Net Anthology. A Kundiman fellow, Eugenia received her MFA from Sarah Lawrence College and serves as a poetry editor at The Adroit Journal.
“I hope you read Eugenia Leigh’s Bianca from cover to cover, in one sitting, as I have. In these pages you will travel with a woman — brain, heart, and gut — delving into nightmare and violence to finally retrieve a life of love and motherhood, to accept that life. These poems, which are sometimes a torrent, sometimes a clear evening sky, challenge the reader to witness pain and then reward us with the poet’s relentless search for connection and beauty." —Patrick Rosal
“Eugenia Leigh’s Bianca pierces with its white hot rage and sorrow. With terrifying honesty and lyric precision, Leigh revisits the cyclonic violence her father inflicted upon her and her family and explores the dangers of mental illness when it goes unspoken, untreated, and unnamed. Bianca devastates me.” —Cathy Park Hong