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Two Reviews of “Words For What Those Men Have Done” Have Been Published!
Two reviews of Words For What Those Men Have Done have been pub­lished since the spring of this year. The first, “Those Words, Those Men,” by Sarah White, was pub­lished in Amer­i­can Book Review. The sec­ond, by Prami­la Venkateswaran, was pub­lished on The Enchant­i­ng Vers­es. Aside from the fact that both writ­ers had nice things to say about my poems, what makes these reviews stand out for me is that they are the first ones, of either of my books, to speak plain­ly, more or less explic­it­ly, and real­ly thought­ful­ly about how I deal with the theme of sex­u­al vio­lence that runs through my work. This makes me hap­py not just because I believe my work deserves that kind of atten­tion, but also, and more impor­tant­ly, because I hope it rep­re­sents a small con­tri­bu­tion to devel­op­ing a full-throat­ed crit­i­cal vocab­u­lary (because we cer­tain­ly don’t have one now) with which to talk about lit­er­ary depic­tions of sex­u­al vio­lence against men and about how the reper­cus­sions and con­se­quences of that kind of vio­la­tion in men’s lives are rep­re­sent­ed and under­stood with­in our cul­ture. I always appre­ci­ate when peo­ple respond to my work by thank­ing me for my vul­ner­a­bil­i­ty, or prais­ing my courage, and I espe­cial­ly val­ue those times when fel­low sur­vivors, both men and women, have come up to me after a read­ing and thanked me for giv­ing voice to some­thing they have not yet found their own words for; but I am also aware that those respons­es, sin­cere and valu­able as they are, make me and not what I’ve writ­ten the focus of atten­tion, and that this focus makes it eas­i­er not to deal with the issues that I think my work explores sur­round­ing sex­u­al vio­lence against men and what I some­times call male survivorship—issues with which our cul­ture is still only in the very ear­ly stages of grap­pling. The women who wrote these two reviews seem to like my work very much. Even if you don’t, I hope you will con­sid­er read­ing what they wrote, because the con­ver­sa­tion their reviews could help to start is an impor­tant one for all of us to have.

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