Saturday, October 8, 2016

roly poly/bicho bola - Victoria Estol (Toad Press)

Today's book of poetry:
roly poly/bicho bola. Victoria Estol.  Translated by Seth Michelson.  Toad Press.  La Verne, California.  2014.

roly poly/bicho bola is exactly the tonic that Today's book of poetry needed.  The air is cooling and the skies turning grey here in the nation's capital, winter is approaching, so what better than a chapbook that heats things up.  

Victoria Estol is a quick slap up the side our complacent heads.  These little ditties crack like a wisecracker cracks gum, a short tack of sound like the thwack of a silencer on a pistol.

Estol is bold and brash and brazen and we couldn't be happier.  roly poly/bicho bola is chapbook short and the poems are sometimes only two lines long but this stuff has a sizzle all its own.

dramatic arts

A new couple sits down up front. The work begins. They're close, almost
hand in hand. She laughs when there's no reason to. Her Poodle laughter in-
vades the piece. He grows increasingly uncomfortable with each outburst.

I don't touch my partner. I like to look without being touched. He makes
             a couple
but I pull away.

False applause.

The lights come on. The guy wants to ditch the laughing girl. Their
gestures are proof of it.

In the hallway, while they comment on the show's good and bad,
I drift past the guy and goose him. I look coyly at him and head to the

I drop my panties, knowing he's sure to come.


Victoria Estol writes with a sexual candor and energy that raises the readers pulse.  Seth Michelson's translation warms right up to Estol's passion and bravado.

One thing Estol makes clear in these poems is that she sets her own agenda.  The women in these poems are empowered - they react to men if they choose, but never for them.

flesh and fingernail

i become again the cell that gave me life
i walk past the packets of sweetener you're not using
and lodge myself under the nail of your ring finger

i chew through your flesh, worm
carve your bone, termite
swim in your contradictory blood

against the current

i traverse you hippopotamus neck
scale your trachea
cut your vocal cords so you'll stop your speaking

arrive at your inner ear
slash your tympanic membrane

i fall in a crouch to the table and retake my seat
perch on my elbows on cold marble

and smile at you while i plot my coup.


You say, Your silence makes me nervous.
I look for my panties and leave.


Kathryn, our Jr. Editor, tried some reverse translating at our morning read today.  She took roly poly/bicho bola to her desk for an hour or so and came back with flames coming out of her nostrils. She gave us her version of roly poly/bicho bola in Spanish and it sounded beautiful - but to our dull ears only as beautiful as birdsong.  But after her swinging Espanol treat Kathryn turned around and hoodwinked us all with a knowing reading of it all in English.  Bless her cotton socks.

The staff of Today's book of poetry were in total agreement, roly poly/bicho bola rocked.


The bloodstain remains in the bathroom carpet. A watchful owl,
motionless, reminding them daily when they wake of what happened.

From intense red it fades to dry brown.

She'd once tried to clean it. Dropped to her knees and scrubbed it
till her bones ached, but failed.

Now she's heading to New York. In her carry-on she takes the book
by Carver that he'd gifted to her.
There's no dedication.

They did everything possible to avoid leaving tracks in each other's
              lives, Like
two expert assassins, they erased every footprint, set the runways ablaze.

He turned 45 degrees left. Found cloudless skies for his journey.

She'll never again wear high heels.


After reading roly poly/bicho bola Today's book of poetry really has only one response - we want more.  A full length collection from this Uruguayan gunslinger is in order.  Her aim is true.

Image result for vitoria estol photo 
Victoria Estol
(Today's book of poetry believes this is a photo
of the poet Victoria Estol, our apologies if we
got it wrong.)

Victoria Estol was born in Montevideo, Uruguay, in 1983. Her poetry has earned a commendation from National Pablo Neruda Competition for Young Poets, and it is featured in the anthologies Cualquiercosario (2013), co-edited between Uruguay (YaugurĂș) and Spain (Libros de la imperdible), and Fixture (2014), co-edited by the Argentine publishers Chuy and Malaletra. Her poetry also has appeared in a diversity of international journals. Bicho Bola (YaugurĂș, 2013) is her first full-length book of poetry.

Seth Michelson is the author of Eyes Like Broken Windows (Press 53, 2012), as well as the chapbooks House in a Hurricane (Big Table, 2010), Kaddish for My Unborn Son (Pudding House, 2009), and Maestro of Brutal Splendor (Jeanne Duvall, 2005). His translation of El Ghetto(Sudamericana, 2003), by the internationally acclaimed Argentine poet Tamara Kamenszain, appears as The Ghetto (Point of Contact, 2011). He teaches the poetry of the Americas at Washington and Lee University, and he welcomes contact through his website.

Check out this video trailer for Victoria Estol's roly poly/bicho bola:


Poems cited here are assumed to be under copyright by the poet and/or publisher.  They are shown here for publicity and review purposes.  For any other kind of re-use of these poems, please contact the listed publishers for permission.

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