Bio: Raegen Pietrucha writes, edits, and consults creatively and professionally. Her chapbook,An Animal I Can’t Name, won the 2015 Two of Cups Press competition; her debut poetry collection,Head of a Gorgon, is forthcoming with Vegetarian Alcoholic Press in May; and she has a memoir in progress. She received her MFA from Bowling Green State University, where she was an assistant editor for Mid-American Review. Her work has been published in Cimarron Review, Puerto del Sol, and other journals. Connect with her at raegenmp.wordpress.com and on Twitter @freeradicalrp.
PRAISE “Head of a Gorgon is what happens when ‘words stretch / beyond body’ to become bodies themselves — hissing, spitting, unzipping, swelling, predicting, protecting, recanting, revising, deleting, and most of all, delivering, for this is verbiage that spits forward, hisses to be heard, stretches and spirals ever higher with a singular motive: to resurrect. Pietrucha’s breathless soliloquy does exactly as Helene Cixous prescribes: It writes the venom out of the wronged blood, ‘rips villains / from my recesses, ’ and restores the inherent power and creativity of the female, and does it with verbs. Medusa has never been so alive as here in this drama that melds myth and memoir to armor its central tale of abuse, one so thorough and awful that it pierces time, and yet, it is along that very knife that poet and gorgon join forces to shape their ‘haven with … pitchy songs.’ A(wo)men.” — Larissa Szporluk, author, most recently, of Virginals, winner of the 2018 Burnside Review Press Book Award
ABOUT THE BOOK Head of a Gorgon is a narrative in poems that reimagines the myth of Medusa, transporting this ancient tale of sexual violence into contemporary times and examining it through a survivor-centric, feminist lens. Via persona poems that enable readers to hear this story of trauma primarily and directly from a protagonist often sidelined or silenced in other tellings, this devastating collection brings the visceral physical and psychological experiences and effects of sexual violence out of the shadows and into the spotlight, revealing a path along which survivors might reimagine themselves within the societal structures that work against them. In the wake of the #MeToo movement, this work has never been more timely or critical — not only to those who have survived sexual violence but also to those who may be in a position to change the systems that perpetuate it.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR Raegen M. Pietrucha writes, edits, and consults creatively and professionally. Her poetry chapbook, An Animal I Can’t Name, won the 2015 Two of Cups Press competition; her debut poetry collection, Head of a Gorgon, is forthcoming with Vegetarian Alcoholic Press in May; and she has a memoir in progress. She received her MFA from Bowling Green State University, where she was an assistant editor for Mid-American Review. Her work has been published in Cimarron Review, Puerto del Sol, and other journals. Connect with her at raegenmp.wordpress.com and on Twitter at @freeradicalrp. Sneak peek of cover art by Jackie Liu RELEASE INFO May 17, 2022 PUBLISHER Vegetarian Alcoholic Press
CREATIVE SUMMARY Raegen Pietrucha is an award-winning professional and creative writer, editor, consultant, and educator with two degrees in English and more than 20 years of combined experience with the craft. Pietrucha began her creative writing journey in fiction, fell in love with poetry, and then dipped a toe into creative nonfiction (more specifically, memoir). Her poetry chapbook, An Animal I Can’t Name, won the 2015 Two of Cups Press competition; her debut poetry collection, Head of a Gorgon, is forthcoming with Vegetarian Alcoholic Press in May; and her memoir is in progress. Pietrucha’s creative work has garnered an Academy of American Poets Prize, among others; has been nominated for the Pushcart Prize and Best of the Net; and has been published in Cimarron Review, Puerto del Sol, and other outlets.
Pietrucha has led workshops, participated in readings and podcasts, trained creative writers in submissions and publication, and helped individuals polish single pieces as well as entire program application portfolios and book manuscripts. She also served as the founding faculty advisor for the University of Nevada, Las Vegas’ undergraduate creative arts journal, Beyond Thought. Pietrucha earned her BA in creative writing from the University of Arizona and her MFA from Bowling Green State University, where she was an assistant editor for Mid-American Review. Professionally, Pietrucha is a former magazine editor-in-chief, features editor, and communications director with experience bringing polished, captivating, and accessible content to verticals such as technology, health care, higher education, and publishing. She is skilled in idea generation and storytelling strategies that inform, engage, and entertain; build audiences, brands, and consumer loyalty; and generate sales leads and market awareness.
The men of nets
have their ways. Wives
and daughters play their part, weave
so husbands and sons can leave
at dawn, sweep salted waters with lengths
of trains that callus their hands.
Poverty is obvious. It’s the crisp of skin
peeling off the sunburned leather
of a sea-weathered neck. The stink of fish too deep
beneath the nails to be breached. The way
captives will always be clubbed in their traps
as if all smaller creatures were made simply
to pay a penance—the flimsy body buckling,
conferring blood, delivering one last
flail after the strike that finally breaks it
arrives. There is hunger—too much hunger.
Who knows where it comes from.
The day you meet him, your insides grind against
themselves; he lumbers under a palpable
weight of fish from that water —
wet, iridescent prizes glistening.
You pray they'll crush you.
They will. The moment your teeth gnash
meat, you christen him your lord.
Letters Between Medusa & PoseidonI. Medusa's Hunger
What you remind me: I’ve heard these stories
before—men who part waves, multiply fish.
A flood of thoughts hiss, dissonant, as if
my head brims with the water where we met.
Have you wondered whom you could be with me?
Admittedly, I have imagined two
futures bound, though the space for my pair's face
sat blank as a page. But now that we've met,
my mind veneers yours to hopes so hopeless,
I've rarely ever dared to humor them.
Is it possible a person can heal
a leper through just a single touch, can
prevent the sea's crests from overwhelming,
can feed this famine from a single fry?
II. Poseidon's Thirst
The question is, how close will you permit
me to approach? You're a cage for yourself,
and you'd stay there if I let you. I've known
birds like you before, tried my serenades
to charm you out of that place and into
my arms. You claim that you're gripped by the thought
of some version of love, yet you've forged space
so far from me, I fear my hands can't reach
past these rungs to touch you or even toss
you more than a crumb. And how can I save
you from any swell when I'm locked outside
your gate? It's lonely here, a desert so
thirsty it can only think of water.
Is it so wrong to long for just a sip?
III. Medusa's Dilemma
What the sea reminds me:
Desires are like sand—
crude intruders in a day’s flow
that stack and stack
until their weight suffocates.
I don't know what to do
with my past besides steep
it silently, slide your hands
away from my skin
when we come in
from the swim
I've wished I could take
your mind off the water,
its tongues tracing all
the places you wish to be.
I've filled your ears
with my best tunes, but you
continue circling my body,
its salt and scents. I know
what you imagine
with me, but the thought
burns me raw—grains abrading
the luster of the image
of you I worship.
Can there be
no such thing
as love between
us without that?
IV: Poseidon's Appeal
The way your skin shimmers like the sea
now it’s you who cages me
and this parched pilgrim
seeks more than just mirage
wants most those keys
you keep from me
if only you’d concede
sky without sea is incomplete
if only you were willing to unlatch
bound with me beyond boundaries
this is what it means
to be we
this is the way
lovers should be
V: Medusa's Lesson at the Ranch
What desert reminds me:
Secrets can hide from outsiders,
but not from my body—
its curves consumed by sand,
heels up to thighs, back,
and clinging sweaty to my neck.
What if I say more:
Cows don't know
they're fed fat.
will forget them.
This knowledge won't change
the patchwork of hide
and land that cloaks daily affairs
like the quilt you lie
over not under us, gnats
swimming in our humidity.
What desert reminds me:
Secrets can hide from outsiders.
But for how long? The hurts my mouth
blurts betray but you don't end your quest;
the sand is shadowing, turning a bolder
version of itself; you're bolstered over
me, stained by sweat, sun, dusty stalks
of electrified straw. The sun falls and all
I can do is try to find something sharper
than the pain. Clouds above unravel
sky like hides ripped, revealing the red
of an animal I can't name.
After, I sit in a tub
with no water.
Then I sit on a porch.
It's morning once more.
A herd speaks from the distance
Too far to see.
The land remembers its lot and feeds it.
The earth remembers its purpose, continues
to break beneath teeth.
VI: Poseidon's Recoil
forget about me
your hands can't trap
this unbridled tide
anything between us
like water flees fingers
like a word spoken
erases from space
to make way for others
to be your waste
Transfiguration of MedusaI. Duplicitous Blood
Once, my blood moved nothing like red; then,
ache cut down to the veins, overthrew
the blue liquid my body breathes through;
now that fickle drip sticks
beneath my skin in purpled pools, confused, seeking
a new retreat, as if water or wine could take its place,
as if the sun could stretch far enough to touch and warm me,
as if red could travel far enough back
to resurrect a girl
felled in the grass at sunset.
II. Defeated Wings
My back strains beneath
the weight of a black, broke divinity. Holy leaves flap
in the breeze, but their words don’t restore me.
I can’t flee this body.
My mind can’t find a peak to soar to; the weight
of memory tethers me.
III. Unblinking Eyes
I'd saved my gaze
to search for a hero
only to find a
Now salt singes my sockets.
Vigilant beacons forget
the comfort of closing, refuse
any respite from their watch.
IV. Hardened Hands
Foolish digits will forget
how they almost submitted, cringe
at the thought that they once sought
another's. Battle-bruised knuckles
proved useless, shriek as they bend.
A new mold must be poured.
I swim my hands in.
To burn in gilt now
might make me invincible
once the heat's depleted.
V. Forking Tongue
He might say, with this spoiled mouth, I slander. But he split
me. My tongue senses the stench he left in stereo.
Trespasser treading the end of this plank,
you're the venom I retch from.
VI. Snaking Mane
No body could bear such warfare.
My head delivers riddles
of persistent hisses
forbidden liberation so long—
twisted hair springs, slithers,
claims my scalp's terrain
and crowns my fate—
thanks to this man,
the oblivious birth of my serpents.
The first to set his sights on me after tried hymns,
but the dissonance struck too similar—
his chords, always choked.
The next pledged devotion,
but another's portrait dropped from his pocket—
his fingers, perpetually outstretched.
Then one came who tried to hide beneath my pane,
but he didn’t see the glass was already cracked—
his fractures, natural.
But it’s been so long, and there have been so many,
it’s hard now to recall how it first felt
to witness the twist seize skin
like ivy, realizing I was the root.
For a while, I'll admit I could live
with hunting understudies;
that seemed the best I could do,
marked for this dark art, my nemeses
too clever, avoiding this perimeter.
I'd settle for some substitute
for justice, torment under gluttons.
ignoring the warnings.
I once wished a tender
face could exist with me. But now
I know better. Men keep advancing;
the same gaze awaits; everything
petrifies. This is no life.
No one wishes for kisses that shock white.
Note From the Nadir
No savior awaits. These men are predators,
and every girl, doomed to be consumed by their smoke and mirrors.
I’m testing the edges of shards with my hand,
guessing the distance between cold silver, steaming red.
My life’s been a feast of smoke and mirrors.
Best to slice through that meat with my own hand,
put some distance between real and pretend
now that I know the hero I sought will never reach me, doesn’t exist.
Can I cut through illusion with my own two hands
as swiftly and easily as my head sopped up what was fed?
I’m certain the dream I chased never existed;
there is no great epiphany.
Yet my head still ingested what was fed.
What can you do when part of the problem is you?
You’d think there’d be some epiphany,
that the equation could be worked out in one’s head,
but there’s nothing you can do when the problem is you.
Can you solve that problem with your head?
Can you solve that problem in your head?
Try to solve any problem in your head
when the root of the problem is you.
No savior awaits. These men are all the same.
That problem lives in and beyond my brain.
So thank goodness for sharp shards, steadfast hands.
“Sea Cleaving” (originally published in Paper Nautilus)
“Letters Between Medusa and Poseidon” (originally published in Juke Joint)
“Transfiguration of Medusa” (originally published in Persephone’s Daughters)
“Relics” (originally published in Feral: A Journal of Poetry and Art)
“Note From the Nadir” (originally published in Juke Joint)
Bio: Raegen Pietrucha writes, edits, and consults creatively and professionally. Her chapbook, An Animal I Can’t Name, won the 2015 Two of Cups Press competition; her debut poetry collection, Head of a Gorgon, is forthcoming with Vegetarian Alcoholic Press in 2022; and she has a memoir in progress. She received her MFA from Bowling Green State University, where she was an assistant editor for Mid-American Review. Her work has been published in Cimarron Review, Puerto del Sol, and other journals. Connect with her at raegenmp.wordpress.com and on Twitter @freeradicalrp.