Cover art by Jeanie Tomanek
The retelling of Mexican family folktales, feminist reclamations of ancient myths, and new motherhood: Raquel Vasquez Gilliland’s debut collection, Dirt and Honey, unearths the connection of these experiences with unusual metaphor and language. The book reads like its own creation myth, divided into four sections: Clay, Pollen, Honey and Dirt. Vasquez Gilliland writes across time and myth, describing a woman who grew leaves, the grandmother of God, and the powerful story of her grandfather, who, one hundred years ago, left for Texas as a refugee of the Mexican Civil War. Surreal and narrative, mythic and personal, Vasquez Gilliland’s work centers readers in a place all her own: one in which ancient lineages are drawn with breast milk, seduction begins with feasts of hot peppers, and fisherchildren displaced from wars are always welcomed into new lands. Dirt and Honey is available from Green Writers Press.
"In her debut poetry collection, Dirt and Honey, Raquel Vasquez Gilliland invents worlds in which woman is synonymous with nature. In these poems, women are the first creators—pines grow from their words and flowers bloom at their feet. By offering these symbiotic relationships between humans and nature as mythical, these poems ask us to consider our own treatment of our environment, "to breed out the wild of a creature was to / breed out its moon. We need our moons." And we need this, a book so full of wilderness that you can't read it without getting dirt under your nails."
Paige Lewis, Reasons to Wake You
After giving birth to her son, Raquel Vasquez Gilliland had a nervous breakdown so severe, her husband quit his job to help with the baby. Two years later, she examined the experience with poetry. Mental illness runs on her mother’s side of the family, with the Vasquez women specifically. As Gilliland searched for the reasons why these women suffered, she found stories. Some of these tales are from the lips of her mother, Maria Elena, and grandmother, Ofelia. Some tales are unearthed from the fertile dirt where poems grow. Put together, Tales From the House of Vasquez is an archetypal journey in verse.
Tales From the House of Vasquez is the 2018 winner of the Rattle Chapbook Prize.