by Analicia Sotelo


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Selected by Ross Gay as winner of the inaugural Jake Adam York Prize, Analicia Sotelo’s debut collection of poems is a vivid portrait of the artist as a young woman.

In Virgin, Sotelo walks the line between autobiography and mythmaking, offering up identities like dishes at a feast. These poems devour and complicate tropes of femininity—of naiveté, of careless abandon—before sharply exploring the intelligence and fortitude of women, how “far & wide, / how dark & deep / this frigid female mind can go.” A schoolgirl hopelessly in love. A daughter abandoned by her father. A seeming innocent in a cherry-red cardigan, lurking at the margins of a Texas barbeque. A contemporary Ariadne with her monstrous Theseus. A writer with a penchant for metaphor and a character who thwarts her own best efforts. “A Mexican American fascinator.”

At every step, Sotelo’s poems seduce with history, folklore, and sensory detail—grilled meat, golden habañeros, and burnt sugar—before delivering clear-eyed and eviscerating insights into power, deceit, relationships, and ourselves. Here is what it means to love someone without truly understanding them. Here is what it means to be cruel. And here is what it means to become an artist, of words and of the self.

Blistering and gorgeous, Virgin is an audacious act of imaginative self-mythology from one of our most promising young poets.

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Product Details

ISBN-13: 9781571315007
Publisher: Milkweed Editions
Publication date: 02/20/2018
Pages: 112
Sales rank: 1,163,014
Product dimensions: 5.30(w) x 8.30(h) x 0.60(d)

About the Author

Analicia Sotelo is the author of Nonstop Godhead, which was selected by Rigoberto González for a 2016 Poetry Society of America National Chapbook Fellowship. Her poem “I’m Trying to Write a Poem About a Virgin and It’s Awful” was selected for Best New Poets 2015 by Tracy K. Smith. Her poems have also appeared or are forthcoming in the New Yorker, Boston Review, Kenyon Review, New England Review, and Iowa Review. She earned her MFA from the University of Houston and works for Writers in the Schools in Houston.

Read an Excerpt


Tonight, the moon looks like Billie Holiday, trembling

because there are problems other people have

& now I have them, too.

I’m wearing a cherry-colored cardigan over

a navy print dress, on purpose.

People think I’m sweet.

I try the Ancho chile pork ribs, in case

the man I once wanted might still

rub off on me.

I wonder if I’ll ever know about flavors, what

tastes right. In the overheated kitchen,

I chat briefly with a series of

30-something-year old men—all slender, all

bearded, lustful to the point of sullen.

I hug & compliment

their pretty, female partners as a way of saying,

I am beautiful in my harmlessness!

Outside, people.

A circle of party chairs. I don’t care much

for a stranger’s guacamole. The man

I once wanted is grilling

these beautiful peaches. He offers some—

I’m embarrassed. I try not

to touch his hand.

I try to touch his hand. On the porch,

another man I know is kissing

the shoulder of a woman

whose fiancée is here somewhere. Guess what,

he says. You’re the only one who cares.

I wouldn’t have guessed:

Judgment is a golden habañero margarita

with wings, wet & cold

on his chest. So

many people are tender from the right angle.

I’m hungry & confused. I love

a good barbecue. Save me.

* * *

Summer Seminar

In this minor emergency of the self,

we drink to become confused,

to swim in the dark like idiot fish.

This is a lake at night in a forest.

This is where we look up at the stains

in the sky and someone says, It’s purpling out here,

and someone else says, Someone write that down.

We’re all performing our bruises.

Chloe smiles like a specialty knife,

Bea tells stories like a bubbly divorcée,

Clara smokes like a sage in her coiffed towel,

expertly naked, third eye shining.

I hang back on the shore with Kyle.

We talk about his man in New York

while our skinny-dipping sirens

sing show tunes in the violet dark.

Later, we’re all in a clinic at 3 am

handling Kyle’s broken ankle.

It’s so embarrassing, he keeps saying.

And it is: earlier, doing the sprinkler

in a dorm room to Please Don’t Stop the Music,

he kept yelling, Stop the Music! Stop the Music!

until we understood: he wasn’t actually joking.

And sometimes the poems were like that.

When we wrote knife, bubbly, naked,

we were really getting down,

dancing hard on the injury.

* * *

I’m Trying to Write a Poem about a Virgin and It’s Awful

She was very unhappy and vaguely religious

so I put her at the edge of the lake where the

ducks were waddling along like Victorian

children, living out their lives in blithe, downy

softness. She hated her idleness. I loved her

resilience. Her ability to turn her gaze on

small versions of herself seemed important.

The lake wasn’t really a lake. It was a state of

mind where words like ochre, darken and false

were supposed to describe her at her best and

worst, but they were only shadows and

everyone knows the best shadows always look

like the worst kinds of men. She wanted them

badly, so I took her for a swim. In the lake

that was not a lake, her twenty-five year old

body felt the joy of being bare and naïve among

the seaweed and tiny neon fish, but I didn’t

believe her. And I couldn’t think of anything

to say in her defense. Some people said I

should take her out of the poem. Other people

said No, take her out of the lake and put her

in a bedroom where one man is saying, I can’t

help you, and another is saying, You waited too

long. The men sounded like cynical seabirds.

When they said, Virgin, they meant, Version

we’ve left behind. I didn’t trust them. So I took

her to the rush of the sea. She waded in and

waved at me. I turned away. It wasn’t her

fault. She wasn’t the shell I was after.

* * *

Trauma with a Second Chance at Humiliation

You remind me of a man I knew at sixteen.

Every afternoon,

I climbed the stairs to see him,

my copy of The Sound and the Fury clutched to my chest,

my hands fluttering with nerves.

When he said, She was his whole world,

about Caddy’s kindness to Benji,

I thought How Beautiful,

the clocks stilling and the field widening—

his oblong figure behind the tree.

I drew eyes in my notebooks that year,

wet lashes, dense pupils.

Also his figure—slender, awkward, geometric.



liked teasing me

and also a few others. But only I

read his copy of The Dialogues.

As I read, I felt him look.

At night, I traced his scribbled notes with my finger.


Eight years later,

I find a man who resembles him.

It’s your encyclopedic mind.

It’s the strangeness of your features.

It’s the way you hold the burnt sugar to my mouth

to taste, then pull it away, eager for

my caramelized reaction.


Isn’t it delicious?

There’s always going to be someone

willing to give a spoonful

of their attention. The trick

is to recognize the conversation

will run out, right into

I’m sure we’ll run into each other sometime.


That was in the bookstore,

the last time I saw him.

Now you are a page I read

while holding my breath. I’ll turn you

into something else, a footnote

of a person. Like I was

sitting next to you

on our friend’s couch,

your hand on my thigh for several seconds.

You said it— Do you want me to cook for you?

as if you could promise that and more.


To admit I love you would be to admit

I love ideas more than men,

myself even less than ideas.

The thin line of your mouth,

I could have held it down, erased the

I didn’t mean to make you think so.


What you don’t say is an iris

locked in a container.

What I don’t say is an iris

burning wildly over a pool of water.

I want you take yours out.

Show it to me, please.

See how an object can change

when a new person wants it.


To divulge is dangerous, but it’s also chimerical.

One side of me says, Destroy.

The other, Be Gentle.

Now this pool of water is a platonic eye

that avoids attachment

by rippling away.

These ashen petals: the expectation

that you’ll understand intuitively

what has taken me years to describe.


I’m open to ridicule.

I can let this go.

But just so you know,

after school, it was like this:

I sat on the desk,

we talked and talked.

You could say it was nothing,

the windows fogged with winter,

the trees outside

like the shadows of a bad idea

going brittle.

It does matter.

I don’t have to tell you why.

Table of Contents


Do You Speak Virgin?


Summer Barbecue with Two Men

A Little Charm

You Really Killed That ‘80s Love Song

Party of One (For We Are All One)

Apologia Over Marinated Lamb

Purgatory Tastes Like Eggs


South Texas Persephone

Revelation at the All-Girls School

Summer Seminar

Long Distance

I’m Trying to Write a Poem about Virgin and It’s Awful


Trauma with Damp Stairwell

Trauma with Haberdashery

Trauma with White Agnostic Male

Trauma with Second Chance at Humiliation


My Father and Dalí Do Not Agree

My Father and Di Chirico Asleep on Chairs of Burnt Umber

Picnic Pastoral (with Dark-Skinned Father)

My Father Lost in a Game of Chess

My Father’s Lover Lodged in Glass


Ariadne Discusses Theseus in Relation to the Minotaur

Ariadne’s Guide to Getting a Man

Death Wish

Theseus at the Naxos Apartment Complex, 6 AM

Ariadne at the Naxos Apartment Complex, 10 AM

Theseus Returns from the Athens Treatment Center

Ariadne Plays the Physician


My Mother As the Voice of Kahlo

The Minotaur Invents the Circumstances of His Birth

My Mother As the Face of God

The Minotaur’s Letter to Ariadne

Separation Anxiety

My Mother & the Parable of the Lemons


Fast Track

The Single Girl’s Rest Cure

My English Victorian Dating Troubles

The Ariadne Year


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