Rachel Galvin’s feminist poetry collection, “Uterotopia,” outlines the lives of women and individuals with active uteruses who are surrounded by the societal pressures and anatomical challenges of reproduction and its effects. There is a dark whimsicality in Galvin’s poems. They embody death and the decaying along with the longing for parenthood.
Galvin introduces her collection with a chilling poem, “Little Death.” The imagery reminds me of the pictures that men post on their dating profiles, proudly showing a fish they caught. The poem adds a layer of depth to those images and makes one further question the difference between a fish and a woman in the hands of a man. In “Meat and Honey,” fixations such as death and orgasms reveal that contradictions are a part of life. The collection includes two poems that share the same title, “Corpse Pose,” and the second one is an astonishing four-page poem that intertwines dark whimsicality with reality:
It is the eleventh year of the war against the drug cartels
At least 150,000 people have died
A girl paints a second mouth made of marigolds on the side of her face
Another poem with vivid anecdotes is “Well No One Ever Said Breeding Was Easy.” Each stanza gives the journey of individuals and the complexities of conception. This poem highlights pregnancy, miscarriages, adoption, mental health, and overall challenges that women face with very little to no support. Even during pregnancy, when they “meet” society’s expectations for women, they are still harassed. If women are judged for their reproductive decisions, they are also judged for their race or immigration status:
Visa officers block pregnant women at the border
for fear of what they call anchor babies
“Information Overload” is one of the only poems I’ve read about being a bystander. It also brought to my attention how the bystander effect can be rooted in misogyny, particularly when women are the victims. The bystander effect exists because of passivity in dangerous situations. One can also find themselves in a flight-or-freeze mode. Galvin’s work also takes a look at the lives of children like in “Tender Commodities,” which I initially misread and thought it said “tender communities.” While children are considered “luxuries,” migrant children are treated inhumanely.
As the world has experienced the overturning of Roe v. Wade and the continued oppression of women in Iran and the lamentably increasing femicides in Latin America, this collection adds to the conversation of human rights and death, and how in some circumstances, both collide with one another. “Uterotopia” is a bundle of poems worth reflecting on as oppression continues to exist and when our surroundings appear to be nothing short of a dystopia.
By Rachel Galvin
Persea, 64 pages
Angelica Flores is a Mexican-American writer and Dominican University graduate. She enjoys working on English-Spanish translations and has created the Southwest Nest Series for the online arts publication, Sixty Inches From Center. She also writes for The Gate Newspaper, where she has reviewed books, films, and theater performances. She works for the Poetry Foundation and is the owner of the blog, The Macaron Raccoon.