milk tongue

Deep Vellum Press, forthcoming in Summer, 2023.

Preorder here or here.

Praise for milk tongue:

Successive poetry collections do not follow popular logic regarding successive children. One does not become more relaxed about what they are birthing. If anything, the stakes of possibility increase. Mathieu’s milk tongue is an appropriately ambitious collection that burns a path across a land it loves, a land it is making as much as it is reclaiming. The fire in the phrasing. The formal denaturing of poem and page. “[T]he thick mess of us” that is shown to be both scientific and carnal. “[I]t’s hard work remembering to be human,” but this collection has a strong motor, applying a lyric force that takes us the distance.

– Kyle Dargan, author of PANZER HERZ: A Live Dissection

Within the first two hundred words of Toni Morrison’s A Mercy, Florens notes: “One question is who is responsible. Another is can you read?” For me, these are the questions — of deep reckoning and attention — that flower in the fields of milk tongue’s pages. Irène Mathieu reads her worlds keenly, spaciously, making a work alive with power and rippled with mystery. She summons what feels like a geological wisdom. River, leaves, perception, milk in the mouth of a descendant (also Mathieu) effortfully attuning herself to lineages of being and sound: “clutch of clay: everything is made of something. / I lay my language on it and then I take that away / and put down something that comes before / language.”

– Aracelis Girmay, author of The Black Maria

Irène Mathieu is a capacious poet. She transforms the body of the world and the world of our bodies into an ease we all seek and need. Her doctor soul is tender. Her exacting heart is filled with love.

– Fady Joudah, author of Tethered to Stars

Though the poems of milk tongue reckon with the given world, Irène Mathieu claims allegiance not to what’s allegedly true about it, but to what she has come to know as true through her experience as a daughter, lover, mother, neighbor, and caregiver. Each poem documents “the aftershocks of becoming/oscillating               in the dark century,” their lines riding the rhythms of embodied knowledge, sleepless nights, “hynagogic conjure,” and feminine folkways, all somatic or sidereal epistemologies that both register and resist our nation’s violent and inequitable systems. Mathieu’s black feminist poetics powerfully reminds us: “A witch is someone who turns anger into light.”

– Brian Teare, author of Doomstead Days

“‘Everything is made of something else’ writes Irène Mathieu, whose voice in milk tongue is, as always, just by the ear, whispering songs for the future, made of the past.”

– Leah Naomi Greene, author of The More Extravagant Feast

“Someone said, do you try to write political poems // The answer is that I write redly,” Irène Mathieu writes in this remarkable, imaginative work. These poems vibrate with particulars of relating: with each other, with physical environments, with language and “something that comes before / language,” a complex bevy of layers and resonances across time, place, body, family, signs, and wanting. With a vibrating compositional energy, Mathieu moves across innovative forms, haibun and grid, life and death, past and present, craft and confusion, hospital ward and backward and skyward, Audre Lorde and Monticello and driftwood, showing us how to attempt going home, offering us “a slippery missive sent directly from the deep.” Here she sings, no, insists upon a lush, surprising ecology. Mathieu is wide awake (what a gift) and milk tongue is an outstanding, attentive collection of meditations on power and desire, for me an instant classic. The doctor is in, making new forms “about how / our bodies feel to us.”

– Oliver Baez Bendorf, author of Advantages of Being Evergreen