A Review of Eugenia Leigh's "Bianca"
By Evan Wang and Ziyi Yan
I am more God than God is these days.
Big thanks to the people at Four Way Books for sending us a review copy of Bianca!
Throughout the collection, the speaker recounts harrowing abuse through jarringly honest confessions, interspersed with obscure metaphors. This mode of recollection mirrors the breakdown and uncertainty that plagues the speaker’s family life– despite having found a space to love, the speaker’s relationships are constantly threatened by the specter of familial trauma, mental disorders, and violence. Bianca teaches us that trauma is never fully escapable: some hide from it, while others grow comfortable with its constant presence. Leigh seesaws between the two, yet recognizes that the past will always coagulate into the bones of the present. In Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder with Han, the speaker describes the interconnectedness of generational loss, which transforms her body into a ticking time bomb: Even when I don’t want everything to be connected—threads everywhere. Evidently, the past is both a skeleton and the body we form around it.
Even so, life manages to crawl out from this cycle of ruin. It takes the form of unanswered prayers to an inattentive god, leading the speaker to turn inward and name herself as the ultimate divinity. Bianca is incredibly intimate, ending as the speaker sheds the weight of the past and returns to a rediscovered home. Though the collection begins with a poem titled What I Miss Most about Hell, it ends with the line: All my life I thought I was hard to love, showcasing how love– which the speaker was once deprived of– has come back to save her. In How the Dung Beetle Finds Its Way Home, Leigh describes with humor how she ultimately pressed for change through the process of loving and living: I rolled up my pile of shit and trudged back home.