Paige Quiñones’s incisive debut poetry collection, winner of the Lena-Miles Wever Todd Prize, investigates the trauma of desire. Quiñones’s lyric world is populated with stark dualities: procreation and childlessness, predator and prey, mania and depression. A hunter pursues an ill-fated fox through the woods; heaven is paved with girls who would rather drown than be born; a couple returns from their honeymoon to find a stagnant pond in their marriage bed. Through navigating these duplexities, Quiñones arrives at a version of femininity that is at once fierce and crystalline, and unmistakably her own. She writes, “My reflection can only growl back, in water or oil-slick or silver. This is an exercise in forgiveness. I dip my feet in.” The Best Prey charts the complexity of hunger in vivid, visceral terms, and ultimately arrives at a sense of self that encompasses the contradictions of sensuality, violence, and power.
Praise for The Best Prey
This outstanding debut sings the difficult songs of desire and mayhem laced with the coolest of fires. From cover to cover, Quiñones poses knife-sharp scenarios to jolt and jostle: “I do not know what you heard / only that your breathing never changed: / a whale’s body sinking despite its roaring grave.” Most importantly, this book is a gift, daring us to thrive despite our circumstances because of unexpected lights.
In these dark and beautiful poems, Paige Quiñones meditates on the vagaries, wonders and failures of the female body; on the sure complexities of death and eros; and on the intricate connections between heritage, landscape, and self. Rich in unflinching detail and deeply attuned to the music of language, The Best Prey is a terrific debut by a poet who seems fully formed. I know I will return to these poems with pleasure and renewed surprise.
The Best Prey is a lush collection converging at the vibrating intersection of danger and desire. There is a vibrant audacity here: as Quiñones writes, “I have felt Satan / between my legs & perhaps / craved him….” These pulsating poems untangle and interrogate love, mental health, desire, family, and Latinx heritage. I am reminded of what Sylvia Plath referred to as the blood jet of poetry, that rush after I encounter Sharon Olds or Sandra Cisneros on the page—that same muscular vigor and sensual, sensory somatic oomph waterfalling throughout these poems!
Paige Quiñones’s The Best Prey is a debut of profane wit and uncanny tenderness. It is a book of odes despite and because of how “we are betrayed at our most animal.” Quiñones’s transgressions are elegant inevitabilities, her depictions of pain exuberant raptures. Her every word and line is “beginning to step outside her history,” and we, lucky readers, have no choice but to follow.