A History of Touch by Erin Emily Ann Vance

Do you like ghosts? Do you enjoy gross, graphic descriptions of bodily functions and the body overall? Do you like witches? Does feminist Gothic literature inspire you? Pull up, we have a new poetry release for you. A History of Touch by Erin Emily Ann Vance traipses through history, looking at famous women and situations in which these women were cast off, treated as hysterics, or otherwise vilified for who they were and how they behaved. Vance’s poems are cutting and spooky, but also tender and thoughtful. This is a really focused collection of poems, with a very concise topic, but also shows great range in Vance’s poetry writing. There’s great experimentation with form and language, as well placing the poems as being directly in conversation with different figures and texts throughout time. The references are not always clear, but it’s not always necessary to know precisely. Vance provides a list at the end of her collection, sharing her references and inspirations if you are curious about doing a deeper dive into understanding the source material.

This is a bold collection of poems and unapologetically dives right into the realities of flesh, from the opening poem, “All the Women You’ve Ever Touched,” where Vance opens with rot, bile, and different organs. Vance’s poems hold a strange fascination: I was repulsed by how clear and strong Vance’s description was, but also impressed with how consistent it was throughout the collection of poems, as well as how she wielded it to make different points in each poem. In “Hat Box,” subtitled with “For Lucy Maud Montgomery,” the images are no less brutal but somehow tender. Vance writes about Montgomery’s stillborn son with clarity and gentleness: “I / held my baby hand to / mother’s cheek and Hugh’s purple / thimble-hands tore out my hair.”

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Witchy and dark, Vance uses the history of women being trampled and misunderstood to change the conversation about their stories and let them shine, in their own, harsh, strong corners, whatever they may be. These poems are challenging, but rewarding in their singular focus on sharing the stories of these women. Reading this collection was a spooky, sometimes uncomfortable journey, but one that was ultimately rewarding.


Erin Emily Ann Vance is the author of the novel Advice for Taxidermists and Amateur Beekeepers (Stonehouse, 2019) and five chapbooks of poetry. She teaches creative writing to children and teenagers and is the co-host of the folklore and history podcast Femmes Macabres.

  • Publisher ‏ : ‎ Guernica Editions (May 1 2022)
  • Language ‏ : ‎ English
  • Paperback ‏ : ‎ 100 pages
  • ISBN-10 ‏ : ‎ 1771837217
  • ISBN-13 ‏ : ‎ 978-1771837217

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