By Taisia Kitaiskaia
Ripe with mythic awareness and dark, fairytale-turned-feminist humor, Taisia Kitaiskaia’s debut poetry collection catalogs magical beasts, language, and the mysteries of our world with wide, witchy eyes.
Publication Date: September 22, 2020
The Nightgown is a mythic, mystic, and hungry collection of poems, a roiling landscape wandered over by wild swerves of language, creatures of all sorts, and mysterious beings such as The Folklore, The Hurt Opera, The Eunuch, and the titular angry Nightgown. Haunted by the magic and transformations of Slavic and Western European fairy tales, the symbolism of the Tarot, the medieval world, feminism, and a mythology all its own, The Nightgown bears an immigrant’s fascination with the alien syrup of the English language’s first stratum, that merciless Anglo-Saxon word-hoard preserving an ancient consciousness of human, beast, and earth. Funny and loud, the poems are strangely accessible in their animal awareness of mortality and urgency for contact with the unknown. The Nightgown is the debut book of poetry from renowned writer Taisia Kitaiskaia (Literary Witches: A Celebration of Magical Women Writers).
LONGLISTED for Reading the West Book Award
“The strangest, most memorable poems, which will itch your ear long after reading them. Taisia Kitaiskaia's new book is something to hold close, to find a different way to be in this world. 'Now I am happy to be your cactus. I have little cactus dreams...' These are poems you will remember like a map of the supernatural world that lives around us all the time, unseen. Taisia sees for us though, and with remarkable clarity! You will love this book!” —CA Conrad, author of While Standing in Line for Death
“Under Taisia Kitaiskaia's Nightgown is the body of a fairytale with a belly like a kettle brewing something ancient and futuristic, tender and feral. Each poem is an amulet, charmed and broken and glistening. Each poem glows like the fullest moon. Reading Kitaiskaia is like reading spells off rare parchment. She might be the poet who is missing from every fairytale you've ever read.” —Sabrina Orah Mark, author of Wild Milk
“For fans of Taisia Kitaiskaia’s previous books, I’m here to tell you her poetry debut is every bit as wild, witchy, and visionary as you could have hoped. In The Nightgown, Taisia's ongoing exploration of the folklore of the self voyages into exciting new territory. Prepare to step inside a menagerie of evil potatoes and misbehaving angels, imaginary gardens and real toads. It’s an experience as beguiling as a wedding ceremony you never fully learn the rules to. This book left me completely drunk and I don’t regret it and neither will you.” —Dobby Gibson, author of Little Glass Planet
“What do you expect to see when you look deeply into the foreign wounds on your body? Taisia shows you how to descend into the tender bog, how to relish the unknown creatures brushing past you, and... Please, don't be alarmed when her poem guides your hand to draw a card that speaks too loud. It is only your friend, your shadow, waiting for you to break the ice.” —Jiyoon Lee, author of Foreigner’s Folly and translator of Blood Sisters
“The Nightgown is not the ethereal, diaphanous sleeping frock of fairytales. It's carnal, fleshly. Its angels have hairy fingers. A soul is a thing you can pet. There's lots of butter, meat, glasses of milk. The love is strenuous, and the impossible starves on. The only thing these poems have in common with fairytales is their dark brain and crepuscular faces. I'm ensorcelled by their logic, which is soluble in its own sentences (and the syllogisms are such: if you're ravished by a rabbit, you've been rabbished, haha). The poems read like stories, but they are not going forward to an end — they are going backward, into the history of their own words. In one poem, the writer asks if she can be a man of God and the poem ends "the little wormings, i do love" — ahh, yes! — not the book she is writing, or the words, but the insects that eat them, which of course, in these poems of anglo saxon meatiness are called wormings. I loved the words in these poems. Where oh where, Taisia Kitaiskaia, did you get those nouns!? What big texture you have! It would be perfect if this book's cover were made of human hair, and we could stroke it as we read.” —Darcie Dennigan, author of Palace of Subatomic Bliss and Madame X
“Fairytales are grim creatures, part teeth, part terror, but nevertheless, too seductive to resist. Taisia’s poems ‘crawl out from the river’ like a nymph to offer that poisoned apple, of which I gladly bite, in search of ‘that imaginary orgasm.’” —mónica teresa ortiz, author of muted blood
"In such moribund, retrograde times as ours, it is wildly bracing to encounter such unapologetic and joyously imaginative intensity as Taisia Kitaiskaia's poems convey. It is difficult to express how wonderful this book is because its extraordinary magic is transformative and seems to have changed me into a seahorse. I love being a seahorse." —Dean Young, author of Solar Perplexus
"Taisia’s poems make you think of the poem as an apothecary’s pill… without being able to verify its true origins, and getting only some encrypted apothecary verse that provides only the faintest suggestion of what elements the pill might even contain, you take it anyway, you trust it almost completely… a pill presented ever neatly yet ominously to you in the palm of your hand, a pill that appears to encapsulate an entire psychosomatic experience. Taisia’s fablesque poems come from this faraway place, or, rather, a place we are made to believe is faraway but is really just close enough to have heard enough news of civilization’s operas. To read these poems, we must walk along a trail that moves from idyllic to horrific and then back again in the pace of a gallop before we reach the door to the apothecary who will gift us that pill, equal parts restorative and poison. It is this tension between that which is presented tenderly and that which menacingly refuses total encapsulation, which makes the most lanuginous of us curl-up at the base of the rocking chair and ask the storyteller for 'another one!' again and again." —Valerie Hsiung, author of You & Me Forever and outside voices, please
Taisia Kitaiskaia was born in Russia and raised in America. She is the author of Ask Baba Yaga: Otherworldly Advice for Everyday Troubles and its follow-up, Poetic Remedies for Troubled Times from Ask Baba Yaga, as well as Literary Witches: A Celebration of Magical Women Writers, a collaboration with artist Katy Horan and an NPR Best Book of 2017. She has received fellowships from Yaddo and the James A. Michener Center for Writers. She lives in Austin, Texas.