30 books 2013: Rigoberto González on Carmen Giménez Smith’s Milk & Filth

by Rigoberto González | Jan-22-2014

In the weeks leading up to the March 13 announcement of the 2013 NBCC award winners, Critical Mass highlights the thirty finalists.  Today, in the first in our series, NBCC board member Rigoberto González offers an appreciation of poetry finalist Milk & Filth (University of Arizona Press) by Carmen Giménez Smith.


             Carmen Giménez Smith has developed a thought-provoking relationship with gender and fables, particularly with her previous two works, Goodbye, Flicker and Milk & Filth. The latter book surprises readers with its provocative double-edged strategy: not only does she call into question the male-authored narratives with female protagonists, she also asks that women examine closely the re-imagined female protagonists: Is that truly how women see themselves?

            With poems that take structural and linguistic risks, that reconfigure old tropes and elude linear narrative, Giménez Smith invites Shakespeare’s Juliet, Nabokov’s Lolita and other fictions of male fantasy onto the political platform, where she deftly deconstructs, reconstructs, and then duly critiques her own creations. Therein the intriguing complexity of Giménez Smith’s sometimes tongue-in-cheek commentary of femininity and even feminism--particularly second-wave feminism, which is troubled by the participation of Giménez Smith’s most recent muses: La Malinche, La Llorona, La Virgen de Guadalupe, Ana Mendieta, and a third-wave feminist speaker: “Feminism tried to accommodate me inside of its confines when I was a polygon.”

            Milk & Filth reads like the radicalization of the poetry of gender politics--at once assertive and suggestive--infusing a fresh energy into the discourse of sex and sexuality, defiant and resistant to the academic platitudes of yesterday:

            We’re figures. We’re lists of expenditures and food diaries,

            but today I held the middle of me in hand and shook it.

            It shook, shook like something fun. 



Interview on Letras Latinas.

From Santa Fe Reporter

Critical Mass, Small Press Spotlight.

Reading at Saint Vincent College on YouTube.

Rigoberto González, author of eight books and recipient of both Guggenheim and NEA grants, reviews for the El Paso Times twice a month and is currently teaching at the MFA writing program of Rutgers—Newark, the State University of New Jersey.

About the Critical Mass Blog

Commentary on literary criticism, publishing, writing, and all things NBCC related. It's written by independent members of the NBCC Board of Directors (see list of bloggers below).



Categories & Archives

Become a Friend of the NBCC

Upcoming Events

NBCC at AWP18: March 09th, 2018

NBCC Finalists’ Reading: March 14th, 2018

NBCC Awards Ceremony and Reception: March 15th, 2018

NBCC Awards

Award Winners for 2016

See all award winners

Find out how to submit

Read how we select

Frequently Asked Questions

Videos and Podcasts

NBCC 2016 Awards Ceremony

NBCC 2015 Awards Ceremony

NBCC 2015 Finalists Reading

NBCC 2014 Awards Ceremony

NBCC 2013 Awards Ceremony

NBCC 2013 Finalists Reading

Video: New Literary Journals

Video: The VIDA Count and Gender Bias in Book Reviewing

Podcast: What Is Criticism? NBCC Winners and Finalists at AWP

All videos and podcasts.