Theresa Sotto

Winner of the George Bogin Memorial Award in 2008

what you see is what you get

the baro
the saya
the abayah   hakama
kimono   oni
oldhani   dhoti   choli
cheongsam   sari
maria clara   dupatta   dishdasha
doh bock and belt
the sweater set   sherwani suit
the tiny tiny shoes
a turban (hair coiled inside)
the nylon the pineapple the linen denim grass
Juicy©   porn star   angel
the words sprawled across the ass
the button-down   blazer   bustier   barong
a burkha (the underthings)
the tighty whitey coconut halves dried and hardened, hung
bare breasts [add rain forest backdrop]
the hip hugger   hip holster
loin cloth jock strap khaki cargo polyester pants
buttons instead of zippers instead of knots
the crop top   the tank top
holoku   seersucker   tux
the veil
the thin one
the opaque


Prageeta Sharma on Theresa Sotto

In an introduction to Chinese avant-garde poetry, the poet Wang Ping speaks of the work of the "Misty School," a poetry movement in China interested in a poetry that functions by "infusing landscape (sky, rain, mist, river) with personal emotions through an impressionistic prism, and often turning these images into political allegories, the misty poets strove to transcend the confines of realism and form a new entity between the self and
the external world."

In thinking about Theresa Sotto's work, I am reminded of the "Misty School" aesthetic, though Sotto's poems represent a different kind of infusion and political allegory. Her poems unexpectedly transcend the confines of realism through the use of concrete language conjuring many images and allowing the poem to erupt and emote through a kind of oblique line.

Whether it is through words signifying body parts or "tiny shoes," her nouns and/or objects are placed delicately on a truncated line with a lot of space. It is through her word placement that she creates daring tensions. Some poems are to be read horizontally thus allowing her edgy nouns to take more space—becoming impressionistic, sensory, and dynamic. They seemingly bring us to some kind of erudition within the spareness of line.

"what you see is what you get" is a provocative listing poem covering a cultural spectrum of what we cover ourselves with and what this "covering" suggestively reveals and hides. It is dynamic and political. There seems to be a peculiar joy or curiosity for the speaker in how language finds itself oddly placed in popular clothing trends: "words sprawled across the ass." Therefore what we "get" in the last lines of many of these
poems are ominous abstractions that manage to wrestle with cultural activity and popular culture. Overall, her work is marvelous in experimenting with its own opacity—strange restrictive lines that oddly provoke clarity and pleasure. No doubt the poems comment in astute ways about our culture at large.

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