The Wishbone Dress by Cassandra J. Bruner


by Cassandra J. Bruner

Winner of the 2019 Frost Place Chapbook Competition
selected by Eduardo C. Corral

release date: January 28, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-949344-09-7
Softcover, 36 pages.


“To wish with a wishbone means to break the wishbone. The poems in this chapbook enact another kind of breaking—the speaker veers from binary thinking and living. ‘Every girl must know her annunciation,’ writes the poet. In this instance, the annunciation unfolds over years as the speaker transitions. The slow work of bringing forth what has always been there complicates her bonds with family and lovers. (Not everyone can veer from binary thinking and living.) It complicates, too, her own sense of self. The imagery—dazzling, uncanny—brings us close to the emotional and intellectual turmoil orbiting transition. ‘I paint the mirror / white, a frost no bulb could sprout from’ and ‘a wish for recognition, for his budding breasts / to hide themselves away like fawns.’ The poems not only record the struggle to become, but also make visible the chaotic wonder of living. The language itself is never chaotic—it’s always wondrous. The metaphors are mind-blowing, the use of mythic and Biblical motifs deft, the lines are tight but elastic, the diction music-rich. The craft choices are exact and exacting. Language, in this poet’s hands, never breaks; it remembers, it yearns.”
—Eduardo C. Corral, judge of the 2019 frost place chapbook competition

“In Cassandra J. Bruner’s The Wishbone Dress, female deer sprout horns, breasts bud on male bodies, children are born with horse heads and fish scales. These poems deliberately disrupt our conventional notions of identity and sexuality by blurring the lines between male and female, human and animal, the mythic and the real; in Bruner’s world, bodies don’t change so much as erupt into new, composite forms that both respond to and re-write Greek mythology and Biblical narratives. These poems are by turns erotic, spiritual, brutal, frightening. Their tones and modes turn on a dime. They invent their own syntax. Their deep strangeness makes them beautiful, and wonderfully unclassifiable.”
—Paisley Rekdal

“A book mid-crisis, a crisis amid the book, The Wishbone Dress addresses us from the all-too-common intersection of transness, sex work, disability, sexual violence. The work’s forthright statements—‘name us a god who is a hooker’ or ‘your death always a joke’—are tempered with sincerity and exactitude. ‘Let’s enumerate my crimes,’ Bruner writes, ‘I burned the beautyberries ringing your apiaries.’ While prophetic, The Wishbone Dress is without doom. Its scenes—at turns romantic, transactional, civic, legal—are less accusatory of the distance imagined between the I and you, poet and reader, as demonstrative of this I’s alienation: an alienation that conditions, saturates, even enables, address. ‘Who can survive / becoming allegory,’ she writes. Cassandra J. Bruner offers us not a cipher for survival, but a report of the possible despite its lack of guarantee. The book attends, awaits: ‘lean / closer & hear.’”
—Jos Charles

“Cassandra Bruner’s The Wishbone Dress is sage and supplicant, invocational, fully fleshed. These poems don’t argue with a culture obsessed with dualities—they don’t need to. Each is a tender dispatch from the true complexity of being: ‘that cherished/ slurry of softs & salts & reds.’ Read this book and be broken whole.”
—Emily Van Kley

Cassandra J. Bruner earned her MFA in poetry from Eastern Washington University where she served as Managing Editor of Willow Springs Books. Finalist for Black Warrior Review‘s 2018 Nonfiction Contest, their poems and essays have appeared, or are upcoming in The Adroit Journal, Black Warrior Review, Crazyhorse, Muzzle, New England Review, Ninth Letter, and Pleiades among others.

Additional information

Weight .25 lbs
Dimensions 5.5 × 8.5 × .25 in


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