ALTER//ALTAR: A Playlist of Longing by Dena Igusti

Today is the release of my book, Cut Woman. The book not only touches on what it means to be an Indonesian Muslim survivor of FGM but also my personal documentation of the ongoing list of those I’ve lost.

In Cut Woman alone, there are over 230,483 deaths mentioned directly or indirectly. 15 documented (emphasis on documented) deaths of Muslims in the U.S. since 2001 (again emphasis on documented. I know more have been lost). 230,000 from the 2004 tsunami in Indonesia that was parodied into a song. Over 563 from the earthquake in Lombok in 2018 that was undermined due to western media’s attention towards white tourists. A version of me that could have been. A version of my father that could have been. My grandmother. My friends, family members, and even my first boyfriend.

During the writing of the first draft of Cut Woman, three people I loved died. During the time between the acceptance of my book until its release, four more perished. Cut Woman is my requiem for all of them, including myself. I don’t know how long I’ll sing for them but I’ll do it anyway.

The following songs are of my love and mourning, how my love is always a form of mourning, and in turn, my mourning is a form of love.

 

You can purchase a copy of Dena Igusti’s Cut Woman here.

Dena Igusti Defies Death in ‘Cut Woman’

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Dena Igusti navigates the complexities of being in “an invisible diaspora” in her forthcoming book Cut Woman, published with Game Over Books. 

Cut Woman is a collection of poems that tackle grief, loss, and anticipatory mourning as a result of Igusti’s experiences as a Muslim Indonesian survivor of female genital mutilation. 

“One of the things I love most is when a poetry book forces me to slow down, to linger in every pause between breaths and reckon with the awareness that Reading is, itself, an act of consumption.” George Abraham, author of Birthright (Button Poetry) says in Cut Woman’s blurb. “Dena Igusti is a poet of undying urgency – this is a bold, heart-shattering chapbook debut.” 

Dena Igusti has explored Indonesian, Muslim, and queer identity in separate entities in past works and projects. Her co-written Off-Broadway play SHARUM navigates shame in Muslim communities. She has discussed being Indonesian briefly for Muslim Girl and Buah Zine. She alludes to her queer identity in some of her poems. In Cut Woman, Igusti puts all of her identities at the forefront, and in the face of mortality.

“With a deft, devoted hand, Dena Igusti weaves alienation, grief, desire, and defiance into an indelible tapestry of survival and celebration. They show us that mortality is not a deadline but a continuum. We will die, but we will also cry, and shout, and love, and dance, and live on.” Teta Alim, founder of Buah Zine states.

Dena Igusti also hones in on what it means to be a Muslim survivor of female genital mutilation, and the honest relationship with her body in the midst of Islamophobia and xenophobia. 

“Igusti’s work asks what is the metaphysical conceit of the cut? from whom or what are we cut? what are the rules of being cut & the life after? when they cut they cut the american light with their brown flicker, they incise the language, they puncture a privilege, & they work with inherited blood. This is a play of radical vulnerability around the self, a play of no games.” says Trace DePass, author of Self Portrait As the Space Between Us.

Dena Igusti’s book is now available for pre-order at Game Over Books. You can purchase the book here

 

Beautiful – Lennix

My body is speaking to me

The tongues of my skin

Speak languages that do not reach my mouth.

Whisper sweet nothings, to which I can not reply, the words caught in

Linguistic purgatory

Trying to translate beautiful

a noun, a possessive word

beautiful,

The word is stuck in the spit of man as he yells at me

“Hey beautiful”

The word dies, becomes synonym with his–with plaything

Becomes notes in the orchestra of catcalls that illuminate every city street I have ever walked in.

And yet the tongues of skin, like sirens calling to Odysseus

Urge me to hear them, to learn their dialect, to find the flowers in words

Men turned have into knives

And yet I remind them,

That language is a weapon

Reared against anything feminine, to invalidate it, to hide it, to pretty it up for consumption

And yet, my skin speaks– vehemently of these reclamations

Of taking words weaponized and weaving wildflowers

Of the glory in survival and how to survive we must teach ourselves to speak–

Because the world, the man, thrives on our on fear

To speak,

And so as I lick my wounds,

My skin, she sings my a lullaby

My mouth finds the hidden curves of her words and mimics them

Moves them around the roof my mouth, down into my diaphragm, and lets them rest in

Between my ribcage, where they safe but soft, but strong, but mine

Beautiful.

About Lennix: Queer. Trans. I believe that art is the only way to recreate myself authentically.
I am a student at Simmons University and I love pastels.

IG: lorionphotography

(photo provided by Lennix)