Reviewed by Elizabeth Zender
Burris-Kitchen bares her soul in this poetic exploration of gender, empowerment, and societal expectations.
Exposed expertly captures the emotional labor of women: raising children, fighting sexism and assault, loyalty and protection to those they love. The poems and photographs in this collection analyze womanhood, society, and empowerment from a variety of angles.
Burris-Kitchen takes the reader on a journey in three parts, ending with a powerfully loud and brazen commentary on protest and change. She responds to master poets like Maya Angelou and writes in ways that are reminiscent of a Solange album.
In the first chapter, “Love and Respect,” she writes letters to her parents, thanking her father for his compassion and commitment to social change and explaining to her mother what she understands now and wishes she could say. A line that resonates especially strongly comes from that letter to her mother; she says that it “haunts [her] that [she] didn’t get in one last hug,” a sentiment that feels like a punch in the gut. This is followed by a harrowing account of the death of a twin sister and the feelings of distress that come along with this.
The second chapter, “Women’s Victimization, Empowerment, and Freedom,” is littered with poignant phrases that jostle readers between empathy, anger, and back again. The poem, “Superhero,” is especially tumultuous, as she depicts the feeling of knowing that you must do what is asked of you when all you want is a break. It provokes societal expectations that force women to be caregivers in all aspects of their lives and discusses how hard it is to step back from this when you know no one will step up in your place. She punches with imagery of blood-stained capes, reminding us that we are strong, but we should not always have to be. We should be soft, too.
In the final chapter, “Poems of Protest and Change,” Burris-Kitchen closely examines societal confines and values. She does not dance around the topic; she bursts through the door. And she should, as she takes on important topics like police violence and gender inequality. She addresses disinformation directly, saying that she is armed with knowledge and untouchable. I was sucked into the anger in this chapter; it feels impactful.
If you call yourself a critical reader, you absolutely must crack open a copy of Exposed. Let Burris-Kitchen take you on a journey. You will not regret reading.
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