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I received a copy of Kai­ley Tedesco’s LIZZIE, SPEAK for review pur­pos­es. As always, this review reflects only my hon­est thoughts on the book.

by Kailey Tedesco

Pub­li­ca­tion Date: Feb­ru­ary 19th 2019
Pub­lish­er: White Stag Pub­lish­ing
Paper­back; 52 Pages

Genre: Poet­ry Chapbook

A con­jur­ing, an invo­ca­tion, a com­mu­nion with Lizzie Bor­den her­self. These poems reveal—letter by word by line—a spir­it, a his­to­ry, an iden­ti­ty. Lizzie speaks through Tedesco.


White Stag Publishing | Amazon

My Review

I first heard about Lizzie, Speak months ago when Kai­ley men­tioned it on Twit­ter.  I’ve always been fas­ci­nat­ed by Lizzie Bor­den and her alleged crime (what do you think–did she do it?), so when I saw that Kai­ley was engag­ing with Lizzie and the mythos sur­round­ing her, I knew it was a book I would have to check out.  For­tu­nate­ly, White Stag Pub­lish­ing was kind enough to offer a review copy, which made my read­ing and review­ing pos­si­ble (thank you, White Stag!).

Need­less to say, my expec­ta­tions were met, if not exceed­ed, by this phe­nom­e­nal col­lec­tion.  I forced myself to slow down my read­ing and spread the book out over more than a week rather than read through it in a day.  It was so hard to put down!  Still, I’m glad I let myself expe­ri­ence that first read over time to take it all in.  Plus, it just means there will be a faster reread com­ing soon!

I’ve been a fan of Kai­ley and her work for quite some time, but I was nev­er­the­less blown away by Lizzie, Speak.  Know­ing the case and the sto­ries sur­round­ing it fair­ly well def­i­nite­ly came in handy when it came to con­tex­tu­al­is­ing the poems, but it’s by no means a require­ment.  In fact, I learnt quite a bit from this read­ing, both through the text and through the research it inevitably prompt­ed.  Kai­ley clear­ly knows what she’s talk­ing about and it shows:  she tru­ly gives Lizzie a voice.

Per­haps even more impor­tant­ly, her pas­sion for the sub­ject shines through.  In the ded­i­ca­tion, Kai­ley reveals that her great-great-grand­moth­er, Elsie Haw­croft, was Lizzie’s neigh­bour. And, in her final note, she thanks those who’ve fos­tered this inter­est from a young age.  As some­one with a sim­i­lar, though less per­son­al, inter­est in Lizzie’s sto­ry, I found these moments to be espe­cial­ly touching.

But this clear pas­sion and exper­tise do not end there.  With each poem, they becomes all the more clear.  I found myself mark­ing down my favourite pieces, a list that grew longer each time I picked up the book; “Lizzie Roman­tic, Lizzie Rheumat­ic,” “Bent Spoon,” “I Ask the Nether­world if Lizzie Did It” are just a few.  While it was­n’t my expe­ri­ence, I’m con­fi­dent that some­one who’s nev­er even heard of Lizzie Bor­den could pick up Lizzie, Speak, and find them­selves emo­tion­al­ly invest­ed with­in a few pages.

As I men­tioned, I found myself quick­ly want­i­ng to re-research Lizzie and her sto­ry while and after read­ing.  At one point, I had the book in my hand and the tri­al tran­scripts up on my com­put­er!  Kai­ley’s own inter­est is so clear and absolute­ly infec­tious. Some of the best books ever writ­ten have been able to make that claim because they draw you into their world. In the case of Lizzie, Speak, this is as true as ever, and made all the more pow­er­ful for the pre-exist­ing world of Lizzie Bor­den.  When you fin­ish read­ing these poems, you don’t have to mourn the world you’re leav­ing in its pages–you’re encour­aged to con­tin­ue Lizzie’s story.

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About the Author

Kai­ley Tedesco is the author of She Used to be on a Milk Car­ton (April Gloam­ing Pub­lish­ing) and These Ghosts of Mine, Siamese (Danc­ing Girl Press). She is the co-founder of Rag Queen Peri­od­i­cal and an asso­ciate edi­tor for Luna Luna Mag­a­zine. Cur­rent­ly, she teach­es lit­er­a­ture and writ­ing in Beth­le­hem, PA and co-curates Philly’s A Witch’s Craft read­ing series. You can find her work fea­tured in Elec­tric Lit­er­a­ture, Pre­lude, fields, Bone Bou­quet Jour­nal, Fairy Tale Review, Gri­moire, Phoebe Jour­nal, and oth­ers. For more infor­ma­tion, please vis­it or fol­low @kaileytedesco.

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