Jessica Cuello

Dear Creature
April 25, 2020 Cuello Jessica

I harbor a love for odd novelette books tolt slant via poemishy sequences, Edgar Lee Master’s Spoon River Anthology, Fred D’ Aguiar’s Mama Dot, Naomi Guttman’s The Banquet of Donny and Ari: Scenes from the Opera. It’s tough not to maul their cumulative plots & ahas via extraction for publication in lit. mags and anthologies—so oft they dock bookshelves one must plunder to find.


Jessica Cuello is such a writer of storied gothic strangeness who dabbles in fairytales, who writes in between the lines of Moby Dick, and who is now at work on a book writ in the epistolary voice of Mary Shelley. Dear Creature or Dear Mother, her epistles begin. That’s haunted enough, right? You can’t help but conflate them, creation with creator.


What’s double-fun about the twinsies is the mystery each poem delivers. Can P. be Percy Bysshe? Was M.S.’s mom given puppies to suckle? Whose children are they, the ‘illegitimates’ on a bloody trail switch-backing missing 19th century women & their stillborn themes. Researching the leads turns up more lives than Dateline, and verifies factoids poignant as they are bewildering.


Cuello’s plots are imperative, what leaves me reeling, though, is her siren-voice, singing them into being. Here’s the slightest of glimpses into Cuello’s Dear Creature manuscript:

–Jane Springer




Dear Creature,
Because of what I did
Society never let me in.
Dim-witted towns don’t
see you, but I still remember
the tactile coolness of earth
beside my mother’s grave
and P.’s dry hand,
first on my face,
then pressed to the second
heartbeat between my legs.
I spent the rest of my life
scrambling to get back
alone with him—
Because of what I did,
because of this
no prayers went up:
a wall attached to my growth
and tree-knot child, curled black worm
glistening on the shore. Foam child.
Wave father—he couldn’t even swim.
Your loving creator,

Jessica Cuello is the author of Hunt (The Word Works, 2017) and Pricking (Tiger Bark Press, 2016). She has been awarded The 2017 CNY Book Award, The 2016 Washington Prize, The New Letters Poetry Prize, a Saltonstall Fellowship, and The New Ohio Review Poetry Prize. Other poems in the Dear Creature series are forthcoming in American Literary Review, Los Angeles Review, and Jet Fuel Review.