Driftwood Press, 2022.
Writer & performance artist Niki Tulk's O explores the aftermath of sexual assault, unearthing myths, folklore, and profound truths about our collective history of violence, womanhood, and justice.
“With rhythms and nods to Shakespeare and the tradition of storytelling and fable—and yet entirely alive and contemporary, entirely her own—Niki Tulk’s O is a book that readers will consume breathlessly in one sitting, and then again and again. This is an urgent book, capturing what it means to experience, withstand, and witness sexual violence, and how survivors must rebuild their worlds and reinvent the language to do so. Tulk’s O does just that work; it is a beautiful book about our darkest human experiences.”
—Lynn Melnick, author of Refusenik
“The deeper I waded into Niki Tulk’s O, the more I awoke. These poems throb in the shadow of poets like Anne Sexton, Muriel Rukeyser, and take up the challenge of philosopher Hélène Cixous, whose feminist writings urged women to ‘write her self.’ As Whitman responded to Emerson’s call for the great American poet, so Tulk answers Cixous’ vision—and oh girl, does Tulk succeed. These poems grow from personal and literary history and breathe themselves into being on the page. They ‘crashjangle’ us through the veil of patriarchy which, as Tulk writes, gendered violence is part of the fabric. Tulk is an interdisciplinary artist who sees the world and language with clarity and vision and delivers a song we have all been hearing in our heads but have never until this point been able to name. O is an ambitious, imaginative, mind-bending, heart-breaking, and world-creating collection that establishes Tulk as an original voice in feminist literature. I cannot wait to see what she does next.”
—Michelle Bonczek Evory, author of The Ghosts of Lost Animals
In the Press:
Niki Tulk’s O is a collection of dangerous poetry full of admonishment and vulnerability ... This courageous nuance carries throughout O and is what makes it such a timely book ... Everything works together in beautiful balance; the myth and memory supporting one another. Overall, this dangerous debut collection reminds us that even when our singing turns to sobbing and our joy to rage, we are still connected and that alone is powerful. Tulk and her poems refuse to be silenced and are proof that growing around our wounds can be just as creative as it is resilient.
Tulk is more than a courageous poet—she is a weaver. And she does not attempt to create a flawless, edgeless fabric with no tears or snags, but an honest one, written directly from the body. O is not so much a book you read as one that you absorb into your skin.
Tulk’s poetry weaves a majestic tapestry of sound and vision using humoral tones; her metaphors and the extended conceit within the fable are like the minor keys in a concerto. They paint the moods and telegraph the tragedy in subtle but cataclysmic currents. The resulting synesthesia is a breathtaking mélange around all the major atria and ventricles of the heart ... Niki Tulk’s O gives us the power and control to reinvent our past traumas by performing them within a framework of our own control, wherein it’s possible to make beauty in the fires of language. Tulk’s poetry is a fierce example of how poetry can take all the uncertainty of chaos and pain and distill it into an unbroken chain of determined mercy and metamorphic catharsis.
O, then, lives in the intertextuality that necessitates any work that deals with a letter, one of the most fundamental tools we have as writers. In O the book, Tulk is channeling literary criticism, gender studies, witness, and folklore, all of which underline her experience as a performance artist and multimodal creator ... Tulk's book O has me recalling Louise Glück's assertion in her essay Against Sincerity—that poetry is an attempt not at honesty, but at truth. O gets at truth through a letter, through a fable, and finally through the readers themselves, as we splice these movements together into our own truth.