Jazzercise is a Language
Jazzercise is a Language
Jazzercise is a Language is a long poem that wants to be a smiling, skinny white woman. Here are the leg warmers, head bands, sweat, chants, and two-steps of the 1980's dance aerobics craze, but decked with the baggage of race, pixelation, rituals, violence, and body horror. The women in a hardwood studio inside your TV are so neon it's blinding. But the voice of Judi Sheppard Missett, the muse of Jazzercise is a Language, will carry them along. This book was released in March 2018.
PRAISE FOR JAZZERCISE IS A LANGUAGE
New York Times Book Review on Jazzercise is a Language
"The slinky style of Jazzercise founder Judi Sheppard Missett haunts this book of poems by Philadelphia-based wunderkind Gabriel Ojeda-Sague. I had not thought I remembered Judi, but a few pages into the volume she returns to grip me again, her patented blend of syncopation, disco beat, showbiz honey with a drop of vinegar, sex appeal tease. She was commanding the whole world to work it. The demands of the social world on the body are Ojeda-Sague’s persistent theme: the shame and fear on which every exercise empire is built, the potential for subverting these tropes by paying attention to the once abjured vehicle of VCR Jazzercise tapes—its grain and pastel and stray pixels—the power and strength and endurance of being gay and of color in the middle of such a disco. I had trouble imagining this book when he was describing it to me, but now that it’s in my hands, it reads as one of the absolute essentials of our moment in poetry."
"Through the syntax and vocabulary of a dance style proselytized by one, sweaty-sexy, hyper-affirmative Jazzercise camp leader Judi Sheppard Missett, Jazzercise Is a Language reveals multiple and violent registers of racial and cultural interpellation: "I determine the circumstance of my own abduction." Behind the seemingly benign landscape of "six white women stepping to the left," I encountered, strangely and briefly, the little Japanese girl in me with the overwhelming aspiration to be a perfectly shaped, beautiful white lady shimmying in a leotard. Gabriel Ojeda-Sague leads us into the complicated discussion of how we got here by pivoting back to the ever contracting-and-releasing dance around the semantic body, all the way back to the secret that "is in the derrière, the burning secret, the bushel of flowers," where we burn - and burn - and burn - Do you feel it? I do."
"Jazzercise Is a Language is rich with original music and a mysteriously evocative internal movement. It brings us closer to a future magic formed by the tropical energies some of us might keep in our interiors, even if that magic were initially only relatable through the presence of a rooster. Gabriel Ojeda-Sague's poems are 'song[s that] lie sweetly on the wound.' He shape-shifts his interior and exterior selves like the oceans do, and shows us not only that the universe is always speaking to us, but also that it is always speaking to itself in us. I am relieved and renewed as if from a good night of powerful and gentle dreams when I read his poems."