Alexis Rotella is a recipient of a Touchstone Distinguished Books Award for 2018 for her volume Unsealing Our Secrets: A Short Poem Anthology About Sexual Abuse. Alexis Rotella, Curator/Editor. (Arnold MD: Jade Mountain Press. 131 pages, 6”x9”. $12.99)
Commentary from the Panel:
“The best way of keeping a secret is to pretend there isn’t one.” — Margaret Atwood
In Unsealing Our Secrets, poets share their stories of sexual abuse through short form poetry. Recent developments in the area of sexual abuse and the #MeToo movement make Unsealing Our Secrets both timely and socially relevant. As men and women around the world open up about their experiences, bringing their secrets out into the light, others are being encouraged and comforted.
“Don’t be ashamed of your story. It will inspire others.” — Alexis Rotella
This anthology was difficult to read, but as we can only imagine, even more difficult for the authors to write and for an editor to solicit submissions and make selections. Rotella shared in her introduction that many “needed to be coaxed into contributing” and some chose to remain anonymous due to the sensitive nature of the stories they shared. Of the names included, many will be familiar to those in the haiku community. In all, more than fifty poets, both women and men, shared their stories here — each in their own voice and own way.
Unsealing Our Secrets stands out as an example of one of the most pervasive reasons writers write. These poets demonstrate how writing builds relationships linking writer to reader, reader to writer and reader to reader. By writing, these poets will be able to share a bond with far more people than would be possible face to face. We recognize there is risk with any form of writing. In this collection, that vulnerability for the writers is even greater. But this shared experience between reader and writer would not be possible if it were not for the writer taking that first step. We applaud their courage and the profound impact it has had and will continue to have.
There are some secrets we think we’re keeping, but those secrets are actually keeping us.” — Frank Warren
We hope this act of sharing their stories has been a liberating force for these poets. And we are grateful for the opportunities their efforts have created for conversations and healing to begin. While the social and historical importance of Unsealing Our Secrets is undisputed, the merit of the poetry itself elevates this volume even further. As M.Kei, editor of Atlas Poetica states in the Afterword, “It is excellent poetry because it must be. Nothing less could hold the burden of such secrets.” The poems are varied in style, including haiku, senryu, tanka, cherita and haibun. Each sets the stage for and supports those on either side of it. Such is the strength of the collection that not one poem can be offered here, alone, to represent the book. The collection is most compelling when taken as a whole.
For all these reasons, not only will Unsealing Our Secrets: A Short Poem Anthology About Sexual Abuse be known as one of the top haikai books published in 2018, but it will likely remain an influential work for many years to come.”
See the complete list of winners of both Individual Poem Awards and Distinguished Books Awards in the Touchstone Archives.