Velvet Hounds is a completely combustible collection of poetry. In extravagant, shape-shifting imagery and mythic-meets-black-leather vernacular, Seu takes readers on a journey through reckless youth, first love, addiction, bliss, agony and mayhem. Velvet Hounds is a semi-autobiographical collection bearing reckless witness, with nothing held back, to the wreckage bulimia nervosa makes of a body and spirit as well as the pain and personal schisms from which such a disorder might stem. In Velvet Hounds, Seu also delves into the difficulties of growing up the biracial, pansexual, wayfaring child of a deceased pastor and fundamentalist Christian writer mother. The book chronicles the effects of her mother’s and her own wavering mental health and through that lens, the incoherent and dangerous labyrinth two people’s psychosis can create when they collide. From impassioned, ecstatic, abstracted odes like G-Spot, “strongroom, throne room of baritone ache” & Clitoral “Sinewed capsule / of holy spirit. My body, / the electric chair / berserk.” To the clarity and searing vulnerability of narrative sequences like the long poem “Ox Hunger Essay” which chronicles different thresholds in the narrators struggle with death, betrayal, bulimia, and the isolation of identity “I developed a habit of wringing / my stomach out in my throat.” Never shying away from the erotic, visceral, nightmarish or any juiced-up phantasmagorical earthly heaven, Velvet Hounds is a thunderstorm you’ll lose yourself inside.
About the Author
Aimee Seu is the author of Velvet Hounds, winner of The Akron Poetry Prize. She graduated from the University of Virginia Creative Writing MFA Poetry Program in 2020 as a Poe/Faulkner Fellow where she was recipient of the 2019 Academy of American Poets Prize. Other awards she’s received include the 2020 Los Angeles Review Poetry Award, the 2020 Henfield Prize for Fiction, the 2016 Academy of American Poets Prize at Temple University, the Temple University 2016 William Van Wert Award, and the Mills College Undergraduate Poetry Award. She was a semifinalist in the 2019 New Guard Vol. IX Knightville Poetry Contest judged by Richard Blanco and a finalist for the 2020 Black Warrior Poetry Prize judged by Paul Tran. Her poetry, fiction and nonfiction have appeared or have forthcoming publications in Ninth Letter, Pleiades, Los Angeles Review, BOAAT, Redivider, Raleigh Review, Diode, Minnesota Review, Blacklist, Adroit, Harpur Palate, and Runestone Magazine. She is a Philadelphia native currently living in Tallahassee where she is a Poetry PhD student at Florida State University.
Advanced praise for Velvet Hounds
Poetic descendant of Sappho, Sexton, and Plath, Aimee Seu grabs the page by its white lapels and doesn’t let go until it’s memorized her, mesmerized by her fiery vulnerability, her bold candor. To read Velvet Hounds is to wriggle oneself through the narrow tunnel not to being John Malkovich, but to being a young woman trying to give birth to herself. Poem by poem, she does. You think it is hell at times, that dark close place, but no, as she writes in “G-Spot,” it’s the “country beyond language, compelled / as the tide, such lunacy / & unbearable gush.” This is the sound of a poet taking ownership of her life, line by line. Gutting and lovely, these poems wrestle with unfaithful unknowable preacher fathers and troubled mothers, wrenching hungry addictions, the anarchy of desire. Velvet Hounds is an earthquake of a book. Bone-rattled by desires, these poems seek love. They seek love, not just the “chandelier / made of frozen rain,” not just inside the “marvelous, decadent palace” of the body—but the sort of love that homes us, page by page, a home that could “outstay us our own bodies.”
Velvet Hounds rockets us back to adolescence, and to the bodies that ferried us through it. With equal parts rosewater and lighter fluid, Seu mixes us a stiff drink that eats us out from the inside as it goes down. Its language is heady in the throat, a carnivore on the tongue, fragile and lush on the lip. Here, the body is beast and best-beloved, weapon and shield, scapegoat and loyal dog. Here, we are reminded of what gets lost, what lasts, and what we—at long last—come home to.
Reader, be warned. Aimee Seu has formed a band called Poison Ivy Handjob and you are both in it and riding the rail in her heart’s big and generously gifted room. Prepare to be hounded by desire, to chase the G-spot of beauty, and to ache with sympathetic longing as you move through poems irresistibly vibrant and vibrating with layered synths of the gothic, the sexy, the risky, and the unflinchingly gorgeous wonderland of the world.
—Lisa Russ Spaar
Velvet Hounds opens with a punk band and closes with an aubade, and Aimee Seu too is raucous and romantic, brutal and rueful, audacious and vulnerable, and never less than intense. Gothic as Plath, her talent is full-on, headstrong, and clit-smart, everywhere informed by embodied experience. Her pansexual erotic panegyrics and recollections of bulimia are frank about sex, love, and self-harm, and how they all lead back to a childhood survived through the driving power of desire. “Pleasure should be messy,” Seu argues, each of her poems “Renegade red & ambrosian as swearing.”
—Brian Teare, author of Doomstead Days