Sarah Lilius is the author of five chapbooks including GIRL (dancing girl press, 2017) and Traffic Girl (Ghost City Press, 2020). Her sixth chapbook, Song for PTSD, is forthcoming from Blanket Sea Press. Dirty Words is her first full-length poetry collection. Some of her past publication credits include the Denver Quarterly, Court Green, Fourteen Hills, Boulevard, and The Massachusetts Review. She has been nominated for a Pushcart Prize and a Best of the Net Prize. She grew up in the Midwest but now lives in Virginia with her husband, two sons, and their cat, Ophelia.
Her website is: sarahlilius.com
The captivating poems in Dirty Words aren’t just a feminist journey through women’s issues. These essential poems represent women in the various mundane, necessary, and often unfortunate aspects of life throughout all the stages of a woman’s years, from young girl to mother. Poems about sexual violence, abortion, marriage, and motherhood are just some of the topics unearthed with passion and precision. Lilius brings together words that strike into our hearts and bodies through vivid imagination and eager images. The reader will see that feminism isn’t a dirty word after all, but rather a powerful and vital concept everyone should apply to the everyday, the universal.
“There are forgettable words, there are memorable words and then there are dirty words. By dirty, I have found Sarah Lilius knows every kind of word (and emotion) out there, and is a master articulator, capable of threading together intoxicating poetry like a string of prayer beads. There’s nothing sanitized in her intense soul, it’s unfiltered all the way. If there were a new language, I would expect Lilius to have invented it. Her uncanny wielding of the nature of existence might well be written in blood; it’s permanent, intoxicating, and shocking in its comprehension of us all. Dirty Words is as essential as eating, it doesn’t need to beg, it summons, and you devour.”
-Candice Louisa Daquin, Pinch the Lock
“Dirty Words: not just profanity slurred on the street, the phrases whispered under breaths, or inappropriate slang, but words that we pluck from the earth, words that we give power to and return these armored gems to our throats: they can be our mantra and protest, our resistance to a culture that wants to suppress our light.
Sarah Lilius writes about young girls, bears, bands, Barbie, boys in paneled wood basements, her poems like animals in the night: gritty, beautiful, lurking under the house long after they’ve murdered something small and soft and run into the forest. Lilius writes of a femininity that is strong and rakish, not afraid to murder but also pushing through to the end while trembling. . .
Lilius reminds us that we carve words out of stone every day. We surpass our comfort zones and fight back. We carry these rocks with us, for beauty, weaponry, to keep us grounded on the earth.”
-Jennifer McBain-Stephens, The Messenger Is Already Dead
“In Dirty Words, Sarah Lilius explores the female body in the world as animal, as object, as performance, as victim, as shame, as mother. These powerful poems inhabit a landscape lush with sex and music and bears and blood. They give us a history of girls and women who are “tired as buttons/used over and over,” who are searching for “courage, an ashen/thing” anywhere it might hide: a forest, a circus, a hotel shower, a gravel road, a paneled basement, a kitchen with Hole blasting from the stereo, or on the edge of a cliff with Thelma and Louise. Using both narrative blocks and lyric fragments that call on both pop culture and the natural world, Lilius gives us a speaker who is a survivor, “with nothing inside or everything inside,” arriving at last at the conclusion that “I’m the editor of my own heart.” “
-Donna Vorreyer, To Everything There Is
“The aptly titled Dirty Words is akin to the risqué magazine hidden under your mattress or the diary of the coolest, most badass girl in school, who just so happened to be your mother. That is not to say that this collection centers on youth; it doesn’t. Dirty Words follows its author through a rough and tumble life in which she vehemently questions the ongoing war between men and women while timidly asking you to dance. I found myself swooning with such standout lines as “I hear La Llorona with stars scraping over my head,” and the more whimsical “His beard full of snarls and dead leaves, I wonder if birds nest there.” Equipped with the descriptive powers of Allen Ginsberg, the rawness of Charles Bukowski, and the perspective of Dorothy Parker, Sarah Lilius is sure to enrapture and delight readers.”
-Georgia Park, Softly Glowing Exit Signs
Publication Date: July 26, 2021