Silk & Cigars


Worth reading 😎

An interesting collection of poems focused on processing the author's past loves and her struggle to be a "ferocious femme."

In the preface, the author mentions having

a certain softness for women

which led to her efforts to write poems that

. .are all essentially love letters to the strength and splendidness of femininity

while at the same time exposing

femme-erasure and femme-phobia in the LGBTQ+ community.

As a fan of lesbian-focused media, I devoured the original incarnation of The L Word even as I lamented that the women on the screen looked nothing like my circle of friends. From my perspective, butches are far more underrepresented and erased than femmes are in popular media--this is true even in the new iteration of the series. Mainstream presentations of queer women focus on femme-presenting women. While exceptions do exist--movies like But I'm a Cheerleader come to mind--media has yet to catch up to society in terms of how diverse "womanhood" truly is.

That's one of the limitations here for me--the writer has adopted a limited definition of "femininity"--there's the implication that to be feminine here requires one be a lipstick lesbian.

In my daily life, perhaps my perspective is different from the author's as I am decades older and I live in the Deep South--home of high hair and the requirement to put your face on. That definition of femininity is not mine--it's the social expectation. I am now over 50 and am no longer infantilized, and males no longer are offended by my lack of interest in them. I wonder how the author will view things 25 years from now?

The mixture here of feminine and masculine (in the stereotypical sense, much like in the title's juxtaposition of silk and cigars) comes through perhaps most strikingly in the poem "Nails" about the trading of acrylic nails for boxing gloves. The poem ends with a shift from

ferocious femininity

in the first stanza to

raging womanhood

in the last lines--and how these things never were about the "polish on my nails."

Other recurring imagery includes that of buttercups, daisies, sunflowers, and meadows, perhaps hearkening toward life defined by nature, rather than by humans. Likewise, in the poem "The End" two of the elements (fire & water/sea & flame) look toward something more primal and natural than social constructs of gender.

I spent my 20s wearing lipstick because I thought it helped to camouflage the lesbian; this collection helped me see things from the other side of the looking glass. Instead of camo, the author chooses to see makeup as warpaint.

Reviewed by

Angelic Rodgers lives in L.A. (Lower Arkansas) with her wife, two unruly cats, and two codependent dogs. She is currently working on her sixth novel. You can keep up with her at and on social media (contact points are on her site).


About the author

Ami J. Sanghvi is a Desi-American, queer writer, photographer, mixed martial artist, and M.F.A. candidate. She's the author of Amaranthine, Devolution, Armageddon, and Silk & Cigars. Her work has appeared in Awakenings (The Nightingale), and is scheduled to appear in The Showbear Family Circus, etc. view profile

Published on October 04, 2019

4000 words

Contains mild explicit content ⚠️

Genre: Poetry

Reviewed by