Book Review: Cut Woman by Dena Igusti

Book Review: Cut Woman by Dena Igusti


To love my father is to always keep my jaw suspended

My Father Never Answers To Papa, Cut Woman, Dena Igusti

Have you ever read a piece of poetry where you can hear each word spoken from the diaphragm, to an orchestra of clicking fingers, that you cannot help but pause? The imaginary performer is bracing. Breathing, and waiting for the audience to settle like the tides because this poet is Poseidon and you’re enthralled in the waves that they’ve conjured through their cadence?

Even though, all you have is the poetry book’s pages between your fingers? – That’s power.

Back when I was still a student, I used to do spoken word and slam poetry, and it’s rare for me to pick up a collection by someone I’ve never seen perform and have such a visceral experience.

What was I reading? Cut Woman by Dena Igusti.

A common theme that radiated from their work was power – it ebbed from each stanza; the strength of surviving, let alone exploring their trauma in such a cathartic and passionate way. You, as the reader, are provided the glimpses. You’re granted the chance to learn and the opportunity to understand perspectives that are seldom seen in the mainstream media. Sometimes, people need a reminder, that survivors, such as those of FGM (female genital mutilation) in this case, are more than their trauma, and more than the statistics provided by the news.

Power in Vulnerability


Stay no matter how you drink me

The most intimate thing we shared is a water bottle, Cut Woman, Dena Igusti

Igusti’s collection radiates power in each stanza, but never in the same way. One of my favourite lines from this collection resonated with me as a reader more than I had initially anticipated. Reading those words made me pause, take a breath and contemplate taking a reading break solely to dwell on the emotions that had been evoked from those words.

When I read the aforementioned line, I was struck by memories of being used, knowing that I was being treated in this way, but not caring; because, as long as I was of use to that person, I was wanted. I wanted to be wanted. I wanted to stay by that person’s side and that was enough. It shouldn’t have been, but at the time, it was.

It was an unanticipated blow, but it was raw, and powerful. I felt vulnerable, exposed, just like the poet. There was a feeling of comradery, that formed between me and the words on the page, as the ink seemed to scream that you’re not alone in this.

Power To Be

So they call me a ghost // I ask why

They say America

Altar, Cut Woman, Dena Igusti

The power to be more than a victim, in particular came in waves from Altar. The chorus-like reminder of the way in which victims of FGM are acknowledged in the USA was shocking.

Igusti manages to craft a compelling soliloquy in their stanzas as they recall their story. I was left awed by the manner in which all of this is tackled. In Altar, it is shown that it is rare to acknowledge the victims of FGM in adulthood, as if these people evaporate after the procedure takes place. You seldom hear stories of adults having experienced such trauma. People might not even notice that, I personally didn’t realise it was as prominent until I read Cut Woman.

The Power To Reclaim The Body After Trauma

When I’m gone // don’t call it an end // tell everyone I ran off // fell in love with my body again //

Party Guidelines, Cut Woman, Dena Igusti

The strongest part of the collection, in my reading experience, was the message of strength coming from being able to reclaim your body after experiencing trauma. One of the last poems in this collection moved me to near-tears.

Albeit a completely different experience in my case, the concept of falling in love with your body again made me emotional. This idea can evoke emotions from many types of readers. Although I am lucky enough to not have experienced the events detailed in Cut Woman myself, I acknowledged that that particular line reminded me of my own battles with body positivity, and the impact of poor mental health on fluctuating weight gain and loss. That sense of want; to long for loving the body again, was something that I related to wholeheartedly.

Poetry can gift you with reminders to be kind to yourself no matter what you experienced, and thus is one of the many amazing qualities of verse.

In Conclusion

I thoroughly enjoyed this reading experience, this collection is well worth the read. The evocative reading experience was truly epitomised amidst the pages. Reading it evoked a series of emotions and I feel like I can learn even more about myself through reading this collection again. It is certainly a read that keeps on giving!

Dena Igusti’s collection, Cut Woman, was released on August 25th 2020 by Game Over Books. You can purchase your own copy of their work here.

About the Author

Dena Igusti (she/they) is a queer Indonesian Muslim poet, playwright, and journalist based in Queens, New York. She is the co-founder of Asian multidisciplinary arts collective UNCOMMON;YOU and literary press Short Line Review. She is a 2018 NYC Youth Poet Laureate Ambassador and 2017 Urban Word Federal Hall Fellow. She is a 2019 Player’s Theatre Resident Playwright for her co-written Off-Broadway production SHARUM. She is a 2020 Ars Nova Emerging Leaders Fellow and part of Spotify Sound Up’s 2020 cohort. Her work has been featured in BOAAT Press, Peregrine Journal, and several other publications. She has performed at The Brooklyn Museum, The Apollo Theater, the 2018 Teen Vogue Summit, and several universities across the nation. . IG: @dispatchdena.