Book Review: WWJD and Other Poems

Being raised in the South can do a number on anyone; essentially: if you aren’t pointing at someone’s flaws it’s because you’re busy getting yours pointed at. Judgment’s served for dinner and in bulk at Sunday services.


                        When it all goes to hell, the holiest
                        among them turn on you first     will
                        open a red-spined hymnal          sing
                        It is well [it is well with my soul [with my soul]
                        It is well it is well with my soul”

                                             From ‘What We Tell Ourselves’

In WWJD and Other Poems, Savannah Sipple lays out all the uglies of growing up in rural Appalachia as a queer woman struggling with insecurities from weight, seeking love, and surviving multiple forms of abuse—while standing out front of where she grew up and not shaming Appalachia, however much its culture shames her. Instead, she elaborates how her existence has shifted, how learning her worth and right to shine is the point of any life.

The rise of Sipple’s queer identity in the entanglement of Southern Evangelism is my favorite aspect of this collection – nothing’s written for dramatic effect; instead, her growth feels like the acceptance and understanding one ought to receive from regularly parking herself on a church pew.

                       “You will learn, years later,
                        sin is another word for fear,
                        but even then you will be afraid
                        to let yourself love girls hungrily,
                        bold the way boys do.”

                                             From ‘Wannabe’

Jesus never runs the savior spiel in this book and he certainly doesn’t act like the jerk a lot of conservatives have all but presented him as. Without bashing any sort of faith, Sipple finds comfort and respect in Jesus – a friend and watchful eye who delivers his teachings in short doses as a wingman at the bar, or the helpful if not embarrassingly invasive man at Wal-Mart who explains to a younger guy how to satisfy a woman before sliding him some condoms with the don’t you knock that girl up fatherly advice. When Jesus isn’t helping the heterosexuals get their safest jollies, he’s advising Sipple on how to set up a lesbian dating app account while teaching her confidence in showing herself in full body splendor.

                       ”Find at least one full body
                        photo. No point in hiding now. Use that one—
                        the one where you’re wearing the necktie
                        and smiling real big—honey, if that don’t
                        woo ‘em, nothing will.”

                                             from ‘Jesus Signs Me Up For a Dating App’

While nothing is ever written off or fully healed from, the physical and emotional issues associated with home, weight, and sexual identity reconcile themselves well enough with intimacy. Though sex is a hushed thing, especially in rural towns and especially-especially in how it’s associated with queerdom, its paring with love is the opposite of a sin – instead it can be a proclamation of partnership, a release from restraint, or the way home.

                        ”My body is a holler I’ve tried to escape
                         time and again, but now, with this woman, I am home.”

                                             from ‘Jesus shouts, Amen!’

WWJD and Other Poems is an unflinching collection that dares its readers to find themselves in these personal but wildly relatable poems. The work is challenging but charming, and as gritty as it is gorgeous. Savannah Sipple rises up in this book, no longer allowing others to point at her flaws—instead pointing at herself in the mirror with love, staring down anyone trying to alter her reflection.

Available March 7, 2019 via Sibling Rivalry Press

Review written by Rachel Nix