Influenced by Alice Notley, Eileen Myles, Rachel Zucker, and other poets of the New York school, the poems in Retribution Forthcoming blend a talky, quick, funny voice with candid examinations of gender norms, class pressures, and the existential. Their speaker explores her mortality anxiety through her experiences of gendered exploitation, reflecting on bodily autonomy and the nexus of violences that women face.
Using oblique and direct strategies, these poems recount sexual coercion, the ways consumerist society reinforces and reifies gender conformity and performativity, and the psychological ramifications of these abuses of power. Retribution Forthcoming examines selfhood, consciousness, and mortality as they intertwine with our identities and the ways those identities are politicized. At its core, though, this book is an account of sexual assault and its aftermath, exploring how trauma interacts with belief and our ability to trust others and ourselves.
retribution forthcoming fuses the abject with the sincere, the tender with the perverse. Katie Berta’s voice is straight-up. Barefaced. Flat-out. She catalogs both the worthwhile and the intolerable and the result is exhilarating: a killing bite into the marrow of whatever it is we think we’re doing here. — Claire Wahmanholm, author of Meltwater: Poems
Katie Berta reminds us, "The world is a fight" and these poems refuse to pull punches. In retribution forthcoming, sarcasm collides with an exhaustion of the patriarchal clutch on society as well as the stark realities of womanhood, poethood, and traumas rife with contention and devastation to the human psyche…. What I admire—what rattles me in delicious ways, what makes me say Damn about retribution forthcoming—is how interiority gnashes its sharp teeth outside the skull. Berta’s poems are brutal in their honesty, compounding in their brilliance, and display the power of the mind—when infiltrated by a wounding world—and the mess, the necessary ruckus, that ensues. — Felicia Zamora, author of I Always Carry My Bones
I can’t help but feel that the title of Katie Berta’s riveting, painful, and frequently hilarious book anticipates not the downfall of some famously (or privately) detested figure (or figures) but rather a punitive backlash against the speaker of these very poems, foreordained the moment she started to speak. You may hold in your hand the comeuppance of a criminal! Such is the cycle of negative self-talk Berta enacts and scrutinizes, with her 'terrible brain,' gripped by both our era’s asceticism (with its drive toward nothingness) and a craving for connection and intimacy that has existed presumably from the first human snub. These poems roil with thought and with dogs and with media-glut. They overflow with fear and love; devastating events and numb, weak aftermaths; what to eat, or slather into your insufficient skin: and still their capacities for humor, for tenderness—their raw courage in the face of a virulent internal naysayer—thrill and buoy us. While Berta reckoningly excavates the ‘truth beneath an I’ (and whether she can even believe in such a truth), her deeper search is for self-forgiveness, clarity, and joy. Can a book about rape and self-squeamishness and the twenty-first century’s alluringly pervasive threats (everywhere-to-everything) uplift us? Yes. Katie Berta reaches toward you with her love. — Sally Ball, author of Hold Sway