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Let Us Imagine Her Name
by Sue Brannan Walker
28 poems, 109 pages
ISBN: 9781-942954-46-0
Publisher: Clemson University Press
Available at: and



This collection of prose poems begins with “A Prolegomenon or Preamble” in which Walker reveals that she has often asked herself who she might be if she could be anyone. With this question in mind, she opens with two poems about the birthmother who gave her away. The next twenty-six poems focus on a diverse array of women starting with Abigail Adams and ending with Ziyi Zan. Using a variety of formats and a dialogic approach, Walker measures her own life against each of the twenty-six woman. If you care about fascinating and complex women, you will find much to care about in Let Us Imagine Her Name.


“These lyric investigations of female lives and voices coalesce as a journey into the heart of both language and reality itself. Greta Garbo comes out of her hiding place in history to share a recipe for human insight; Hypatia contemplates the cosmology of fate; and Susan Sontag’s ghost confesses the truth about ‘truth.’ Walker’s capacity for invention is dazzling and inexhaustible...This book is daring, erudite, and heartbreakingly beautiful. Let us now imagine Walker’s name among our essential Southern voices.”
    —Carey Scott Wilkerson, author of Threading Stone and Seven Dreams of Falling


“Let Us Imagine Her Name is as remarkable as any book I’ve read in a long time: a memoir of a life that began with a huge strike against it, by a woman trying on identities to find one that best fits. Sue Walker’s writing sparkles. The whole book is an amazing tour de force certain to fascinate and regale.”
    —X. J. Kennedy, author of In a Prominent Bar in Secaucus


“Adrienne Rich once said, ‘Responsibility to yourself means refusing to let others do your thinking, talking, and naming for you.’ Herein lies the brilliance of Sue Brannan Walker’s Let Us Imagine Her Name. Walker shows us, through her wondrous experimentation with form, the ways that language shapes identity, consciousness, and the very foundations of the social order. Even more provocatively, she reveals the implicit politics buried in even our smallest linguistic choices. Part deconstruction, part homage, Walker’s new book forges its own architecture, an exquisite cathedral made to house portraits of revolutionary female figures. For each woman, each persona, each voice, Walker cultivates a life in language that is unequivocally her own. In short: this is a magnificent collection.”
    —Kristina Marie Darling, author of Dark Horse


Sue Brannan Walker is Professor Emerita at the University of South Alabama. She was Poet Laureate of Alabama from 2003 - 2012 — and is the Publisher / Editor of Negative Capability Press. Her publications include ten books of poetry, a critical book, The Ecological Poetics of James Dickey, and critical articles on James Dickey, Marge Piercy, Richard Eberhart, Karl Shapiro, Flannery O’Connor, and Carson McCullers.  She grooves on poetry and on ecology — specifically ecopoetics.


Valentina Vezzalli: In Tenue
By Sue Brannan Walker

“I’d very happily let you touch me.”
    —Valentina Vezzalli to Silvio Berlusconi

Épée, Fleuret, Rapier, Saber, Foil, conversation, the play
of blades—back and forth, the sound of metal sliding
on metal, a fencing match, the engagement as steel
contacts steel, au fer, prise de fer, coule, the hilt in your
gloved hand.

Valentina Vezzalli, I would have long blonde hair
with one blue braid like you. I would be Olympian, hang five
gold medals around my neck, and name February14,
1974, my natal day. I would be just old enough, without
being a crone in pursuit of what might have been, had I
not been a waif.

Picture me in tenue, in whites, as I parry, blade down
and pass. En garde: Every woman should know how to
fence, be on the fence like a Republican, a Democrat,
a member of Congress or the Italian parliament—but
keep the face covered—volto coperto; wear a mask and
hide unwelcome tears. Your mother called your blue
eyes “two little pieces of heaven that she herself had

Words foil and fail me, for they cannot erase lines that
menace my face. Even if I might extend an arm and
blade and counter aging, there is no redoublement, no
reprise for the agglomeration of years, but I shall show
my mettle and raise awareness of issues concerning
people of modest means, and maybe I will dance under
a canopy of stars on Dauphin Island as of I were 19 once


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