Poetry by Gala Mukomolova
April 9, 2019 • 6 x 9 • 88 pages • 978-1-56689-543-9
From Russian fairy tales to Craigslist ads, stories of identity, family, and sexuality are unraveled and woven anew in poems of a woman caught between two worlds.
In poems rich with sensuality and discord, Mukomolova explores her complex identity—Russian, Jewish, refugee, New Yorker, lesbian—through the Russian tale of Vasilyssa, a young girl left to fend for herself against the witch Baba Yaga. Heavy with family and fable, these poems are a beautiful articulation of difference under duress.
About the Author
Gala Mukomolova earned an MFA from the University of Michigan. She is the author of the chapbook One Above One Below: Positions & Lamentations (YesYes Books 2018), and her poetry and essays have appeared in POETRY, PEN America, the Billfold, and elsewhere. In 2016 Gala won the Discovery Poetry Prize. She writes astrology-inspired love letters under the name Galactic Rabbit.
Praise for Without Protection
“Baba Yaga jumps the Brighton line in this rambunctious debut by poet and astrologer Mukomolova.” —Publishers Weekly
“Oh, this delicious book, this steamy, soaring documentary fairy tale! Mukomolova’s erotic sensibility is refreshingly unmodified by sentimentality—raw, explicit, wounding, a hunger unmitigated by the banalities of love. She conjures lush, mythic spaces starring a queer-heroic maiden and an unappeasable witch-crone that are shot through with quotidian, retro-cool references to Myspace, Craigslist Missed Connections, and Lesley Gore’s ‘You Don’t Own Me,’ just as her forms, improvisational, variegated, lacy, cleaved, give way to a prose line as solid as a knife-edge against stone. Mukomolova has given us a speaker whose wild embodiment is a revolt against displacement and trauma, who has the bravery to enter the witch’s house without protection and sit down at her table.” —Diane Seuss
“Danger and vulnerability are ever-present in this debut collection, in which the mythic and the mundane strike against each other until something wholly other, a fire or a song, ignites.” —Academy of American Poets
“What sets Mukomolova’s poems apart is her appreciation of dyke beauty, an erotic beauty that is as gorgeous and gruesome as a whole hand unfurling inside a body like a tulip.” —Bomb
“Without Protection is a wildly free and vulnerable collection in which no part of ecstatic, feminine pleasure or ache is taboo. The poems seem driven by a somatic urge to diverge from the constraints of one genre, instead successfully intersecting memoir, lyric experiment, fairy tale and fourth-wave feminist thought. In the ultimate act of liberation, Mukomolova has carved out a space for herself where Russian fairytales converse with the realities of being a queer, lesbian, femme, Russian immigrant who refuses invisibility and normative assimilation. Her words transport the lover, the thinker, the mystic, the muse.” —Airea D. Matthews
“Grab a copy of [Mukomolova’s] ferocious, ecstatic, thrumming collection, which vibrates with a divine feminine energy, an exquisite ache. Without Protection presents a femme duality: the young maiden, Vasilyssa, and the old crone, Baba Yaga, who sit together, in opposition, in tandem, and explore the terrors and wonders of the world. It's a feverish take on a fairy tale, and its ferocity lingers long after you've read the collection's last words.” —Nylon
“A raw, unfiltered glimpse of different aspects of her world—which includes the beautiful, the vulnerable, and the sordid.” —Prism Review
“An inquiry into what it means to live and love in a shared world . . . a set of poems that manages to be colossal and little all at once, personal and universal.” —The Adroit Journal
“Gala Mukomolova’s Without Protection is the world in its gorgeous terror and beauty, the world made whole, which is to say: the world as it is with its poverty, cruelty, and its crushing apathy. A world of wheelchairs, television screens, and Xanax. This collection shows both the internal and the external: the world of appearances and the roving whirr of the mind, the work of the intellect and the body covered in sweat and blood, the products made by these hands (sliced meat, a cup of tea, and this collection of poems itself) and the labor necessary to sustain a life in which such things can be made. Constructed from an archive of fragments (ephemera, email, voicemail), fairy tale, and stories, Mukomolova makes a world from the disparate scraps of a life lived, a world that she can embody. As she writes, ‘I built a self outside my self.’ Without Protection is the triumphant arrival of a new and important voice.” —Cynthia Cruz
“Gala Mukomolova’s a Baltic Sea witch, and her poems are vulnerable, ferocious, sex-soaked, gems sharp-edged enough to cut. For Mukomolova, names are spells, and all the thousand shapes of love are Without Protection’s fierce gravity. ‘Love made a clearing in the night where/a girl’s will tamped down the grass.’ Sometimes, the speaker is a teenage girl who laughs and fights and curses into the hot eye of the storms that pursue her (‘What wasn’t dangerous?’) Sometimes, the speaker is a woman abandoned by a lover: hungry, desirous, despairing, suspicious, hilarious. Throughout, we trace Vasilyssa’s brave path through a perilous forest; ‘If there is a kingdom then Vasilyssa comes.’ ‘Goddess! Give me money!’ the old babas of Brighton Beach cry at the graves of their dead, and we all rejoice together.” —Gina Balibrera Amyx
“A young woman named Vasilyssa—buffeted by the brutal vestiges of tradition, by the animal frustrations of the body—sits at a table belonging to Baba Yaga, a fearsome witch-crone. For many of us, the encounter that follows may seem familiar. There is a conversation about the soul and its motives; differences dissolve; the younger flees, the elder pursues. The folklore proposes: how do we persist, undiminished, while seated across from someone who holds the power to be both donor and destroyer? Like Gala Mukomolova, I am also a queer reader of this tale; like her (and Vasilyssa), I have studied every exit before sitting down to speak. And in Without Protection, the poems unfurling from Vasilyssa’s original challenge, in all their elegant ferocity, have shown me the back door I have always wished for. They have given me permission to leave the kitchens where I feel trapped, to wear the lace, to unbottle the secret, to call someone I both love and fear just so they can listen to me hang up the phone.” —Benjamin Quinn, Harvard Book Store
“This Russian Fairy tale—poetry-memoir hybrid—is a dark tapestry of overlapping identities, culture, and inter-generational friction. It moves at the pace of lived experience, ever-evolving and beautifully, organically messy. An intimate exploration of the dichotomy of the experienced and perceived self, the duality of Mukomolova’s conservative Russian heritage and queer contemporary Jewish Americanness, and the strain within modernity between the mundane and the wondrous.” —Lila Weller, Weller Book Works
Praise for Gala Mukomolova
“Gala Mukomolova's poems turn the volume of language up high and shake the cages of what has become our brutal ordinary. Her poem rattle us into what for me is a kind of beautiful profane, laying bare the complications of desire and simultaneously exposing personal and cultural wound. Hers in a poetry that refuses cloak in favor of reveal. And in pulling back the curtains, Mukomolova provides a tender cultural redress. These poems are a contemporary pulse, a vigilant all-seeing eye." —Dawn Lundy Martin