“In her candid and introspective debut, Janaya Martin shares stories of her journey and reminds us “[t]here is no use for words/when they can’t bring you home,” and “…no use keeping track/of where you dare not tread.” Then, with courage and grace, Martin walks “both away from and toward/people and things and memories.” She dares to revisit patterns of darkness, and uses her pen and her spine, “writing in blood” about love and loss to reveal a personal story that is “hard and mean and abrupt” but also beautiful.”
Michael Kleber-Diggs is a poet, essayist, and frequent social media commentator. He is a 2015 Fellow with the Givens Foundation for African American Literature and a 2015 Winner of the Loft Mentor Series in Poetry.
“Tiptoe and Whisper is an authentic tribute to broken pieces of life, loneliness, and most of all, the scars from love. With a raw and aching voice, Janaya’s poetry walks you through dark shadows in hopes of healing past heartaches. The use of simple words and complex metaphors is perfectly placed and I was riveted by her storytelling ability. These lines from her poem, Origin, sum up this entire collection: ‘I am from a series of rooms without roots, a book of faces without names. I am from pain and inspiration.’ This is a must read! I highly recommend this book to anyone who is seeking solace between the lines and has an appreciation for contemporary poetry. Perfect gift!”
“Tiptoe and Whisper is an intimate collection of a searcher, sometimes in supplication, sometimes defiant, but always filled with possibility. Martin lets us into sacred spaces as she sneaks upon memory. We stumble upon the loss of a father. We are led to the faces of newborn babies. We encounter a love that falls away, only to return seventeen years later. There are always lingering questions, can one ready herself for womanhood when she hadn’t known the joy of being a girl, kept safe and protected from a dangerous world? Will a body recover from years upon years of longing after the great love leaves? Are words powerful enough to resurrect the dead, fix a broken past, and construct new future grounded in authentic joy? Through this collection we hear a persistent “yes” whispered through its subtext.”
“What I love most about Janaya Martin’s poems is that they play with the idea that they aren’t poems at all, that they really are the bare-boned and raw letters to some unnamed but all-too familiar “you,” and these poems don’t really care what any reader might think about that: “I don’t have shit to lose/ or prove.” These poems have their emotional eye set on something bigger than aesthetic, something bigger than literary device and imagery, and they’re not afraid to believe in themselves despite the voice of reason that may sometimes insist otherwise. Don’t underestimate Martin’s seemingly simple lines, for her vulnerability echoes the complexities of truth, meaning, and love that has been and still is the driving force of so many forms of human expression throughout time. Martin has just stripped away the decor and frills and romanticism, almost as if she doesn’t have time for them, as if she knows that ideals and the aesthetic of art can only get you so far, that all the poems in the world aren’t enough to fill the empty space where home should be. “When I see you/ I/ miss/ me.” Martin is tonguing those truths many of us are so afraid of yet desperately need. Read them like every letter you’ve been waiting for.”
Sarah Xerta, author of Nothing To Do with Me (University of Hell Press, 2015) and the chapbooks Juliet (I) (H_NGM_N Books, 2014) and Juliet (II).