Portrait of My Body as a Crime I'm Still Committing

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Portrait of My Body as a Crime I'm Still Committing

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“What is it they say about / love? That it’s only possession reimagined. That / it lives outside the body. That it’s florid & empty / & cheating & thankful for so much, so much / it doesn’t know how to name. All her life the girl / has eaten. Now it’s your turn. Doorbell ring. / Quiet bruise. Price of deadly. Anything is yours / if you swallow it.”

Portrait of My Body as a Crime I’m Still Committing is an award-winning, omnivorous collection of poetry residing in the space between confessional & manifesto. Portrait is interested in the immediacy of language; in girlhood as wolfhood; in the cartography of illness; in fractures through the dark; in bodies, human & water alike. Luminous, tender, & unflinching, Portrait cuts straight to the marrow. To all those whose bodies have been more bruise than human—who feel so loudly the sky turns black in fear—this book is for you.

Portrait of My Body as a Crime I’m Still Committing was chosen as a finalist in the 2018 Gaudy Boy Poetry Book Prize by Singapore Unbound, & in the 2018 Broken River Prize by Platypus Press. You can talk about Portrait on social media using the hashtag #crimeimstillcommitting.

This collection contains the poems “Guidebook for Wild Things Wishing to Be Tamed”, “Self-Diagnosis”, “Trigger”, “For H”, “But First, the Stomach”, “New York City Probably Has an Anxiety Disorder”, “Portrait of My Body as a Crime I’m Still Committing”, “Flood Season”, “Lightning / Hunger”, “If the Body Is an Artefact”, “Infernal / Inferno”, “When My First Boyfriend Learned I Was on Anti-Psychotics, He Laughed & Told Me He Always Suspected I Was Crazier Than I Let On”, “Alternate Names for Gay Girls”, “Quell”, “On the First Day, God Killed Himself”, “Mealtime”, “The Night You Are Diagnosed”, “Still”, “Serenade to Surrender”, “Lone / Pack”, “High Specific Heat”, “Panic Attack as Airplane Departure Time”, “Dream Sequence”, “Pandora”, “Insomnia”, “Event Horizon”, “50 Words for Snow”, “This Is a Story About Mourning”, “Healing Is”, “July”, “Call Me Before You Leave Again”, & “Hands”.

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“The unflinchingly brilliant and reflective words of Topaz Winters will leave you breathless and profoundly understood. Each poem serves as a window into a technicolor memory. Winters is courageous and keenly observant, a fiercely poignant voice I predict will thunder for years to come.”

—Blythe Baird, award-winning viral spoken word poet & bestselling author of If My Body Could Speak

“‘This is the way a girl becomes a bomb,’ Topaz Winters declares, in this ticking register of girlhood, illness, and queer desire. Portrait of My Body as a Crime I'm Still Committing is a palimpsest, upon which Winters writes and rewrites every nightmare and fairytale made up in the caverns of her glorious imagination. The work is haunted with such hope, nerve and tenderness that break the heart open.”

—Logan February, author of Mannequin in the Nude & associate director at Dovesong Labs

“Yes, the hype is real. These poems have all the intensity of youth and the sophistication of an established poet who already knows what the hell they're doing; the freshness of confessional and the dexterity of one who refuses to collapse into cliché.”

Ng Yi-Sheng, bestselling author of Loud Poems for a Very Obliging Audience & A Book of Hims

Portrait of My Body as a Crime I’m Still Committing is a book in which tenderness has given way to hunger, both literal and of the soul. Queer desire, mental illness, and loving a girl likened to the moon in poems sharp and explosive. … Love and desire cleave two sick girls together, the journey of their ascent and descent chronicled in poems so bright with want they ache, they cut. … This collection ends softly. It ends with forgiveness. Topaz Winters takes you to the edge of destruction and holds out a saving hand, inviting you into the warmth of healing.”

Crystal Vega-Huerta for Life In Poetry

“It starts so raw. Open. Dropping you into the deep end. But also: cards close, not showing everything yet. Or ever. Contradictions in all their beautiful and intriguing existence. [F]eels like all the air punched out of your lungs at once. ... I feel like Topaz sees things I don't. Like colours are waves of words, or something. It is a unique privilege, to be able to bear witness to someone writing many things you know are worth reading even if you won't be understanding them all. It's brutal and honest and real. From a poet who notices groups of people who usually don't get or want this spot. You're not safe. But it's better here in the light. Even if it's too bright when it is right on you. But maybe it is right on them too and we can share this strangely comforting discomfort together. Topaz Winters feels inevitable. You cannot escape the touch of her work.”

Elke, reader

Portrait of My Body as a Crime I'm Still Committing is brimming with painful, vivid, and emotionally raw moments. It is a poetry collection about a love continually pre-empted, a manifesto about the sheer uncomfortableness of existing in a body that you cannot choose. An existence that you have already learned is unacceptable. …Portrait of My Body as a Crime I'm Still Committing speaks of articulation, the difficulty of articulation; it speaks of desire and longing; it speaks of hunger. But in between the fault lines of trauma and despair, there are also moments that capture the beauty of existence—an exhilarating car ride, a clandestine touch, the deep ache of yearning. And so it is this entanglement of hope and despair that characterises Winters' writing, and imbues it with a humanity likened to a ‘soft thing’. Soft, in the way that it is so fragile, but also soft, in the way that it is so, so strong.”

Rhea Cai, reader

“You can’t read Topaz’s poetry without feeling completely naked … Her poetry has done nothing but amaze me since the first time I read her work, it continues to grow and become more self-aware, the feeling that radiates off of Portrait is astounding & it really makes you dig inside yourself. Everything about this collection had me in tears.”

McKayla DeBonis for Books Must Not Be Named

“Portrait of My Body as a Crime I'm Still Committing is a gut punch of a read! For one, the book is soaked in the anxiety of the now that it captures what it is to be in love and clinging on to a dream in this age where pessimism grips all our lives. The use of repetition and quickly shifting images reinforces that, and captures the angst and struggle hidden behind youthfulness, yet the collection also evokes hope in that the sun almost always comes after a storm. If Portrait was a song, Topaz is a blues singer who sings new standards, just waiting to be heard.”

Crispin Rodrigues, author of The Nomad Principle & Pantomime

“This is the most stunning collection of poetry I have read all year. I was in love from the first word to the last. This meditation on sexuality, love, fear, our relationships with our body, and dreams is a masterpiece. Winters has such a unique voice and I love every poem … I will be returning to this collection to read over and over again. Wow.”

Kim Graff, reader

“Winters has a way with words, in a technical sense, that drew me in and held me. I loved every bit of it. … I couldn’t bring myself to downplay how I feel about this collection of poetry. From the first page, the first poem, Winters’s words hooked me and had me wanting more. I was entranced. I found myself pausing, slowly reading to take in what was on the page. The focus on queerness was extremely raw and so well written, I found myself tearing up in places. There was so much vulnerability in this collection and I swear, I saw so many things … that ripped me wide open and it’s a bit difficult to verbalize. The utter rawness of their words is amazing and moving. I highly recommend this book to anyone who is looking for a collection that is full of emotion. I think it is one that everyone should try to read at least once.”

Rhiannon Blackmoore for Blackmoore’s Musings

“With her honesty and rawness, Winters hits right where it hurts. This collection stole my breath from the very first poem and it wouldn’t give it back until I read the last one three days later, I couldn't read this in one sitting, not when every poem broke my heart and then put it back together. … One of my favorite things about these poems is the language, which is very simple and open, but that's exactly what makes them so memorable and also what helps convey the message of every poem in the best way, I couldn't help but think ‘yes, she gets me’ while reading. Moreover there's so many verses I loved I could spend hours quoting them. … I think it's safe to say I enjoyed this collection very much and I'm going to recommend it to anyone I know, Topaz Winters truly has a gift.”

Silvia for Room for Books

“If you’re hollow, a robotic intellect, an emotional pragmatist, this breathless poetry isn’t for you. If you haven’t known danger because you never rubbed ecstatically against passion’s razor, drawing more than blood every time, this isn’t for you. If you haven’t desired past drowning, clawing or swimming to the surface only to free-fall into shards of light, you haven’t known love, life has been a waste—and this poetry isn’t for you.”

—Cyril Wong, author of Below: Absence & Oneiros

“Born on the cusp of the new millennium, Topaz Winters has accomplished something that takes many writers a lifetime; that is, the development of a singular, recognisable voice. This voice chimes loudly throughout this collection, a lyrical cadence that builds and softens, whisking the reader along. ... The poems are smartly sculpted and pay homage to Winters’ masterful command of an impressive range of stylistic devices. This amounts to a clever blend of form and function, to the impression of a writer who knows how to choose the appropriate technique to reach the desired affect, without ever sinking into artifice. The result, as a whole, is nothing short of rapturous.”

Heleen de Boever, reader

“Where to begin with Portrait of my Body as a Crime I’m Still Committing? A bleeding heart of desire, power, and prayer, this collection is a blessing. Topaz Winters’ writing grabs you by the heart and refuses to let go until you’ve read all of it. It leaves your head spinning in the best way, forcing you to chew on and digest each intricately crafted poem. It’s chock-full of delicious contradictions—war and softness, violence and holiness, anger and peace. Winters also canonizes queer desire in a way that makes me feel at home. For anyone who feels too much, this book is a must-read. It is a ‘small terrifying mercy’ to be here to experience Winters’ words.”

Mary E., reader

Portrait of My Body as a Crime I’m Still Committing throbs with the conviction and passion of young adulthood—it is a force, movement, struggle, growth.”

—Wong May, author of Picasso’s Tears & Superstitions

“Just exquisite. Here, Topaz Winters puts forth some of her best work. She finds words of intrigue, colors, and movements, and puts them together in all the right ways. Portrait of My Body as a Crime I’m Still Committing paints a devastating portrait of experiences all-encompassing: both universal and specific, both earth-shaking and heartfelt. Brilliantly introspective, this book is for anyone who has fought against and resented and embraced and loved their own vessel.”

Sophie Falkenheim, reader

“The bold vulnerability of Winters' writing shines through in every word, particularly in the titular masterpiece of this collection. .... Portrait does not disappoint. It ebbs and engulfs in just the right places, leaving a very balanced yet hard hitting impact on the reader's mind.”

C.S. for Ceiling Shards

“The voice in these poems is something angry, something brave, something real. Winters paints such a clear image with her words, and I found myself relating to the poems so much that I had to keep rereading them. … I cannot help but want to cry at the honesty. I cannot help but want to surrender to these words. Winters' words are powerful, and this power is evident in every piece in this book.”

Keren Guevara Chelsea, author of Girl / God & Truth or Dare

“In Portrait of My Body as a Crime I’m Still Committing, Topaz Winters weaves soft and hard pieces of her body together like stitches in a downy comforter. Body turned dead bird turned mouth turned home for she who does not want it. … Winters treads the delicate waters of gentle force, of soft body you can melt into, of hard feelings beneath the tongue, of I love you, but—does the ending even matter? Or is love within parameters a foolish, haphazard casualty? Do you think about her under the shower nozzle, back arched and shaking? And what good is found in that? A punishment? A crime? An excuse to access any bit of feeling you have inside you? So you wish to drown? In water, in emotions, in regret—choose your fighter. I see you tying bricks to your ankles because you think with a big enough push, she'll come back. Honey, you'll just drown.”

Jade Homa, reader

“Right from the very beginning, Topaz snatched my breath away. She’s got a gift for spinning light into lyric and gutting you with the sharpest of song. Portrait of My Body as a Crime I’m Still Committing is Topaz at her best: honest & heart-wrenching & unapologetic & beautiful in every way possible. This is a collection about love & loss & dark & despair & inner turmoil & learning how to find the light again. This is a collection about finding bravery in ordinary moments & reclaiming your own body & learning to live with it in the name of self-love. This is a collection about persevering even in the darkest of times & forging your own way back. This is a collection for everyone who has ever loved or hated or been in flux with themselves & their bodies & the lives that they lived, & these poems are balm to remind you that you will survive all of this. Topaz is an extraordinary writer who knows how to pull your heartstrings & steal your breath & give it back. It’s an excellent read, & my heart aches afterwards in the best way possible. Topaz is a magician with words as a craft, & once again she’s outdone herself with this book.”

Stephanie Tom, author of Travel Log At the End of the World

“It's so good. I'm not going to pick out all my favorite poems & quotes because that's overwhelming.”

Laura, reader

“I loved the distinction between physical hunger, which was portrayed as cold and restrained, and the hot wolf-like hunger of love and lust. The contrast between the two made each poem more impactful. … Reading [this book] made my heart rate spike up because my initial reaction was to look away. I shouldn’t be reading this. We’re not supposed to say this, even if that’s what we are thinking. These poems forced me to take a look at myself and consider why I held those things as taboos. … Since the collection brought me in so quickly, by the time I got to the sections I could have been intimidated by I was ready to read on and grow. The description of confessional & manifesto is well deserved and I don’t doubt that I will get even more out of it was I reread and reread it.”

Méliane for Bookish Mimich

“The rawness of emotion was evident in each poem. To me, the poems did not seem beautiful, like delicate flowers; no, their beauty lay in the truth they conveyed, and in the strength with which they conveyed it. This collection is edgy. There is love, lust and pain. … I'm in awe of Topaz's talent.”

Tanvi for Tanvi’s Readventures

“There are few writers that I struggle to pin down as much as I do with Topaz Winters. Something about the way she can twine images so neatly to collective feelings of yearning and persistence and absolute necessity is breathtaking in every sense of the word. Portrait of My Body as a Crime I’m Still Committing is an homage to light and all the ways it touches us and all the ways it abandons us in times of need but still manages to return. This is a collection about love, the ways we both survive it and grow with it, and desire, and the way night fades delicately into the dawn (always, always). There is a loud voice in my head begging me to also state that this is her most personal collection to date, but is it? Is it really? Winters gives you the impression of ‘maybe this, or maybe not’ that is unmistakeable, and lingering, and incredibly effective. You are not meant to know everything. This is clear. This is riveting. You can’t help but keep looking at it. … Topaz Winters is a poet to keep your eye on. If you haven’t noticed her yet, you will. She’ll make sure of it.”

Caitlin Conlon, viral Tumblr poet & author of Cavity

“In Portrait of My Body as a Crime I’m Still Committing, Topaz Winters writes with a fierceness that makes it hard to look away. Each poem in this collection is loud, deliberate, and brave; you feel it in your bones long after you’ve closed the book. With a voice that cuts through the ache of everything, Winters has created something that we all should witness, should read, should let wash over us. Portrait is a spectacular look inside the mouth of pain. It’s also a way out of it.“

—Caitlyn Siehl, bestselling author of What We Buried & Crybaby

“Portrait of My Body as a Crime I’m Still Committing tackles the unapologetic nature of girlhood, the mouths we mar with our own, the way our bodies look in the light. With the collection, Winters has created something unashamedly queer and self-sufficient. She asks her own questions and does not wait for someone else to answer them. ‘Must I say it to survive?’ asks the poet. ‘Then I will.’”

Trista Mateer, bestselling author of Honeybee & Aphrodite Made Me Do It

“With Portrait, Topaz Winters manages to both break your heart and reassemble within the same story. There’s a fever present beneath the words, all at once delicate and severe. From the heatstroke of falling in love with something just out of your grip, to the all too familiar quiet turmoil we suffer through mental illness—Topaz writes as if she’s rehashing a personal conversation, and we’re all pressing our ears to the door, overeager eavesdroppers, desperately wanting to know how the end plays out.”

Angelea Lowes, viral Tumblr poet & author of Phantom Touch & Swan Song of the Summer

“Winters’s poetry is made of bright moments; you read it and you don’t remember words being used like this before. … Winters makes me look at my girlhood in a whole new light. Her collection infuses you with a confidence that you too can write, that those tender and alarming thoughts you have about your girlhood can be poetry too. At times, you don’t know who she’s talking to—is it me? Is it her lover? Is it me as her lover? I don’t identify right away and it is hostile terrain. Yet, Winters makes you wish to be the girl she’s writing about. There is anticipation, there is anticipation dancing on the edge of a knife—hell, there is a whole performance on the edge of a knife. Collarbones and ankles and beauty and grief alike. The collection takes your hand and tells you how to feel. There is no invitation there, just telling you that you are begging to be found again. It is rather cruel to invite you to a world where you know nothing more than what the poet thinks of you. The collection leaves you wanting to walk into that image created for you, that smoking, smudged lipstick, ripped jean clad love, those hollow robin infested bones.”

Amo for Much Amo About Nothing

“What I think must be said about Portrait is that it is not a book you read and forget about. Topaz Winters strings words together like a melody, and, like a song, her words stay in the back of my mind, always there. It’s a thought both comforting and frightening, that words have the power to stay with you in such a permanent way. Either way, I think it says a lot about the kind of writer Topaz is; that is to say: a magnificent one. … If any piece of writing has ever made me believe that there’s hope and that healing is a possibility, this is it. … Topaz Winters has been one of my favourite poets for a while now and, after reading this collection, I love her words more than ever before. If you’re a lover of poetry or if you always wanted to get into reading it, I recommend this collection with my whole heart and soul.”

Hannah Rosenthal for Ink & Myths

“I loved Portrait of My Body as a Crime I’m Still Committing in a way that I haven’t loved a piece of literature in a very long time. If you take nothing else away from this review, know that Topaz Winters will touch your heart, squeeze it, rip it out, then offer it on a plate as nourishment, sometimes in the course of a single poem, and in the end, you will be grateful to have witnessed it. … With explorations of sexuality, body image, identity, and love, every poem in this collection felt raw and honest, at times like looking in on an intimate moment that I wasn’t sure I was meant to witness. Every single poem was rich with voice and urgency, and I never felt like the collection was lacking or slowing in pace. Portrait of My Body as a Crime I’m Still Committing gave me everything I wanted. It filled me with light, with warmth, with want, and never left me feeling unsatisfied. It is a collection of poems I will be thinking about for a long time.”

Kristian, reader

“Topaz’s writing has always been one of my favourites. It has a way of reaching inside me, tangling with my heart, emotions and head. It’s hard to read one of her poems without feeling completely laid bare, naked to the world. … I read the anthology in one sitting, every now and again reading a particular poem or stanza out to my boyfriend. Although he doesn’t read, he, too, found himself enthralled by Topaz’s writing and the rawness of her voice. Which goes to show, honestly, how very relatable and approachable this anthology is. Whether you’re only just testing the waters of poetry or a seasoned veteran, Portrait will sweep you away. If you feel like no one ever hears you, know this: Topaz Winters does, and this anthology is her anthem. It’s about first loves, first pain, first loss and all the emotions in between that make us so drastically human.”

Aly Locatelli for Of Wonderland

“These poems are full of beautiful metaphors and wordplay without sounding cliché, breaking stylistic and grammatical rules without being chaotic. The imagery really makes you feel something deep inside. It’s always been hard for me to appreciate good poetry without feeling inferior and thinking my own work isn’t good enough in comparison, but Topaz Winters manages to inspire me and make me feel more comfortable about raising my voice and telling my story … She’s simply brilliant.”

R.M., reader