Book Bag: ‘Girldom’ by Megan Peak; ‘The Constitution Demands It’ by Ron Fein, John Bonifaz and Ben Clements

Published: 9/6/2018 4:11:16 PM

by Steve Pfarrer


By Megan Peak

Perugia Press and

For over 20 years, Florence-based Perugia Press has been publishing the first and second collections of up-and-coming women poets, offering one new volume a year based on a contest and cash prize that can attract over 500 applicants.

Perugia’s 2018 winner is “Girldom” by Texas poet Megan Peak, a graduate of the MFA program at Ohio State University, where she was also the editor of a literary journal. “Girldom” is Peak’s debut collection, one in which she chronicles her coming of age, her discovery of sexuality and sexual violence, and its connection to the natural world and womanhood.

It’s an emotional rather than a linear journey, one in which the poet might recall her childhood through the lens of the insects and leaves that once fascinated her, as well as her early sense of herself as a unique person, as she writes in the poem “Self-Portrait as Stinging Nettle.”

“I stand in the doorway, small needle of a girl, / with five leaves plastered to my belly — crisp stamps / plucked from the yard and long-licked. I am all / kitten-eyed and lurking. Through the doorjamb, / I strut heel to toe, heel to crow, singing: I am / not my mother. I am not my mother.

There are other images — sadder ones — as well from childhood: her mother slapping her older sister in the car in “Stillborn,” the loss of a line of Spanish oaks from the family’s yards in “Once Full of Trees,” in which the cutting down of the oaks becomes a metaphor for the way “the world is sometimes stripped / of itself, laid bare and expected / to regrow.”

Sex is a mysterious and often unpleasant experience for the adolescent poet. “Elegy With a River Inside It” conjures teens in their timeless explorations of their bodies and the ways of adults:

“I think / it’s childish the way we sneak out at night, start a fire / somewhere, smoke and drink around it like old men. / But I am a child — one who believes that I should give / into the bed like a girl in love. It hurts and I feel / nothing except pressure, no pleasure in the boy / heavy on my chest.”

One reviewer calls Peak’s collection “a breathtaking and necessary book that confronts childhood mythology, sexual consciousness and violence, and the nature of love…. [It is] a powerful debut by a poet who has the sensual, grieving world in her mouth.”



By Ron Fein, John Bonifaz and Ben Clements

Melville House Books

Talk about impeaching President Donald Trump has begun to grow in the past month, as polls increasingly point to Democrats regaining control of at least part of Congress in November and Trump’s disapproval ratings reach new heights. Indictments of several men formerly connected to him and his 2016 election campaign, such as lawyer Michael Cohen, haven’t helped Trump’s case.

But Amherst attorney John Bonifaz says there has been a compelling case for impeaching Trump from well before the most recent damning headlines. It’s an argument he lays out with two co-authors, Ron Fein and Ben Clements, in “The Constitution Demands it,” by Melville House Books in Brooklyn, N.Y.

In the book, the three co-authors, all constitutional attorneys, cite a long list of ways in which they say Trump has abused the power of his office: accepting illegal payments from foreign governments; obstructing justice; undermining freedom of the press; using government agencies to persecute his political enemies; and abusing presidential pardons.

Trump has even gone so far as to suggest he’ll pardon himself if he’s indicted by Robert Mueller, the head of the Special Counsel investigation of possible ties between the Trump campaign and the Russian government.

As the book states, “These were not the words of a Democrat or a Republican. They were monarchial words, uttered by a man whose tenure has strained even the most liberal interpretations of executive authority.” 

A public interest lawyer who graduated from Harvard School of Law, Bonifaz is also involved with his co-authors with Free Speech for People, a nonprofit group that seeks to get big money and corporate interests out of U.S. elections.

As one critic writes of “The Constitution Demands It,” Donald Trump’s offenses “are legion and are expertly detailed in this book. It is a must-read for every voter and citizen interested in good government.”

John Bonifaz will discuss “The Constitution Demands It” Wednesday at 7 p.m. at the Odyssey Bookshop in South Hadley.

Steve Pfarrer can be reached at













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