“In the absence of love, ritual. / Understand that ritual is a kind of patience, an awaiting and waiting. Keep / waiting, kitten. You will be surprised what you can come back from.”
Restless, contradictory, and witty, Megan Fernandes’ I Do Everything I’m Told explores disobedience and worship, longing and possessiveness, and nights of wandering cities. Its poems span thousands of miles, as a masterful crown of sonnets starts in Shanghai, then moves through Brooklyn, Los Angeles, Lisbon, Palermo, Paris, and Philadelphia—with a speaker who travels solo, adventures with strangers, struggles with the parameters of sexuality, and speculates on desire.
Across four sections, poems navigate the terrain of queer, normative, and ambiguous intimacies with a frank intelligence: “It’s better to be illegible, sometimes. Then they can’t govern you.” Strangers, ancestors, priests, ghosts, the inner child, sisters, misfit racoons, Rimbaud, and Rilke populate the pages. Beloveds are unnamed, and unrealized desires are grieved as actual losses. The poems are grounded in real cities, but also in a surrealist past or an impossible future, in cliché love stories made weird, in ordinary routines made divine, and in the cosmos itself, sitting on Saturn’s rings looking back at Earth. When things go wrong, Fernandes treats loss with a sacred irreverence: “Contradictions are a sign we are from god. We fall. We don’t always get to ask why.”
About the Author
Megan Fernandes is the author of Good Boys, and a finalist for the Kundiman Poetry Prize and the Paterson Poetry Prize. Her poems have been published in The New Yorker, Kenyon Review, The American Poetry Review, Ploughshares, The Common, and the Academy of American Poets, among others. An associate professor of English and the writer-in-residence at Lafayette College, Fernandes lives in New York City.
Megan Fernandes is one of my favorite poets because she does things on the page that I and most other poets can’t imagine. Her rhapsodic lineation, her liberated image and metaphor. All that wonder is on display in her new stunner I Do Everything I’m Told. The collection is, at its center, a book of love poems like all the best poetry collections are. The pretense of love, the past tense of love, and what we do when the little galaxies we build with others start to come apart. Fernandes navigates these spaces with the kind of slick wit and care that love poems require: awareness, eros, and utter abandon. Her first two collections showed us the possibilities for a different kind of poem. I Do Everything I’m Told shows us what poetry looks like in the aftermath.
— Adrian Matejka, author of Somebody Else Sold the World
Beautiful, provocative pleasures, these poems apply a sophisticated intelligence to the most vulnerable and insatiable yearnings. Fernandes degloves traditions of love poetry through her radically adventurous poetry, baring the muscle beneath the skin. Each poem, ungovernable and alive to the contemporary moment, carries forward an original and compelling vision. The result is a brilliant triumph—both poignant and bracing. — Lee Upton, author of The Day Every Day Is
In I Do Everything I'm Told, we are embraced simultaneously by finality and ambiguity, rules made only to be broken, and in their tesserae lie a beauty that rejects its own existence while reflecting back our own. 'Sometimes, I wonder if I would know a beautiful thing / if I saw it,' Fernandes writes, making of wonder itself a journey beyond the veil where death, violence, and uncertainty herald revision, witness, and love. An incredible book!