Phantom Tongue explores identity, homosexuality, heritage, and language. Written with vibrant detail and surgically precise word choice, the poems in the collection navigate through the construction of a person’s identity by various experiences and circumstances. Some poems are about the narrator’s Mexican heritage and the confliction of not being able to understand the language of his parents and relatives. Others show the struggle to come to terms with sexuality in the context of heritage and religion and the expectations of male gender roles. And others interact with the larger societal struggles looming around the narrator’s struggle, such as a poem about the Orlando nightclub shooting. Phantom Tongue presents the danger of love, the bittersweet beauty of loss, and the power of human striving, often encapsulated by some form of expression—artistic, linguistic, romantic, or otherwise.
Rigoberto González, author and book critic, said of Phantom Tongue:
“Exiled from the cultural language of his Mexican ancestors, longing for the private discourse of queer desire, the young speaker in Steven Sanchez’s Phantom Tongue imagines—and then inhabits—a wondrous space where expression is tactile, intuitive, and intimate. What a heartfelt debut and a wound-healing testament to the fragile but resilient body, its whispered stories.”
Steven Sanchez is the author of Phantom Tongue (Sundress Publications, 2018), selected by Mark Doty as the winner of Marsh Hawk Press’ Rochelle Ratner Memorial Award. A recipient of fellowships from CantoMundo and the Lambda Literary Foundation, his poems have appeared in Poet Lore, Nimrod, Muzzle, Tahoma Literary Review, Crab Creek Review, Glass: a Journal of Poetry, and other publications.