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The front cover of "Bend Skin" by Yomi Tadfor. Photo courtesy of Amazon.

REVIEW: 'Bend Skin' is a short, powerful labor of love

Yomi Tafdor’s newly released poetry collection “Bend Skin” combines prose with beautifully complex traditional poetry and rhythm, along with small, full-color abstract art by illustrator Nujhat Adrita.

Much of Tadfor’s poetry is based around her identity and the way it has changed over time. Tafdor, a current student at the University of New Mexico, is originally from Cameroon. Much of her poetry is about the lived experience of marginalized people in the United States and the way her experiences have influenced her sense of individuality and personhood.

The collection consists primarily of free-verse poetry. Despite free-verse’s lack of concrete rules, it is a complex format that is difficult to write well, something Tadfor accomplishes even as a first-time published author.

Tadfor’s poetry is complicated, but not beyond understanding. In her book, she addresses many difficult topics: feminism, racism, relationships, love, loss and achievement. This wide range of subjects is well-assembled and serves as a way to break up the reading process. The throughline that connects the poetry is Tadfor’s unique writing style.

In any combination of prose and poetry, narrative can be subordinated in favor of stylization. Tadfor’s poetry, however, remembers its purpose as a day-to-day narrative. She describes the unremarkable and its connection to impactful parts of society. An individual’s everyday routine is trivial in the grand scheme of things, but individual people are affected by larger-scale events and ideas in the world.

Tadfor’s creativity is obvious in each poem. Each has a unique premise that is treated with care, and it’s easy to see how much her writing means to her, and how much it should mean to readers. This is a book for people who seek justice in the mundane and celebrate their smaller victories, not just those on a wider scale.

Tadfor experiments with formatting and style a few times and each is thematically relevant. One of her poems, “Question for Pooja,” is a stylized Q&A. It is a short but an interesting experiment with form and function. Similarly, there is an unnamed poem that uses asterisks to indicate action, a style commonly used on Twitter. The poem reads like a tweet, something stylistically uncommon.

Poetry as a form leaves room for experimentation in a way that other genres often do not. Up-and-coming artists have more opportunities to break the status quo and push back against traditional formats in new ways. The internet and self-publishing also make it easier for new artists to release their work to a wider audience. This adds to the constantly growing intersectionality in the art world that allows previously unheard voices to be heard.

“Bend Skin'' is Tadfor’s first published work and it is incredibly strong and stands on its own as a poetry collection. I, for one, look forward to her next.

“Bend Skin” is available for purchase on Amazon. You can keep up with Yomi Tadfor on her Instagram page @ytad4writes.

Detroit Kallunki is a freelance reporter with the Daily Lobo. They can be reached at or on Twitter @DailyLobo 

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Detroit Kallunki

 Detroit Kallunki is a senior reporter with the Daily Lobo. 

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