Ivanna Baranova's Favorite Books

For the July installment of Favorite Books, Sebastian invited poet and Peach contributor Ivanna Baranova to share her top five reads. Ivanna is the author of CONFIRMATION BIAS (Metatron Press). Her work has appeared or is forthcoming in ATM Magazine, Cosmonauts Avenue, The Poetry Project, Newest York, and elsewhere. She first got involved with Peach during Season 3 when we published her poem "aloe" in our online journal and later in our Season 3 Yearbook. More recently, she participated in our first-ever virtual reading by performing at s04e04 on June 26. Ivanna currently lives between Brooklyn and Los Angeles. Below are her favorite books.

Lite Year by Tess Brown-Lavoie

The language in Lite Year reads like twirled gum stretched across fingertips. This is easily one of my favorite poetry books. Each page incants a subtle hypnosis that bubbles over time in my unconscious. Brown-Lavoie carefully documents the quiet shine of a single moment, like a metal detector over sand, catching each glint and jewel. These poems are intimate, immersive—a secret you want to Sharpie on your palm.

This book didn’t kill me, but it did completely annihilate my limited perceptions of how poetry can move. I bought Lite Year after watching Tess perform at a summer reading in Hudson. I was mesmerized by the kinetic syntax and intricate scaffolding over which these poems climb. I read this book with an intentional slowness, over several months, on busses and lawns, in bathtubs and train cars, across state lines. I recommend this book to everyone I love. It was recently returned to me by one of my best friends, slightly more faded and torn—perfect to me.

Violet Energy Ingots by Hoa Nguyen

Nguyen’s work re-emerges in my consciousness whenever I’m processing grief or am disoriented by love. Truly, Violet Energy Ingots is a salve. I first read it while soaking in a hot tub in Banff, Alberta, coming down from a psychotherapeutic MDMA trip. Nguyen’s language is precisely emotive, and I read it at a time when I needed it.

When Hoa and I met in the spring of 2018, her mentorship cultivated in me an understanding of poetry as a means of exactness. Nguyen brings lines sharply into focus and builds abundance from the ordinary. So many pages from this book are affixed to my memory—as I realized one day when, by coincidence, my friend Chariot and I simultaneously recited “I Am Too” by heart:

Bitter Fruit: The Story of the American Coup in Guatemala by Stephen Schlesinger and Stephen Kinzer

Bitter Fruit documents the CIA-backed overthrow of Jacobo Árbenz, and the ongoing atrocities carried out by the United States, which the National Security Archives have named “the definitive deathblow to democracy in Guatemala.” 

When I started researching the rampant legacy of imperialism that’s fractured viable sovereignty in Guatemala, as in so many other Central American countries, this book became key in reimagining sociopolitical strategy, cross-cultural reparations, ancestral acknowledgment, and equitable community engagement. 

In the 1980s—during the peak of the civil war—my mom lost more than a dozen friends and family members, when mass disappearances and relentless genocide against predominantly poor and indigenous communities increased. As we center abolitionist frameworks in current anti-racist efforts to protect Black lives, abolish ICE, and resolve the immigration “crisis,” gaining deeper understandings around the breadth and specificity of global harm the US has engendered is key.

Through reading this book, I learned and became quickly obsessed with Spiritual Socialism, a political ideology developed by Juan José Arévalo, beloved philosophy professor and democratically elected president, who was crowdfunded back to Guate from Argentina to address urgent needs for social reform in the 1940s.

The movement was an unprecedented socialist iteration, aimed to collectivize and liberate Guatemalans—spiritually and psychologically—towards civil freedom and spiritual development. Of course, US intervention inevitably fractured the movement to total disrepair, but I’m interested in identifying how the philosophy might be viable and actionable through new political contexts as vital uprisings expose new portals to decolonization.

Bitter Fruit motivated my own research into familial and political lineages of resistance and survival. I’m ideating a project that will document and consolidate these histories through poetics.

Dark Pool Party by Hannah Black

“The significance of relationships is actually secret