Review of Claudia Cortese's Wasp Queen (Black Lawrence Press, 2016)

Paper Fortune Teller for Claudia Cortese's Wasp Queen

     a creative review by Madeleine Wattenberg

Handmade fortune teller by Madeleine Wattenberg

In Wasp Queen, Lucy plays the deadly serious game called girlhood. Cortese builds her prose poems in language culled from images of a suburban adolescence. Each poem smacks the brain like the sourest Sweetart in the bag and pushes into all shared secret places of a plucked and pried girlhood. Lucy’s world manifests in the “pubic mist” of public showers, the “hurt of lemon spritz,” the bubbled slurs ascending through peed-in pool water. Cortese claims all those knifey words by the handle, then opens the image wider.

The format I chose for this review is called a fortune teller, cootie catcher, chatterbox, or whirlybird. I remember playing with these with my friends as a kid, unfolding the layers until we arrived at the fortune. Like Wasp Queen, the fortune teller is a game of counting, morbid curiosity, and mystery of the interior. The messages transform as they are hidden, folded, reshuffled. The outer layers fold in. The inner layer is pulled outward and exposed.

In this fortune teller, all divinations come directly from Lucy herself. First, you must select from the “names that could only be thought original by 12-year-olds who subsist on a diet of Twizzlers and Saved by the Bell reruns.” To begin, print and fold: handmade PDF / typed PDF

"In this fortune teller, all divinations come directly from Lucy herself."

Directions (adapted from

•       Cut out the fortune teller along the outside line.
•       With the printed side up, fold the square in half horizontally and then vertically.
•       Turn the square over.
•       Fold each corner over so they meet in the middle, but do not let them overlap.
•       Leave the square folded, and flip it over.
•       Now fold the corners into the center, making sure they do not overlap.
•       Fold the entire square in half and poke your thumbs and forefingers in under the flaps.
•       Bring your fingers together so the fortune teller forms a peak. Play!

Typed alternate fortune teller by Madeleine Wattenberg

Madeleine Wattenberg's lifelong dream of writing reviews entirely in emojis feels closer than ever. The words of women and nonbinary writers keep her imaginary zeppelin afloat. Her own work appears or is forthcoming in journals such as Hermeneutic Chaos, Tinderbox Poetry Journal, Mid-American Review, Muzzle Magazine, Ninth Letter, and Guernica. Direct birdcalls to @topazandmaddy.