Plastic’s Republic

Featuring the Barbie Suite


In 2019, Barbara Millicent Roberts, aka, Barbie turns 60. Plastic’s Republic offers an adventurous poem sequence centering on this complex cultural icon and feminist bête-noir powered by plasticity. Aside from thematically animating the ghost of Plato, the poems give voice to the major players in Barbie’s development and mammoth success, including Ruth Handler who co-founded Mattel with her husband; their daughter Barbara—the doll’s inspiration and namesake—and Barbie, herself. “The Barbie Suite” also features poems about Barbie versions that highlight Mattel’s opportunistic marketing response to social trends. Verses on the “Human Barbie” phenomenon treat plastic-obsessed humans who embrace physical and digital plastic surgery to embody ‘dollification.’ The book’s finale naturally segues to silicone sex dolls and a plastic-smothered ocean. Click here, to purchase a copy of Plastic’s Republic.

If one expects to read only one book of poems this year let it be Giovanna Riccio’s, “Plastic’s Republic.” So much more than a well-crafted collection of poetic musings on highfalutin, lofty subjects; this genre-bending collection, is a Barbie Bible for the Disenchanted. Her philosophical reflections, historical, sociological and personal verses on North America’s most loved and most hated 20th century cultural icon, create a playhouse fit for kings, queens, misfits and lost souls who can’t wait to revolt against the tyrannical, capitalist system that favors the strong over the weak, the young and pretty over the over-the-hillers. Despite Riccio’s serious meditation on the plastic Madonna of the West, this collection eschews the tirade against all that is no-damn-good about consumerism and its aftermath through the poet’s nuanced, bittersweet take on the subject. For one thing, she never fails to remember that Barbie is a doll, and like any plaything, one has to have serious fun with it. The underlying theme suggests that, in life, Barbie and Ken should have a limited shelf-life; there is no need for adults to bring in the guillotine and decapitate the decadent pair – girls everywhere can figure it out—it’s OK to toy with Barbie & Ken; what’s imperfect has soul, is much easier to love.
— Mary Melfi; award winning novelist, poet and playwright, author of Italy Revisted and In the Backyard


Moving between Plato’s cave and Plastic’s world of appearances, these eloquent and trenchant poems chronicle the history and aftermath of the “living doll” we know as Barbie. Constantly molded to fit the times and constantly molding gender expectations, for 60 years Barbie has taken over our imaginations as surely as the detritus of the “polymer empire” has taken over our planet’s oceans. From age-denying (if not -defying) humans to sex dolls, Barbie’s legacy is indeed plastic—in its original meaning: she continues to fit every need. Plato may have banished the poet from his Republic, but in Plastic’s Republic, the poet returns with a vengeance to reminisce—with no trace of nostalgia—and then to recraft Barbie’s story with both confident elegance and daring resourcefulness.
— Linda Hutcheon, University of Toronto; author of A Poetics of Postmodernism and A Theory of Adaptation
If Mattel masterminded, in 1959, a bitch-goddess of a doll, with breasts that are accoutrements for, and arched feet that are no impediments to, High Fashion, so now does Giovanna Riccio apply her own unconditional critique-in-verse, to break Barbie out of the mummification of her marketing but also out of the stagnant, feminist pontificating that sees her standing as fallible as a pawn.

Riccio answers the “plastication” of femininity with her own sardonic feminism, her own Platonic panache, to remind us that, within the beatific toy, there is unseen bleeding, an invisible vagina, and that Barbie is so iconic a symbol that some human beings play dress up—via plastic surgery—to become as “perfect” as is she.  Still others, poignantly solitary, address their amorous thighs to the sullen cavities of sex dolls.

In responding to the human comedy of make-believe and desire, of lust for and worship of plastic, Giovanna Riccio has written a tour-de-force of undeniable genius. Quirky, philosophical, and adventurous in form, Plastic’s Republic is as avant-garde as an haute-couture runway and as cutting-edge as a surgeon’s scalpel. 

— George Elliott Clarke, Parliamentary Poet Laureate of Canada (2016-2017)