[REVIEW] Floating, Brilliant, Gone by Franny Choi

floating

Write Bloody Press

88 pages, $15

 

Review by Aozora Brockman

 

Franny Choi’s “To the Man Who Shouted ‘I Like Pork Fried Rice’ at Me on the Street” in her debut book of poems, Floating, Brilliant, Gone, is refreshing. Finally an Asian American woman is flinging back sickening truths hidden within a cat-calling man’s words, delving deeply into his subconscious and into the consumerist desires that fuel sexism and racism. What the man is really saying, the speaker reveals, is that he wants to eat her like Chinese take-out, like she’s a “…butchered girl / chopped up & cradled in Styrofoam / for [him] – candid cannibal.” In few words Choi makes us both smell the taste of human meat wafting from the plastic and feel the violence of a perverse desire that stems from the swallowing of stereotypes of Asian American women. She is, in his imagination, exotic, “brimming / with foreign;” a prostitute from the “red-light district;” and dangerous like “worms in your stomach.” By revealing specific stereotypes hidden within the man’s cat-call, Choi makes clear the fallacies of the “she was just asking for it” argument, as it is obvious that it is his uncontrollable sexual hunger and media-saturated mind that is the causal factor. But the power that is gained from illuminating the nonsense behind normalized justification is measly compared to the physical revenge Choi dishes out in the final lines, in which she is “…squirming alive / in [his] mouth / strangling [him] quiet / from the inside out.” By the time the poem is over we don’t know if we should cheer or cry—after all, the speaker’s desire to gain back her power grows so immense that she takes the man’s life. We end, therefore, with a paradox of a woman and man murdering each other, and with a looming question: where is the fine line between fighting the good fight and replicating violence? Continue reading

The Lightning Room with Franny Choi

 

This week we asked poet Franny Choi about violence, domesticity, and absurdity, and she encouraged us to try “letting the rabid dog in your brain run around the yard for a little bit.” We published four of her poems in our March issue.

 

Interview by Diana Clarke

 

1. In “Warning,” I found the most unsettling and wonderful thing to be your pairing of industrial/disaster imagery (oil spill, oilskinned harpoons, eye of the storm) and domestic objects (tape, fly paper, ceiling fan). This culminates in the final line–“a poised fork, stalking the whites of my eyes.” Do you see some inherent violence in the domestic?

I think to say that violence is inherent in the domestic is a risky claim to make — that verges on normalizing domestic violence. But I do think that the line between violence and pleasure is sometimes frighteningly blurry. I was interested in capturing a bit of the horror of confronting this line, and I think absurd juxtaposition is a major crux of horror. Continue reading