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
Write Bloody Publishing
Review by Max Vande Vaarst
It feels as though nothing could be more Millenial. What better emblem of the “Me Me Me” generational tagline posited by Time Magazine than a memoir written by an author barely on the cusp of thirty, a novelized account of a nascent artist’s ramblings through France and her search for the self in the City of Lights? Yet to fellow members of a debutante generation now nearing the end of its post-recession cotillion – this brief, shared moment of youth, opportunity and national spotlight – Jade Sylan’s dazzling new work Kissing Oscar Wilde can seem, if anything, overwhelming in its urgency. In many regards, it is no more a memoir than a eulogy to one’s twenties, and a prayer for the long, unknowable period of adulthood ahead.
At the center of the novel is Sylvan herself, an up-and-coming poet and all-purpose bohemian presently living in Boston. It is sometimes unclear to what extent Sylvan the author resembles Sylvan the character, a self-styled androgynous, polyamorous, bisexual Dylanphile who wears her wavy knots of hair in perfect mimicry of the folk legend during his mid-‘60s Don’t Look Back days. Perhaps there’s no point in attempting to separate the two. Vonnegut was correct in surmising that “we are what we pretend to be,” and this impulse for projection has never been truer than of artists in the internet age. Continue reading
Write Bloody Books
On the back cover of Lauren Zuniga’s The Smell of Good Mud, poet Andrea Gibson writes, “Dear Lauren, it is impossible to read your book without falling in love with you.” I say, too late. I fell in love with Lauren Zuniga before I read her book. I fell in love with Lauren Zuniga in a small theater in downtown Scranton two weeks ago. I fell in love with Lauren Zuniga when she opened her mouth to read and her whole life fell out. We learned about her home, her children, her childhood, her loss, her love, and everything in between. This poet is so intimate with her audience, I almost want to set her a place at my Christmas Eve dinner.
So when I opened The Smell of Good Mud, I half-suspected I would love the words between the covers, and Zuniga did not disappoint. The strength in Zuniga’s work is her hard-fought language. She makes puzzles from words, scrambled eggs with social norms. Her images kaleidoscope across the page and spring to life over and over again like an eternal fountain of nouns and verbs. In “Dear Lemon Engine,” she paints the physicality of her grandmother:
My grandmother’s hands don’t work anymore. They are twisted seashells. She keeps every ex-husband on her back. Secretaries. Stillborn babies. Dried up milk. Keeps them in the floppy pockets of her nightgown. Let’s them gnaw on her bones. I don’t want to be crippled.
In “Gas Station Vodka,” she surprises with language again:
We will need a room full of compasses and stopwatches. Otherwise, we will have no idea where we are or how long we’ve been there. We will say Thanks every time we leave the bathroom. We will drink, gossip, and curl lips like old people who don’t give a damn about anything because they are old. But we won’t ever get old. We will get artistic. We will get Grand Canyon and shoreline. Continue reading