Craig Morgan Teicher Provides Sneak Peek of Forthcoming Poetry Collections
For NPR's Books section, Craig Morgan Teicher previews a few new poetry collections that are due out this year. Teicher begins: "It's been a rough year for words, and it's looking like the coming year won't be very different. Words are being used far too much as blunt objects in America's public discourse, their edges dulled, their nuances rounded off. They're being mishandled. But America's poets are stepping up, their faith in the capacity of language — to overcome barriers, find compromise, and speak the truth — is undaunted." From there:
Poets alone won't save us, but they are helping to keep words honest, multifaceted, and ultimately powerful. Words, used well, might save us.
So here are a few of the upcoming books of poetry I'm most excited about, books that are keeping me from losing hope, books that remind me that, even as America is at its most divided, its language is about synthesis, about coming together, about dissimilar things that form a gorgeous and powerful whole. These books are angry, they're afraid, they're grieving and hoping; so am I. I'm grateful for their company.
Sally Wen Mao, January
In her stunning second collection, Mao stages a searing ventriloquy act, inhabiting a very specific group of otherwise voiceless speakers: Asian and Asian American woman who have been stereotyped and reduced to cliché in films, photographs, and TV shows. These depictions speak and fight back against the white gaze that has framed them, reclaiming their humanity from the weathering and reductive eye of posterity, from a time when "There was no word/ for tokenism." Mao speaks to and for Afong Moy, the first Chinese woman to visit the U.S., a contemporary factory worker; the plastinated corpses of the infamous "Bodies" exhibition (which were rumored to have belonged to Chinese dissidents); and many others. At the core of the book is a series of poems in the voice of the Chinese American film actress Anna May Wong, who Mao places in a series of imagined encounters. "Cast me in a new role already ... a pothead/ an heiress, a gymnast, a queen," she asks, with no small amount of impatience and annoyance. Throughout, Mao seeks to correct the mistakes the camera encourages the viewer to make, so that, she concludes, "I am not a stranger here."
Read on at NPR.