Mad Honey Symposium

Sally Wen Mao. Alice James (Consortium, dist.), $15.95 trade paper (80p) ISBN 978-1-938584-06-0
Linguistically dexterous and formally astute, Mao’s tight and textured debut conjures an absurd, lush, occasionally poisonous world and the ravenous humans and animals that travel through it. “Ask the person in the seat beside,/ Where is this place to you?// All your life// —a sunrise?... fata morgana?... an incubation?” Her poems find their sources in news clippings, Greek and Roman history, and Chinese myths, and they formally and conceptually play on field notes, lessons, travelogues, inventories, and case studies without losing their rich, deliberate emotionality and musicality. “I kissed him goodbye// on the stone rotunda, follicles/ stinging, skin molting like a lizard’s,/ & how I wanted to run.” The natural world regularly doubles as an emotional inner realm for the poems’ speakers, and this conflation is often fascinatingly at odds with itself: “When resources run out, don’t sit there and behave./ Abandon hive. If the hornet breaks the heat net,// save yourself. Abandon yen. Abandon majesty./ Spit out the light because it sears you so.” With echoes of Glück and Plath, Mao generates stunning landscapes where the flora and fauna reflect her presence and strength of voice. (May)
Reviewed on: 05/19/2014
Release date: 05/01/2014
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