A Nail the Evening Hangs On

Monica Sok. Copper Canyon, $17 trade paper (63p) ISBN 978-1-55659-560-8
Through recurring dreams that demand “You must know. Your history,” as well as her experiences visiting Cambodia, Sok’s reflective debut teases out how the trauma of the Khmer Rouge is remembered and retained in the fabric of the country and within her own family. Sok is a Cambodian- American child of former refugees, and her poems have the sharp complexity of a person who embodies multiple identities. “The Americans hate me and I hate them,/ but they’re the only students with me and maybe I’m American too,” she admits. In “Self-Portrait as War Museum Captions,” Sok steps outside herself: “A daughter of survivors stands in the grass among tattered military/ tanks. She is the only one in her family who wants to visit the museum. Siem Reap, Cambodia. Nov 2016.” Sok celebrates her grandmother, to whom the collection is dedicated, and who was a master weaver. This is where Sok’s quiet, unexpected turns shine: “It made her happy/ as she worked on silk dresses/ and her hair never ran out./ Sometimes when she was tired,/ she’d tie it up/ and let all the tired animals around her house/ drink from her head.” Weaving the threads of her family’s stories, history, place, and identity, these poems glimmer with strength and presence. (Feb.)
Reviewed on : 12/12/2019
Release date: 02/01/2020
Genre: Poetry
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