cover image Bodega


Su Hwang. Milkweed, $16 trade paper (96p) ISBN 978-1-57131-524-3

In this formally dexterous debut, Hwang interrogates language, identity, and cultural inheritance. Fittingly, the collection opens with a powerful gesture (a poem in Korean presented without translation) that sets the stage for a collection that proclaims form as not just an extension of narrative, but a narrative in and of itself. Hwang shifts from cleanly constructed tercets to prose blocks, couplets, lyric fragments, and dense strophes, complicating voice and narrative with each transition and formal shift. “Duality forms confluence: frenzy,” Hwang writes, as though describing the book’s own versatile poetics. “You: shape-shifter, agent of erasure, amateur magician,/ switcher of codes,” she says elsewhere in a moment that seems to echo the work’s own movements across the page. All along, the speaker seems to search for a linguistic vehicle that seems more real, and more true, than the “erasures” of culture and history she has witnessed. “Divide extraction to posit true values of coveting/ zero = the summation of erasures,” she warns. This work succeeds in using the nuances of poetic technique to amplify an already powerful message of cultural identity. (Oct.)