cover image From From: Poems

From From: Poems

Monica Youn. Graywolf, $17 trade paper (160p) ISBN 978-1-64445-221-9

Youn deconstructs in her piercing fourth collection (after Blackacre) Asian American identity to examine its many fragments. “Revealing a racial marker in a poem is like revealing a gun in a story or like/ revealing a nipple in a dance,” Youn writes in the opening poem, “Study of Two Figures (Pasiphaë / Sado),” establishing the tone of the inquiring and powerful pages that follow. In “Deracinations: Eight Sonigrams,” Youn dissects her childhood and young adulthood, recalling the encoded colonialism in Curious George books, being subjected to racial slurs by a bully, and searching fruitlessly for other Asian poets to emulate, “seeking/ a racial exemplar, an icon.” Youn demonstrates a mastery of the existential, declaring perceptively in “Study of Two Figures (Midas / Marigold)” that “Death is a wish to improve one’s surroundings./ Which is to say to be dissatisfied with one’s surroundings is a form of death.” The long prose poem, “In the Passive Voice,” is a virtuosic performance addressing, among other subjects, the challenges of maintaining racial solidarity under capitalism. Intimate yet expansive, Youn’s poems bring remarkable depth, candor, and intensity to personal and social history. (Mar.)