cover image Red Juice: Poems 1998 – 2008

Red Juice: Poems 1998 – 2008

Hoa Nguyen. Wave (Consortium, dist.), $22 trade paper (272p) ISBN 978-1-933517-92-6

Offer your ear to Nguyen (As Long as Trees Last) and she'll first whisper, then shout, then read to you from a list of facts about chemical infiltration of the water supply or tell you the wind is magic. Spanning the arc of a decade's work, these poems make repeated attempts at unearthing "the secret seed of the thing," where "bulbing words/ throb the way hearts do." Playful and urgent phrases, such as "life's absurd toad flaunts its nose," saturate these sparse poems with strangeness and humor%E2%80%94even as the speaker acknowledges the serious work of making: "I create you still push hard." As Nguyen's voice evolves across the three collections presented here, we "watch as nouns pile up/ piled in the thingified air"%E2%80%94nouns that range from bubble gum and poppies to babies and the Mona Lisa. In later poems, Nguyen grows increasingly concerned with exploring the simultaneity of domestic detail and global unrest: "Grey transformer box/ hulks in the backyard/ and we have the 60th anniversary/ of the bombing of Hiroshima// White refrigerator on/ all day." Though the subjects inevitably vary over a decade of work, this important poet is ever "laughing at the glass/ table that language isn't." (Sept.)