cover image A Series of Un/Natural/Disasters

A Series of Un/Natural/Disasters

Cheena Marie Lo. Commune Editions (AK Press, dist.), $16 trade paper (76p) ISBN 978-1-934639-19-1

Lo contributes a forceful voice to the niche field of post-catastrophe narrative in their highly charged debut collection. Though Lo's considered tragedy is Hurricane Katrina, the poems evade specificity, insistently linking%E2%80%94and raging against%E2%80%94disaster preparedness and socioeconomic inequalities. Lines waft between accusation and empathy: "Poor planning on the part of our government/ poor people were not able to evacuate/ poor black residents." Enigmatic lists of numbers are interspersed among the poems%E2%80%94a postscript identifies the data as borrowed from post-Katrina publications and surveys. The facts without reference remind readers of the vast divide between destruction and humans' attempt to enumerate loss. As Lo writes, "Can a disaster be qualified by the number of lives lost?/ /how to quantify absence?" Lo's verse also relies on repetition that is reminiscent of such classic forms as the villanelle and sestina. The structure suggests their attempt to assert control over misfortune%E2%80%94making form of formlessness. The collection, in its deeply moving entirety, seems motivated by this need: asserting questions ("q: Should we move to higher ground?/ q: What does disaster look like?") and answers ("because the sun was shining outside, but they were not allowed to go home") but also emphasizing that the scope of catastrophes, human-caused or not, eludes our grasp. (Apr.)