As She Appears

Shelley Wong. YesYes, $18 trade paper (88p) ISBN 978-1-936919-89-5

Wong’s incandescent debut offers an understated but ebullient celebration of queer and Asian identity grounded in appreciation for art and the natural world. Multiple poems are set on Fire Island, which she honors as both a queer mecca and an environment teeming with flora and fauna, where wilderness offers distinctly different opportunities for different visitors: “between the Pines & Cherry Grove,/ there is one path for tourists, another for cruising.” Wong revels in the pleasures of Pride months past, recalling with vivid and euphoric detail, “In strobing summer heat, we slid through a sea of men/ with shaved chests. The songs hardly had words/ & the bass shuddered into our bodies. Fireworks climaxed/ over the Hudson.” In “To Yellow,” Wong reclaims the color, freeing it from its derogatory racial connotations: “You are unfairly suspect—as peril, a fever—/ though you are as chill// as lemonade, dangling from trees/ with the ease of a summer// spent on a porch swing.” There is sublime artistry in Wong’s descriptions, particularly in the bittersweet “CODA Pandemic Spring”: “The days are unspeakable. Color becomes a feeling: a spray of/ shocked orange poppies, tiny golden creeping buttercups, serene Chinese hibiscus.” This vivid collection sizzles with remarkable nimbleness and energy. (May)
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