Split

Cathy Linh Che. Alice James Books (Consortium, dist.), $15.95 trade paper (80p) ISBN 978-1-938584-05-3
Che’s debut renders with tenacity and precision a childhood marked by sexual abuse, her parents’ experiences of the Vietnam War, and the legacies of violence that are carried through their lives. Che’s stark and intimate voice conveys isolation in the private trauma of “the child/ awake in the dim room/ of the sleeping house,” and, at the same time, the profound connection wrought through narrative inheritance. She writes, “This is how/ I learned/ to count.// My father’s/ twelve years/ as a soldier,// eight summers/ on the hump.// My parents’/ nine days/ at sea.// Eleven months/ as refugees.” Che’s often short lines call attention to the rift and silence at work in the personal, familial, and cultural histories her poems inhabit. As narrative details accumulate, they are cast and recast, and poetry becomes a medium for “[t]he caucus of past,/ present, and future,/ convening.” To be a daughter, a survivor, and a poet are all aligned in the need “to rewrite everything,” a need that Che navigates with brutality and tenderness, devastation and irrepressible endurance. (Apr.)
Reviewed on: 02/24/2014
Release date: 04/01/2014
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