cover image All the Flowers Kneeling

All the Flowers Kneeling

Paul Tran. Penguin, $18 trade paper (112p) ISBN 978-0-14-313684-2

"My purpose is precision," Tran writes early in their vivid debut, and they fulfill this purpose, telling hard truths with clarity while exploring the legacy of American imperialism and the effects of sexual violence on the body, mind, and imagination. "What we made," they write, "what he made/ my body do with his body/ day and night, night and day, wasn’t love./ [...] I stayed to stay alive." Clarity, however, doesn’t mean resolution. Tran’s poems are curious and searching, especially as they wrestle with the contradictions of trauma recovery, a process that erodes the "membrane between reliving and relieving" deep pain. These poems embody a spirit of inquiry in their forms, too, many of which are Tran’s own. Each provides a unique doorway into the subject matter, what Tran, in the book’s notes, calls a way "to resist as much as possible to import, cleanly and clearly, lessons learned from one experience to another." As such, the entries posit that, for trauma survivors, the journey toward healing is rarely straightforward. These searingly honest, beautifully told depictions of survival and self-love will move and challenge readers. (Feb.)