cover image Overpour


Jane Wong. Action (SPD, dist.), $12 trade paper (100p) ISBN 978-0-900575-91-4

“The sky was so blue you could hold it/ In your hand and throw it like a bomb,” writes Wong as she opens her beguiling debut collection. In the disorienting world of these poems, objects and ecosystems constantly transform and surprise, and exile, war, and death lurk as animals. The air becomes something against which a knife can be held; a bullet becomes purposeless without an arm through which to travel. In one poem Wong pulls water-soaked daffodils from her brother’s mouth; in another she mistakes a Las Vegas fountain for her mother. There is glamour, but danger lurks beneath its sheen: “The tulips here/ are not for beauty/ and thus must be killed.” Wong places anything that conjures the idea of comfort—such as cooking and the hearth—in close proximity to garbage and carrion. Each relationship is calculated by distance; flourishing creatures exist adjacent to the human world like so many “radioactive wolves in Chernobyl.” Amid the distances recorded—the space between two continents, or between such fraught terms as natural and unnatural—Wong adopts the voice of her mother in order to further gauge lineage and her own place. In a book replete with juxtapositions, Wong asks readers how to judge a better self in comparison to a flawed one. (Oct.)