Community Garden for Lonely Girls

Christine Shan Shan Hou. Gramma, $16 trade paper (128p) ISBN 978-1-5323-2706-3
Hou (Accumulations) constructs a cultural and hereditary mythology in her second full-length collection. She opens, appropriately, with “All My Dead Ancestors Must Be Catered to as to Avoid Angry Ghosts” and builds on this theme in a section called “Family Teachings,” exploring her grandfather’s forced deportation from India to Tibet and his subsequent disappearance as well as her great-grandfather’s captivity during the Sino-Indian War. “I live within the terror of boxes to come,” she writes. Hou’s politically conscious—if often veiled—poems touch on climate change, imperialism and war, immigration and the anxiety of assimilation, and toxic misogyny (“A good girl is a golden nugget/ Like a reusable stamp”). Hou’s poetic landscape is decidedly weird and consists of endlessly varied terrain: jungles, zoos, swamps, and aquariums all feature, as do a “royal history buffet” and “mountain of iguanas.” The real and fantastical often merge in lines such as “A large orgiastic pile of women build a colony/ called Foodtown.” She trades heavily in proscriptions and incantations, as in the viscerally odd “I fondle my guts in public, to the wicked keep far away./ Men dying for wealth, birds dying for foods.” Hou succeeds in creating and sustaining a mood, though her non sequiturs and dream logic mannerisms can make the collection occasionally impenetrable. (Mar.)
Reviewed on: 06/05/2017
Release date: 03/01/2017
Genre: Fiction
Paperback - 128 pages - 978-1-5323-2706-3
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