cover image Dear Diaspora

Dear Diaspora

Susan Nguyen. . Univ. of Nebraska, $17.95 trade paper (84p) ISBN 978-1-4962-2790-4

The first poem of Nguyen's powerful debut asks: "At the center of your calamity, what grows?" That question serves as an entry point for poems that interweave grief, exodus, and girlhood. Through the character Suzi, the reader is faced with the complexity of reckoning with inherited grief. Suzi says, "missing someone... fills you with odd-shaped holes," and elsewhere, "worse than dying is disappearing." Throughout, Nguyen interrogates the American dream; in "Letter to the Diaspora," the phrase "I believe in the american dream" is crossed out. Later, she writes of America, "the dead remained dead." Her images ground the reader in distinctly American details, "SPAM fried with fish sauce"; "Lucy Liu's freckles"; "Vaseline kisses." Nguyen's poetry reveals a remarkable embrace of complexity while accounting for the difficulties of complicity, witness, and forgiveness. The final poem opens, "I am learning how to hold grief/ in my mouth." This powerful debut attests to that endeavor, and the way in which such work is necessary, beautiful, and full of complexity. (Sept.)