cover image Unbearable Splendor

Unbearable Splendor

Sun Yung Shin. Coffee House (Consortium, dist.), $16 trade paper (136p) ISBN 978-1-56689-451-7

In her third collection, Shin (Rough, and Savage) develops a cybernetic poetic through the employment of lyric loops, diagrams, epigrams, academic screeds, and assorted documents. This feat of varied language and form reveals Shin’s innovative poetic thinking and malleable conception of what a work of poetry might be capable of accomplishing. In particular, she explores the Korean adoptee narrative through the lens of the cyborg. Shin’s epigraph quotes Donna Haraway, author of “A Cyborg Manifesto,” and Roy Batty, a replicant from the film Blade Runner, to set the tone, and she returns to the theme later in the collection, asking, “Is Antigone the original cyborg?” Experimental poetry often erases the personal, but Shin’s formal experimentation is both political and intimate. For example, she includes several copies of documents, among them her own family registration from South Korea that designated her as an adoptee to the U.S. “I didn’t know I was human,” Shin writes. “My past was invented, implanted, and accepted. I’m more real than you are because I know I’m not real.” These strange, kinetic fairy tales illuminate Shin’s novel take on the adoptee narrative and her visionary use of language. (Oct.)