cover image Togetherness


Wo Chan. Nightboat, $16.95 trade paper (80p) ISBN 978-1-64362-144-9

This refreshing debut gathers its power by exploring the overlaps between gender, sex, language, and nationality. Chan’s speaker draws on the language of the body and the details of an immigrant experience to reveal what cannot easily be categorized. A snapshot of their family’s Chinese restaurant becomes not only a space for autobiography, but an inventory of polyphonic democracy: “mid-life Caucasians, stoned truants, strange dates, Black worship,/ beige infant, the red hat society, gray bouffant, heavy demanding rings,/ and my own family, each face distilled in the steamtable mirror.” Chan, a drag performer, is equally adept at the kind of linguistic play that challenges the absurdity of fixed categories: “I said field of thyme/ with an ‘h’/ as in yew-man & yew-bris & yew-mid/ as in yewman yewbris in the yewmid afterrain heat.” Throughout this vivid and surprising work, Chan intersperses unattributed letters in support of their family’s immigration efforts, further destabilizing the boundaries between speaker and audience, individual and collective. Daring and original, Chan’s poetry collapses categories to create inspired art. (Sept.)