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Emily Lee Luan. Nightboat, $17.95 trade paper (112p) ISBN 978-1-64362-174-6

Luan’s meditative debut explores the Taiwanese diasporic experience through poems rich with vivid imagery, imagination, and candor that draw from the classical tradition of the Chinese “reversible” poem. The opener, “Elision,” explores these layered nuances: “My mother’s mother grew up under Japanese occupation.// When she would open her bento box each day in school, she was met/ with a square of white rice and the startling smashed pink of a pickled/ plum in its center—to resemble her colonizer’s flag.” Later, she writes: “My mother: a riot/ at the grocery store cash register. Yes, I watched// from behind the turning conveyor belt,/ her broken English. But is there a word/ for an anger rooted in sadness? Is there forgiveness/ for us in either of our languages?” Family is at the center of these poems, allowing a nuanced, multigenerational view: “I stand with my grandfather on 五指 mountain./ He holds up his outstretched hand. 五指, he/ says, five fingers, so that I can understand.” Through recurring and interwoven motifs of memory, myth, and grief, Luan offers a subtle, engaging, and linguistically exciting reflection on language and place. (Apr.)