cover image Magnolia 木蘭

Magnolia 木蘭

Nina Mingya Powles. Tin House, $16.95 trade paper (104p) ISBN 978-1-953534-21-7

The self-reflective and often stirring debut from Powles blends poetic forms and understandings of time, place, and language to examine the variations and inconsistencies of memory, pop culture, and inherited narratives. At the center of these poems are glimpses of mixed-race girlhood, including Powles’ expertly examining scenes from the Disney film Mulan while confronting their deeper impacts, “once a guy told me mixed girls are the most beautiful / because they aren’t really white / but they aren’t really Asian either.” Powles powerfully juxtaposes moments of social commentary with insights about language, noting how “in Chinese one word can lead you out of the dark/ then back into it/ in a single breath.” In the prose poems “Miyazaki Blossom,” she writes: “I feel things happening around me that are not real. I must be in a dream, or in a movie, or watching a movie on an airplane in a dream... I hear the wind begin to rise and think of how in movies, the wind is always a sound at first.” This moment captures this intriguing collection’s atmospheric tendencies, moving from real to imagined in ways that linger in the mind. (Aug.)