New Books in Poetry: BRUTE by Emily Skaja

BRUTE by Emily Skaja

A new episode of the New Books in Poetry podcast is up. I had a delightful conversation with Emily Skaja about her new book BRUTE (Graywolf Press, 2019).

Winner of the Walt Whitman Award, Emily Skaja’s BRUTE (Graywolf Press, 2019) is a stunning collection of poetry that navigates the dark corridors of trauma found at the end of an abusive relationship. “Everyone if we’re going to talk about love please we have to talk about violence,” writes Skaja in the poem “remarkable the litter of birds.” She indeed talks about the intersections of both love and violence, evoking a range of emotional experiences ranging from sorrow and loss to rage, guilt, hope, self discovery, and reinvention. These poems reflect the present moment — ripe with cell phones, social media, and technologies that shift the way humans interact with each other — while maintaining a mythic quality, with the speaker feeling like a character struggling to survive in a surreal fairytale world.

Skaja recommends: Spinning Silver by Naomi Novik, My Dark Vanessa by Kate Russel, Long Live the Tribe of Fatherless Girls by T Kira Madden, and Sabrina & Corina: Stories by Kali Fajardo-Anstine.

You can listen to the interview here or on the podcast app of your choice.

You can join New Books in Poetry in a discussion of this episode on Shuffle by joining here.


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New Books in Poetry: Oculus by Sally Wen Mao

A new episode of the New Books in Poetry podcast is up, in which I get to speak with Sally Wen Mao about her book Oculus (Graywolf Press, 2019).

In OculusSally Wen Mao explores exile not just as a matter of distance and displacement, but as a migration through time and a reckoning with technology. The title poem follows a girl in Shanghai who uploaded her suicide onto Instagram. Other poems cross into animated worlds, examine robot culture, and haunt a necropolis for electronic waste. A fascinating sequence speaks in the voice of international icon and first Chinese American movie star Anna May Wong, who travels through the history of cinema with a time machine, even past her death and into the future of film, where she finds she has no progeny. With a speculative imagination and a sharpened wit, Mao powerfully confronts the paradoxes of seeing and being seen, the intimacies made possible and ruined by the screen, and the many roles and representations that women of color are made to endure in order to survive a culture that seeks to consume them.

“I’ve tried to hard to erase myself.
That iconography—my face
in Technicolor, the manta ray

eyelashes, the nacre and chignon.
I’ll bet four limbs they’d cast me as another
Mongol slave. I will blow a hole

in the airwaves, duck lasers in my dugout.
I’m done kidding them. Today I fly
the hell out in my Chrono-Jet.”

— from “Anna May Wong Fans Her Time Machine”

You can listen to the interview here or on the podcast app of your choice.


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