It’s mid-semester. Despite the acceleration of vaccine-fueled hope, we are still in a pandemic, and on top of this, many of us are still processing the spike in mass shootings and anti-Asian sentiments in the past months. In a week where my words would inevitably have failed me, I’ve compiled a brief list of poetry recommendations instead.
- Oculus by Sally Wen Mao is made of poems that glean their contents and discontents from all places: social media spectacles, Mao’s lived experiences, historical figures and more. Asian American womanhood, its burdens, and its ties, are examined through speculative poetry, unbinding figures like Anna May Wong from her past, and re-imagining them in an act of radical futurism.
- Engine Empire by Cathy Park Hong holds entire worlds. The three-part structure strings together boomtowns in the Old American West, a fictional Chinese industrial town, and the technologically-dependent far-future. A myriad of speakers and poem structures (ballads, sonnets, lyrics) come together to question the goal — or myth — of human Progress.
- Ghost Of by Diana Khoi Nguyen is heart-twisting and memory-haunting. Two years before his suicide, Nguyen’s brother, Oliver, cut himself out of the family portraits inside their house. These photos create a visual basis for Nguyen’s poems, which weave together her grief, the intergenerational trauma of war and Nguyen’s family histories.
- Eye Level by Jenny Xie felt like the perfect pandemic read. Questions of place and placelessness, isolation and longing surface through Xie’s perceptiveness and wry writing. Reading Eye Level, I felt seen — and that I was truly seeing.
Breathing Room was created to honor the safety I’ve found in art, music, books, movies, etc. that I am honored to share every two weeks. This week’s Breathing Room is an encouragement to us all to stop for a moment and remind ourselves that, yes, we are privileged to have time and air to breathe, and most importantly, to stop and take that breath.
Cecilia Lu is a junior in the College of Architecture, Art and Planning. She can be reached at email@example.com. Breathing Room runs alternate Thursdays this semester.