Poem for the Day: January 27th, 2022

American Deathbed by Jiarong Zhang

is boneboat. We make teeth 

from pennies for our American

toothfairy. We hide them under our

pillow next to our nectarine

acetaminophen. Dali mouths

opening to other mouths

form this neck of history.

I’m sucking my pregnancy

test like a popsicle. I’m

breastfeeding the sea.

You’re in bed with

your video game girlfriend

except it’s you on the screen,

you’re playing in the first person

your lips are kissing your feet.

You’re smoking a cigarette

in the deportees club.

You’re sitting on the toilet

beside your female-gendered

tub. I’m watching an old

woman crawl up the hill

of the city. I’m baptizing

myself in the acidachelake.

The sun is throbbing

into my throat. For who.

For who. I’m scalpel

-ing an ebony. You’re Fishhawk

Midnight. My naked legs

bent into the Geese

-Shaped V. Before we sleep,

you look out the window

to see what’s left of me. Out there,

beyond the American Deathbed,

you tell me there are lesions of

kindness. There are birds

jeweling our sleeps. There

are hyacinths, just purring.

I want my mother to see.

On the moon, you say

look closely to see

a child’s TV

playing infinitely on loop,

just purring with gravity.

I want the old song to play

of my father snoring in his

sleep. Mother yelling at me to

leave. In this twilight,

even anger is so pretty.

Live for me.

© 2014-2020, BOAAT Press. All rights reserved.

I love how playful Zhang is with language in this poem. From the lesions of kindness to the hyacinths, just purring, every image Zhang conjures is haunting in its specificity while abstract in its execution. In the background of it all is an undercurrent of electricity waiting to zap the attentive reader. American Deathbed is one of those poems you can’t read just once, and the reader willing to give it the time and attention it deserves will not regret the decision.

Thanks as always for being a faithful reader of The Voracious Bibliophile. If you like what you see, please like, comment, follow, and subscribe to my email list to get notified of new posts as soon as they drop. You can also email me at fred.slusher@thevoraciousbibliophile.com or catch me on Twitter, Instagram, TikTok, and Pinterest @voraciousbiblog. Keep reading the world, one page (or pixel) at a time.

All Aboard the ARC: Bless the Daughter Raised by a Voice in Her Head: Poems by Warsan Shire

Bless the Daughter Raised by a Voice in Her Head: Poems by Warsan Shire

***Note: I received a free digital review copy of this book from NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.***

Like all of Shire’s work, this collection explores themes of immigration, Black womanhood, Muslim identity, mental health, and sexual violence.

Herein the body is more than its corporeal form. It is a border wall limned with barbed wire, a boat tossed on a treacherous sea between nations, a forest aflame, a line of demarcation, a political statement, a war zone, a site of both refuge and terror, a haunted geography, and a mother’s scream, beautiful and terrible. Herein is a voice forged in fire. Bless the Daughter Raised by a Voice in Her Head is perhaps 2022’s most anticipated poetry collection and I for one can say it was worth the long wait.

Like a lot of people, my first experience with Warsan Shire and her poetry came vis-à-vis the visual album for Beyoncé’s Lemonade. For those of you who haven’t watched Lemonade, it is composed of eleven chapters, corresponding with the first eleven songs on the album with names like “Intuition” (for “Pray You Catch Me”) and “Redemption” (for “All Night”). In the interstitial spaces between songs, Beyoncé recites pieces of poetry and prose by Warsan Shire. The British-Somali wunderkind, then relatively-unknown outside of the U.K., was catapulted into the spotlight.

Immediately after listening to Lemonade, I bought Shire’s 2011 chapbook, Teaching My Mother How to Give Birth, which I’ve read several times now. In 2015, she released a chapbook through flipped eye publishing called Her Blue Body, and if you have a copy then you’d be well-advised to hold on tight to it for dear life because I’ve been scouring the Internet for years in search of a copy. I once saw a used copy online for more than $1,000, and if I’d had the money I’d have bought it no questions asked.

Like all of Shire’s work, this collection explores themes of immigration, Black womanhood, Muslim identity, mental health, and sexual violence. I can’t imagine anyone reading it and leaving it unaffected if not completely transformed. Bless the Daughter Raised by a Voice in Her Head is not to be missed.

Bless the Daughter Raised by a Voice in Her Head: Poems is due to be released by Random House Trade Paperbacks on March 1st, 2022 and is now available to preorder wherever books are sold. Her previous chapbook, Teaching My Mother How to Give Birth, is available to purchase wherever books are sold.

Thanks as always for being a faithful reader of The Voracious Bibliophile. If you like what you see, please like, comment, follow, and subscribe to my email list to get notified of new posts as soon as they drop. You can also email me at fred.slusher@thevoraciousbibliophile.com or catch me on Twitter, Instagram, TikTok, and Pinterest @voraciousbiblog. Keep reading the world, one page (or pixel) at a time.

Poem for the Day: September 23rd, 2021

My Village: Selected Poems 1972-2014 by Wu Sheng and John Balcom (Translator)

American Citizenship by Wu Sheng and John Balcom (Translator)

Out here in the sticks
You rarely encounter such genius:
"Come, come, come to Taiwan U
Go, go, go to the US"
Words passed with envy from mouth to mouth
Giving the hometown high hopes

Then I heard you've become an American citizen
You're very busy
With house payments
Credit cards
You rarely have time to write home
You must know unspeakable hardship
At home, mother
Is busy as always
Covering our tuition
Doing never-ending farm work
season after season
For you to study abroad and
Leave the family in debt

You ought to remember
at the end of the year you left
Father, who struggled all his life
In wind and rain, in sorching sun and bitter cold
Died in a car accident
Leaving all life's difficulties
To mother, who can't even read
For more than ten years,
From morning till night
Our illiterate mother
Has had so much
She wanted me to write and tell you
—how she worried about you

And I ought to tell you
Every time there's a wedding in the village
Mother insists
I write your name
In the register
Because you are the eldest son
Our older brother

You left your backward hometown
More than ten years ago
To become an American citizen
In every airmail letter home
You express your disappointment and anger
At your unsuccessful brothers and sisters

Yes, we've all disappointed you
You're ashamed of us
Like this small plot of land
This stupid plot of land
Which provides you no sense of pride or glory
Because we are unwilling to study
Those proud ABCs
We're only willing to work, struggle and sweat in silence
In our homeland
I heard you've become an American citizen
You're very busy
You must have suffered great hardship
I don't know if you miss mother
The way she misses you
She's growing older thinking about you
Do you ever think about
The potatoes we ate as kids?
They were cheap and tasty
I don't know why
You are so busy in that foreign land
And for whom

1978

My Village: Selected Poems 1972-2014 was released in 2020 by Zephyr Press and is now available to order wherever books are sold.

Thanks as always for being a faithful reader of The Voracious Bibliophile. If you like what you see, please like, comment, follow, and subscribe to my email list to get notified of new posts as soon as they drop. You can also email me at fred.slusher@thevoraciousbibliophile.com or catch me on Twitter and Instagram @voraciousbiblog. Keep reading the world, one page (or pixel) at a time.

Quote for the Day: July 31st, 2021

Conditional Citizens: On Belonging in America by Laila Lalami

If they cling to a mode of dress, a language, or habit that seems too conspicuous to the majority, they might be told that they are not assimilating, or not assimilating enough. They live their lives in the particular but find it reflected back to them in the generic whether in the speeches of ambitious politicians or in the plot lines of Hollywood movies.

Laila Lalami