Dear Diaspora by Susan Nguyen. . Univ. of Nebraska, $ 17.95 commercial paper (84p) ISBN 978-1-4962-2790-4

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Susan Nguyen. . Univ. of Nebraska, $ 17.95 commercial paper (84p) ISBN 978-1-4962-2790-4

The first poem of Nguyen’s Mighty Debut asks, “At the center of your calamity, what grows?” This question serves as an entry point to poems that combine grief, exodus and childhood. Through the character of Suzi, the reader is confronted with the complexity of dealing with inherited mourning. Suzi says, “missing someone … fills you with oddly shaped holes”, and elsewhere, “worse than dying is disappearing”. Everywhere, Nguyen questions the American dream; in “Letter to the Diaspora”, the sentence “I believe in the American dream” is crossed out. Later, she writes of America, “the dead stayed dead.” Its images anchor the reader in quintessentially American details, “Fried SPAM with Fish Sauce”; “Lucy Liu’s Freckles”; “Vaseline kisses.” Nguyen’s poetry reveals a remarkable embrace of complexity while taking into account the difficulties of complicity, witness and forgiveness. The final poem opens: “I’m learning to hold sorrow / in my mouth. This powerful start is a testament to this endeavor and how necessary, beautiful and complex such work is. (September)


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