Saturday, December 19, 2020

Lily Wang, Saturn Peach



Two different textures meet, one entering the other: a fluff drifting into jagged wood. A girl walks into the darkened wood and steps out a—still—a girl, wolfish. She is not young. She is young. It does not matter. One reality crosses with another, hashes, she is pressed against the crisscross she is: unshaped: lopped: repackaged or—broken out of? She is a girl. She is a boy. It does not matter. She is who she says she is she is lost, she is dripping, drilling, taking forms: tossing it. Humming stretch the night in two. On, and on more: she is writing this poem.

The debut full-length poetry title by Toronto poet, editor and publisher Lily Wang, founding editor of Half a Grapefruit Magazine, is Saturn Peach (Guelph ON: Gordon Hill Press, 2020), following on the heels of her chapbook debut, Everyone In Your Dream is You (Toronto ON: Anstruther Press, 2018). Set in five sections—“RE:,” “UNSOLICITED PORTRAITS,” “ARCADE,” “BLUE OLIVES” and “CONCERT”—the first-person narratives in Saturn Peach are composed with a curious looseness paired with energy and confidence, as Wang composes first person meditative portraits of small moments that move through experience, including mis-adventuring with friends, translations of self, summers and crying, and pop culture references from the previous century: Mickey Mouse Club in the 1930s, and the films Goodfellas and Kill Bill: Volume 1. Wang utilizes these almost as a means to an end, writing through stories and references to unfold and reveal moments of meditative silence, revelation or observation, such as the poem “ALL THE THINGS YOU HAVE ARE REAL,” a poem interrupted by a sudden downpour, that ends: “I heard a splash then it just came down. / All at once like an upturned bucket. // After I say this I go back upstairs, / where it is warm.”

These are poems of tone, and texture, one that works through an internal space so vast in can touch upon anything and everything that might be possible “We’re cool?” she writes, at the end of the poem “KIDS”: “Yeah we’re cool. Good I was worried you were mad at / me. No we’re cool. Cool.” In an interview conducted by David Ly for PRISM International, posted November 26, 2020, Wang speaks of the collection:

Here I am discussing poems I wrote starting at age eighteen. It takes years for a book to come out. Every day I leave myself behind. I had to ask myself what I consider as “growth,” “maturity,” and what is “good writing”? (The past always has something to offer.) My “style” adapts to the different ways I re:present. When my style evolves it is repetition but repetition with difference (I am an earnest liar). Maybe control for me is always part shame. Shame itself is always part hope.

I wrote most of the poems in Saturn Peach while I was reading Auerbach (Mimesis: The Representation of Reality in Western Literature). I wanted my writing to be personal, and embarrassing (in the way only personal poems can be), and still open (open to hope, which no one alone can create). Auerbach blows my mind. When I first heard the idea that everyone in your dream was you, that also blew my mind.

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