Sunday, September 11, 2022

Janice Lee, Separation Anxiety


it hasn’t been
the hotter summers

if you lose your cover
you can justify anything

I can justify anything

half into the future
is a kind of disappearance (“2”)

The author of more than a half-dozen fiction, creative nonfiction and poetry titles, the latest from Korean-American writer, editor, teacher and shamanic healer Janice Lee is the poetry collection Separation Anxiety (Troy NY: Clash Books, 2022), a numbered suite of seventy-six poems (with a quiz near the end) that sequence across trauma, memory, short lines and hesitations. “we couldn’t get into the garden,” she writes, to open the fourth numbered poem, “he said / she said / there was a wall / they said / the wall walls / said / the circumference of the event itself / within the would / there is always / a wall […]” Often composed as short lyric bursts, most of which are set as accumulations of short phrase-lines, her poems are propelled across the length of the collection and down each page through hesitation, pause and halting moments that gather together, one upon another; she writes of distance, separation; floating through and around a narrative of ghosts, trauma and distance, writing slant. “the notion of revelation is dangerous,” she writes, as part of “15,” “it is brutal / it being linear time […]” Through this small but mightily-dense collection, she simultaneously articulates the small, as well as a lightness, through her dense lyric, and an expansive stretch across a layered sequence. As poem “35” begins:



find yourself laying down
the beautiful melancholy of language is tempting
but you know already to turn away

once in awhile
and take a step in the opposite direction

you know already to laugh
after the tears

but how?

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