In this first book of poems, Don Mee Choi takes on a fearless exploration of self, family, community, and global identities. Choi, a translator of Korean poetry, employs acts of translation throughout this collection, deftly complicating assigned or assumed experiences and outcomes. In "The Tower" Choi writes:
She dreams of the return and national conclusion.
She is obsessive to the end.
She protests on the platform of ceremony.
Loss is gloss as she navigates the entire hegemony.
Ziploc bags come in handy.
She tears the bag and gags.
It is the only way.
Often dark and at times disturbing, the many sections of this collection—for instance, a subversive short series of Dickinson-Master letters interspersed with socioeconomic texts and news reports of military-imposed racism—accumulate to present a charged voice of an exiled narrator and the feeling, upon being displaced, that she is both no woman and every woman. This duality appears in Choi's creation of a second self, a "twin" who can remain located in South Korea, reinforcing a pulsing connection between where one is and where one is from. This poetry feels urgent.
This book review originally appeared in American Poets, fall 2010, issue 39.