Poetry. California Interest. Asian & Asian American Studies. Women’s Studies. Winner of the Tarpaulin Sky Book Award, chosen by Bhanu Kapil. Mixing fable and fact, extraordinary and ordinary, Jennifer S. Cheng’s hybrid collection, MOON: LETTERS, MAPS, POEMS, draws on various Chinese mythologies about women, particularly that of Chang’E (the Lady in the Moon), uncovering the shadow stories of our myths–with the belief that there is always an underbelly. MOON explores bewilderment and shelter, destruction and construction, unthreading as it rethreads, shedding as it collects.
What are the secret aspects of a book, which cannot be spoken of and that unfold in ways that nobody can describe to us in advance? Can radical change be read as a ‘map of the body in motion’? If reading is a form of pilgrimage, then Cheng gives us its charnel ground events, animal conversions, guiding figures and elemental life. ‘I want to mark a new map for a body opening, ‘ Cheng writes, and then she does.–Bhanu Kapil
What distinguishes this study of the Self in proximity to Other and to the World is the way Cheng refuses to tell stories and instead, insists on asking them. With curiosity and attention, MOON shines its light on inquiry as art, asking as making. In the tradition of Fanny Howe’s poetics of bewilderment, Cheng gives us a poetics of possibility.–Jennifer Tseng