Hoa Nguyen, Red Juice: Poems 1998-2008, Wave Books, 2014

Reviewed by Emelia Reuterfors

[Review Guidelines]

Your Ancient See Through

There are no "transitions" (in life, so why words) if you are present...if not, then why pad the floor with newspapers and wait? There's a squealishly loud car outside. Squeal to a stop, leave a tar mark, groan forward again. There's no rest, no waiting, no neverminding for the devilish with somewhere to go. Just syncopation.

If you are the subject of your art (and you are), no need to reflect on the process of exposure, of blacks pilfering into whites, of darkrooms shutting in this artistic bunker. You've already been shot. To be captured is to be catapulted. Sling your arm out and point. You are your own weapon.

And all the coffee in your body interacts with your sitting bones. How white can they really be? What quantity of Big Macs, lightbulbs, party napkins, guns, table saws, baby pink lipsticks, Goo Be Gones and other et ceteras can you buy in the next 30 minutes? Too easy. 

Try sliding the abstract in (too scary), or slice a thumbnail. Conveniency is the most seductive. Patterns may hold the world in a comfortable setting, to be understood and then quickly laid down like linoleum, but chaos is in the puzzles (the most ravishing). Chaos is in every pause of human language, these stowaways of thought.

The literal/linear world is for belted-in wimps needing something sturdy to grip. 



Red Juice

A Honey Gun, Anyone Ugh, Ya Neon Hug arranges our worldly objects, and unlike the poetic adoration of Joseph Cornell's soft and contagious organization, Hoa Nguyen gives our objects (Walgreens, kitchen rugs, nail polish, the Super Bowls, etc.) a bite back. Look at them; they're pissed to be what they are, yet the creative human mind such as Nguyen turns this sameness (the ultimate pursuit of objectifying) into a morbid magic. 

Think of everything around you as taxidermy.

Intermix the humor with the sadness. Which floats to the top?

I called a corporation wanting to talk to a human about a/my problem. A computerized voice didn't understand that I wanted to talk to a human, and wouldn't let me when I asked. For much too long, I pleaded.

How do you confuse a machine to let you speak to a human? You read poetry to it, like "Yesterday in the periwinkle house/the lake was skinned    Membranes" 

or "red foil/ old grey mulch/ dried bee belly" 

or "This is a colorful madness/ We need a tarp     a magnifying glass/ matches"

or "See Sheila-nagig:               I jack off like that/ God in the whizzing wind"

See? Your ladylike parts can transform. Your words can transform wordlessness into wording. Transform (not transition) word to sword. Who cares for the might of it? Alas, Ronald McDonald is more powerful than most. 


Hecate Lochia

Let's get political: from her body to mine, there is a caste system in place. There are principles of organization as a hamburger, as a woman, as a word. If we are captured inside our birthdays (our babies' birthdays, our babies' babies' birthdays), how can we be released? 

"Water is so fucking heavy/ all those cubic feet"

Our sustenance has captured us in the blue, in the blues, opposite the red juices of bodies which carried George Washington into the fog to find:

"::::chicken wings::::::butter:::::"

Yet Hoa Nguyen does find hope in herself. She finds hope in the human, our membranes still soak in the satire, the ancestry of self, of "I'm making milk right now and cooing because you can't help regeneration. Capture the speed, however futuristic and blinked. It propels our history (inertia) and rushes like water to our aching "wet places.