Mouth Lisa Chen (Kaya)

May 1, 2008

Eloquent and erudite, Lisa Chen's collection of poetry and prose startled me with its blend of vivid imagery and weird absurdity. Ranging from disparate topics such as Chinese ghost stories to the geography of rooms and self-storage spaces, the poems in Mouth re-imagine a legacy of historical and cultural absence. A memorable line from the title poem, "the sloe-eyed, two-fisted mouth / exiled from the punctilio metropolis, / a trembling bellow hole," exemplifies Chen's arresting language play; and the poem "Full-body Monkey Tattoo" highlights her skillfulness in bringing a contradictory premise to its most logical conclusion. While certainly intellectually satisfying, I hungered for more emotional connection to the work in this promising book. The coolness of Chen's poems rely on a specific level of interiority that, for me, would require more explicitly outlined themes to help me step into her poetic landscape and remain grounded in her passions. Readers will enjoy both Chen's intellectual sensibilities as well as her somersaulting language. 

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