Yale Younger Poet Cindy Juyoung Ok resolutely searches for hope in spaces of fragmentation
“Ok’s métier in this lovely debut is an elegantly discursive, analytical style studded with ironies.”—David Woo, Literary Hub
“There are places,” Cindy Juyoung Ok writes, “where shaking is expected, loss is / assumed.”
In the 118th volume of the Yale Series of Younger Poets, Ok moves assuredly between spaces—from the psych ward to a prison cell, from divided countries to hospice wards. She plumbs these institutions of constraint, ward to ward, and the role of each reality’s language, word to word, as she uncovers fractured private codes and shares them in argument, song, and prayer.
Using visual play in invented forms, Ok counters familiar narratives about mental illness, abuse, and death, positing that it is not a person’s character or will that makes survival possible, but luck, and other people. The poems disrupt expectation with the comedy of institutionalized teens, nostalgia after the climate crisis, tenderness in a nursing home, and the wholeness of faltering Englishes. How do pagodas, Seinfeld, ransoms, swans, and copays each make or refuse meaning? Ok’s resolute, energized debut shifts language’s fissures to reassemble them into a new place of belonging.
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