Oculus: Poems (Paperback)
A brilliant second collection by Sally Wen Mao on the violence of the spectacle—starring the film legend Anna May Wong
In Oculus, Sally Wen Mao explores exile not just as a matter of distance and displacement but as a migration through time and a reckoning with technology. The title poem follows a nineteen-year-old girl in Shanghai who uploaded her suicide onto Instagram. Other poems cross into animated worlds, examine robot culture, and haunt a necropolis for electronic waste. A fascinating sequence spanning the collection speaks in the voice of the international icon and first Chinese American movie star Anna May Wong, who travels through the history of cinema with a time machine, even past her death and into the future of film, where she finds she has no progeny. With a speculative imagination and a sharpened wit, Mao powerfully confronts the paradoxes of seeing and being seen, the intimacies made possible and ruined by the screen, and the many roles and representations that women of color are made to endure in order to survive a culture that seeks to consume them.
About the Author
Sally Wen Mao is the author of a previous poetry collection, Mad Honey Symposium. Her work has won a Pushcart Prize and fellowships at Kundiman, George Washington University, and the New York Public Library Cullman Center.
“[Oculus] is a book consumed first and foremost with the impact of the spectacle on those of us for whom representation is both rare and often rapacious: women of color.”—Anomaly
“[Sally Wen Mao investigates] a technology-subjugated world in take-no-prisoners language. . . . Raw and impressive. . . . A strong second collection from a rising poet.”—Library Journal
“Reading Oculus is like being given the gift of sight. . . . the possibility of being restored to who we could be, and who we could be next.”—Alexander Chee
“Oculus is a stunning and mesmerizing journey. . . . and it is brilliant. Mao’s is a consistently inspiring and exciting voice."—Morgan Parker
“Both scalpel and flood, poems of brooded, subtle syntax that build and accrue toward inevitable and stifling ferocity. Mao’s work reclaims for itself an acidic possibility.”—Ocean Vuong
“I simply trust no other poet to confront and fracture notions of Empire more deftly—and with such élan—than Sally Wen Mao.”—Aimee Nezhukumatathil
“A tour-de-force, a rousing ride.”—Marilyn Chin