NONFICTION

The Year of Blue Water

Yale Univ. (Younger Poets, Bk. 113). Mar. 2019. 96p. ISBN 9780300242652. $45; pap. ISBN 9780300242645. $14.25. POETRY
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"Definitions are not static," writes Yanyi, recipient of the 2018 Yale Series of Younger Poets prize, "they are where we begin," and in a series of short, plainspoken prose pieces, he explores the fluid nature of personal identity, the fraught project of discovering and defining one's true self against the corrosive legacies of normative assumptions. While trans and Asian American perspectives are essential to framing Yanyi's inner struggles ("In a dual body, there's no room for both of you"), like Walt Whitman he embraces the spectrum of human experience, following "the impulse to know someone else because otherwise, you don't know yourself." Connectedness is valued and sought after, not only as a fundamental condition for happiness but as the very impetus for individual expression: "For the reasons that I write, I cannot write alone."
VERDICT Intimate as a private diary yet aware that "someone is listening on the other end," Yanyi's debut collection offers compressed meditations on the complex relationship between personal and social consciousness, inviting readers to participate in pursuing deep questions whose answers matter less than the shared, ongoing experience of asking.

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