Root Fractures: Poems

S. & S. Audio. Jan. 2024. 2 hrs. ISBN 9781797168739. $14.99. POETRY
Poet and multimedia artist Nguyen extends the work she began in her magnificent debut poetry collection, Ghosts Of. This latest collection meditates on her brother’s suicide while exploring her larger family system, fractured by long-held silence, mental illness, and lasting trauma wrought by the Vietnam War. Narrating her own work, Nguyen imbues her poems with a note of gentle restraint, laying bare her deepest sorrow and hurt without artifice. It is a pleasure to hear her read the Vietnamese words and phrases that run throughout the book, including the opening poem, which is written entirely in untranslated Vietnamese. Nguyen’s attention to language and memory—recursive, iterative, begging for reexamination and reinterpretation—creates a dreamlike space where different futures and even different pasts are possible. While listeners will likely appreciate Nguyen’s thoughtful delivery, they will, unfortunately, miss the arresting visuals interwoven throughout the printed book, notably the poems in the shape of people, whose bodies are filled with words and meaning. This feature alone is ample motivation for listeners to listen while reading the book, immersing themselves in the layered complexity of Nguyen’s words.
VERDICT At turns heartbreaking and breathtaking, this collection of poems and images stuns. Listeners will be eager for more from this talented poet.
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