The Symmetry of Fish

Penguin Bks. Oct. 2022. 80p. ISBN 9780143137252. pap. $18. POETRY
Cho debuts with a “National Poetry” series winner that paints vivid scenes from the Midwest (where she was raised) and New York while examining language, tradition, family, and relationships. It’s a collection abundant with emotion and a wonderful tenderness, giving readers the opportunity to hear the stories of her Korean ancestors and her experiences as a child of immigrant parents. Motifs of fish, fruit, and ghosts are interwoven throughout the poems: “If you can’t peel the skin/ of a pear in a thin spiral with a fruit knife/ you can’t get married. You can have/ nothing if you can’t offer a man fruit.” This is one example of a phrase that is repeated in multiple poems, as the speaker recalls advice given by maternal figures. There are often elements of humor here, as in “Ode to Putting in the Window AC Unit”: “We open the screenless window and bat our arms/ to clear the buffet of lake gnats, flies, and knots/ of insect carcasses beaded on the spiderweb/ that has been growing for over a year.”
VERDICT These resonant poems of heritage and self are recommended for all collections.
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