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Su Hwang: Bodega
October 25, 2019 @ 7:30 pm - 9:00 pmFree
Su Hwang reads from her new poetry collection, Bodega.
Praise for Bodega
“If we are not in denial, to name one life, one narrative, we must name many. This is a responsibility that Su Hwang steps into with elegant care. Her poems in Bodegaare observant and cinematic, tracing the ways our many-languaged lives come up against each other in these united states. I’ve been waiting for a collection like this, difficult and prismatic as it is.”―Solmaz Sharif
“If, as Wittgenstein posited, words are probes capable of reaching great depths, then Su Hwang’s Bodega is a quarry―mining directly into the immigrant heart, the daughter’s heart, the American heart. A Barbie is burned and buried ‘without pomp or ballyhoo,’ the earth ‘slackens,’ to then reveal a ‘map of storied constellations,’ and a mother cleans her daughter’s ear with a wood pen: ‘a / series of tiny / digs.’ Real excavation always rends and breaks and works to bring something new into the light. I am grateful for this book, for all of Hwang’s illuminations.”―Kaveh Akbar
“Through the poetry of family and community, the collective and the self, Su Hwang’s Bodega delivers an unflinching lyric missive to, and for, the complicated hearts that power a city––those whose voices and lives, beautifully and resolutely rendered, defy dismissal.”―Khadijah Queen
Against the backdrop of the war on drugs and the 1992 Los Angeles Riots, a Korean girl comes of age in her parents’ bodega in the Queensbridge projects, offering a singular perspective on our nation of immigrants and the tensions pulsing in the margins where they live and work.
In Su Hwang’s rich lyrical and narrative poetics, the bodega and its surrounding neighborhoods are cast not as mere setting, but as an ecosystem of human interactions where a dollar passed from one stranger to another is an act of peaceful revolution, and desperate acts of violence are “the price / of doing business in the projects where we / were trapped inside human cages–binding us / in a strange circus where atoms of haves / and have-nots always forcefully collide.” These poems also reveal stark contrasts in the domestic lives of immigrants, as the speaker’s own family must navigate the many personal, cultural, and generational chasms that arise from having to assume a hyphenated identity–lending a voice to the traumatic toll invisibility, assimilation, and sacrifice take on so many pursuing the American Dream.
“We each suffer alone in / tandem,” Hwang declares, but in Bodega, she has written an antidote to this solitary hurt–an incisive poetic debut that acknowledges and gives shape to anguish as much as it cherishes human life, suggesting frameworks for how we might collectively move forward with awareness and compassion.