by John Yau
Omnidawn, 2023
eISBN: 978-1-63243-144-8 | Paper: 978-1-63243-125-7
Library of Congress Classification PS3575.A9T45 2023
Dewey Decimal Classification 811.54

Poems that consider doubleness and truth-telling through the voice of an Asian American poet, while referencing a range of writers and pop culture figures.
Emily Dickinson begins one of her poems with the oft-quoted line, “Tell all the truth but tell it slant." For Asian Americans, the word “slant” can be heard and read two ways, as both a racializing and an obscuring term. It is this sense of doubleness—culminating in the instability of language and an untrustworthy narrator—that shapes, informs, and inflects the poems in John Yau’s new collection, all of which focus on the questions of who is speaking and who is being spoken for and to. Made up of eight sections, each exploring the idea of address—as place, as person, as memory, and as event —Tell It Slant does as Dickinson commands, but with a further twist. Yau summons spirits who help the author “tell all the truth,” among whom are reimagined traces of poets, movie stars, and science fiction writers, including Charles Baudelaire, Thomas de Quincey, Philip K. Dick, Li Shangyin, and Elsa Lanchester.

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