You & Me Forever
ISBN 978-0-900575-07-5 | $18 | April 1, 2020
“You can see here where they tried to scratch out of the walls—as if that would do anything. It looks like someone wrote something here… // She chips away some cracked paint, acrylic dust. // You & Me Forever“
With her second volume, Valerie Hsiung proves herself to be a poet of lyric’s volatile possibility, detonating poetry’s uncertain truce between reader and speaker, the deadly and the inconsequential, the profound and the profane. You & Me Forever performs a multitude of teetering voices through a multitude of tangency points — between the violence enacted against girl bodies and the violence enacted against earth, between inherited language or mother tongue and made/found language or acquired tongue, between the speaking machine and the transhuman, between the woman as artist and the woman as monster, between the horizontality of plain speech and the verticality of lyric fragments. In response, the reader’s role fluctuates from direct addressee to participant, from chorus member to puppet master — all while the dark angel of the circus hovers above like a shadow on the page.
PRAISE FOR YOU & ME FOREVER
A storied, oscillating breath-scape, a wondrous tertium quid, Valerie Hsiung’s You & Me Forever maps a world that moves as simultaneously paradoxical, relational, and permutational. Edged with the epic, speech-based and strange, the writings enact the promise of dreams as they address matters of hauntings and bodies, displacement, and the nature of capital, exile, and art. Here the narrative ripples, achieves both temporal and spatial possibilities, works both boundariness and dissolve. A destabilizing marvel.
How do we speak of the unspeakable? In the long, incantatory You & Me Forever, Valerie Hsiung creates meaning from the extra- and almost-linguistic (italics, punctuation, an echolalia-like repetition, numbers, empty space), since language, or “human words,” with their “complicit incompleteness,” seem to hurt to speak. Meaning is supplemental to the language. The poems become almost a filibuster of avoidance, describing a violence by circumventing a violence (“an unfathomable crime”) or the violence, violence as ongoingness. Dramatic but quiet, “This is a not a book written as a not a love letter.”
In the fleeting, quicksilver language of Valerie Hsiung’s You & Me Forever, accumulated peripheries jostle, rock on the waters, gain some traction, but they never quite settle. The worlds Hsiung delicately folds together create friction, a low steady hum builds and then disperses — only to try and build again. We, the reader, are invited to sit inside the hum of this continual construction, to place our bodies in the chamber alongside the many other bodies that fill You & Me Forever. A thread pulls us along. What saline logic this book holds.
The first time I read Valerie Hsiung’s You & Me Forever, I had a vision of a bonfire in which countless volumes of love-twisted and love-twisting works of literature, including sculptures and films, were reduced to ash, and from the ashes were intuitively yet precisely drawn filaments on which were inscribed prophetic dialogues that voiced the poet’s relationship with the forces that would come to make, and perpetually threaten to unmake, her world. The second time I read You & Me Forever, there was neither filament nor fire, but an animated frieze, or maybe rainfall or serrated light, of intimate retribution, that is retributive intimacy. I say read, but that is not the word that accurately describes what actually happened.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Valerie Hsiung is a poet, writer, performer, and the author of the poetry collections You & Me Forever (Action Books, 2020), outside voices, please (CSU, 2021), and e f g (Action). Her poems and hybrid, sound-based texts can be found in or are forthcoming from places such as The Nation, The Believer, jubilat, Chicago Review, PEN America, Black Sun Lit, The Rumpus, Bayou Magazine, Poetry Northwest, So & So Magazine, Denver Quarterly, American Letters & Commentary, Pinwheel, and beyond. She has performed at Treefort Music Festival, DC Arts Center, Common Area Maintenance, Casa Libre en la Solana, Shapeshifter Lab, and The Silent Barn. Born and raised by Chinese-Taiwanese immigrants in southern Ohio, she now lives in Brooklyn and Hudson.