Mad Honey Symposium
Mad Honey Symposium
”Linguistically dexterous and formally astute, Mao’s tight and textured debut [Mad Honey Symposium] conjures an absurd, lush, occasionally poisonous world and the ravenous humans and animals that travel through it. . . . With echoes of Glück and Plath, Mao generates stunning landscapes where the flora and fauna reflect her presence and strength of voice. ”
—Publishers Weekly, starred review
Available in print.
Sally Wen Mao is the author of Mad Honey Symposium (Alice James Books, 2014). Her second book, Oculus, is out from Graywolf Press in January 2019. Her work has won a 2017 Pushcart Prize and is published or forthcoming in A Public Space, Poetry, Black Warrior Review, Guernica, The Missouri Review, Tin House, The Best of the Net 2014 and The Best American Poetry 2013, among others. The recipient of fellowships and scholarships from Kundiman, the New York Public Library Cullman Center, and Bread Loaf Writers Conference, Mao holds an M.F.A. from Cornell University. She was the 2017-2018 Jenny McKean Writer in Washington at the George Washington University.
“Mao’s dexterity nearly overburdens the sensorium. She succeeds in making our world seem alien in its lushness and danger. . . . Mad Honey Symposium [is] among the strongest #debut collections of the year.”
“. . .[By] juxtaposing. . . ordinary items with feral images, [Sally Wen Mao] drags the reader into a dark dance that is both disorienting and intoxicating. Her disturbing imagery and descriptions blend terror and desire in one spellbinding book that will leave you feeling its affects long after you’ve finished reading it.”
“In this dazzling debut, Sally Wen Mao writes with a breathtaking assurance and linguistic brio. Reading her is like taking hits of pure oxygen: I’m energized by audacious splendors of language coupled with a stunning intelligence and depth. The charged surfaces are matched by the feral power of Mao’s subjects. Passionate and cerebral, surprising and funny, her poems fully deserve the descriptor brilliant.”
“[Mad Honey Symposium] has all the delicacy of [Mao’s] earlier writing—but now there’s also a gritty, world-wise sense of humor that gives her work heavyweight swagger.”
“In Mad Honey Symposium, Sally Wen Mao offers delicious diction: ‘archipelago . . . arpeggios;’ ‘horntails / swarm the wax leaves;’ ‘Fetal and feral, we curl;’ ‘mouth on your pendulum;’ ‘in the rigmarole of lucky living—!’ She also offers a heightened attention to how words work and work out in various contexts. The poet takes us all over the place in time and geography—from her mother’s bed to Audubon’s dreams to sputnik to hive and back again—all in the service of feeling deeply. A lovely debut collection.”
“The luminous image of a mouth ‘digesting light’ and later spitting ‘the light out because it sears you‘ underscores the ways Sally Wen Mao transforms sense (and sentence) into sensation. Like Sylvia Plath’s poems, these visionary poems are not only astute records of experience, they are themselves dazzling, verbal experiences. Worldly, wily, wise: Mad Honey Symposium is an extraordinary debut.”
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