- “The poems in Oculus are rangy, protean, contradictory. They offer an alternative to the selfie, that static reduction of a person to her most photogenic poses.”—The New Yorker
That iconography—my face
in Technicolor, the manta ray
eyelashes, the nacre and chignon.
I’ll bet four limbs they'd cast me as another
Mongol slave. I will blow a hole
in the airwaves, duck lasers in my dugout.
I’m done kidding them. Today I fly
the hell out in my Chrono-Jet.
To the future, where I’m forgotten.
—from “Anna May Wong Fans Her Time Machine”
Sally Wen Mao reading at Open Book
- “In her stunning second collection, Mao stages a searing ventriloquy act. . . . These depictions speak and fight back against the white gaze that has framed them.”—NPR.org
- “By telling [Anna May] Wong’s story, and those of other women of color who have been defined by images in popular culture, [Oculus] explores the ramifications of being seen and objectified but never truly known.”—The Washington Post
- “Hauntingly perceptive. . . . An homage to pioneering Chinese Americans and an indictment of Asian representation in American culture, which never for a moment shies away from the difficult tasks of taking on race and history and technology all at once.”—Vulture
- “Mao’s kaleidoscopic verse scrutinizes our obsession with onscreen spectacles—and includes a tour de force sequence that imagines silent-film actress Anna May Wong time-traveling to star in Breakfast at Tiffany’s and Sixteen Candles: ‘Cast me as that girl who rivets center stage / or cast me away.’”
This book is made possible through a partnership with the College of Saint Benedict, and honors the legacy of S. Mariella Gable, a distinguished teacher at the College. Support has been provided by the Manitou Fund as part of the Warner Reading Program.