EACH CRUMBLING HOUSE
WINNER OF THE 2010 PERUGIA PRESS BOOK PRIZE.
AVAILABLE FROM PERUGIA PRESS.
How is lineage influenced by immigration, culture, and language? In what ways do expectations, ideas, and acts of inheritance haunt us? In Each Crumbling House, Melody S. Gee writes about the fractious, disappointing, and also enriching experience of being first-generation Asian American. Gee wrestles with inheriting a language that isn’t hers and a culture that died during the Chinese Cultural Revolution, while she tangles with the loss of her mother’s culture, food, history, and home. Written with precision of line, image, and syntax, these restrained lyric poems invite and reward the reader with their grace, and stand out for their historical and emotional interweaving.
Melody Gee’s Each Crumbling House is a tale of return not marked by triumph, but of a palpable absence. The poems’ speakers “count arrows of exiled/geese” to know not only about what it is to feel cold, but what it is to leave home. There is comfort here, too: in the spaces of longing, an understanding is reached upon the return to homeland. While the speakers are reaching for ways to name the pain of lost histories and lost relatives, “always/a word away from the word,” Melody Gee’s poems are full of the right words, folding and unfolding the way that wings do from the mass clusters of Monarch butterflies wintering in the pines, huddling together for warmth. —Oliver de la Paz