Poet Sally Wen Mao treats words like clay. She molds them into new ideas, even as they retain their original meaning. Language is shaped and adapted in her hands. She also plays with a variety of forms, including field notes, and travelogues. The results are original, ironic and fresh. Her debut work, Mad HoneySymposium was described by Publishers Weekly as “linguistically dexterous and formally astute” with a strong connection to varied sources including “news clippings, Greek and Roman history, and Chinese myths” and maintains a “rich, deliberate emotionality and musicality.”
Mao was born in Wuhan, China and raised in Boston. Her work has been featured in Colorado Review, Guernica, Gulf Coast, Indiana Review, Third Coast, West Branch, Washington Square, Poetry, The Missouri Review, Black Warrior Review and other publications. She is the winner of the 2012 Kinereth Gensler Award and a Publishers Weekly Top Ten Pick of Fall 2014. Her work has been anthologized in The Best American Poetry 2013 and she has received fellowships from Kundiman, Bread Loaf Writer’s Conference, Hedgebrook, and Saltonstall Foundation. She is currently a professor of Asian American Poetics at Hunter College.
Mao is the Jenny McKean Moore author for April. The GW English Department will be hosting a reading by her in Gelman, Room 702 on Friday, April 24 at 7:30 pm.
Here is an example of her work:
Lessons on Lessening
In the rigmarole of lucky living, you tire
of the daily lessons: Sewing, Yoga, Captivity.
Push the lesson inside the microwave.
Watch it plump and pop and grow larval
with losses. Watch it shrink like shrikes
when they dodge out of this palatial
doom. On the sky’s torn hemline, this horizon,
make a wish on Buddha’s foot. How to halve,
but not to have–how to spare someone
of suffering, how to throw away the spare
key saved for a lover that you don’t
have, save yourself from the burning turret
with the wind of your own smitten hip.
Do you remember how girlhood was–a bore
born inside you, powerless? How you made
yourself winner by capturing grasshoppers
and skewering them? You washed a family
of newts in the dry husked summer, wetted
them with cotton swabs before the vivisection.
That’s playing God: to spare or not to spare.
In the end you chose mercy, and dropped
each live body into the slime-dark moat.
Today is a study in being a loser. The boyfriend
you carved out of lard and left in the refrigerator
overnight between the milk and chicken breasts.
Butcher a bed, sleep in its wet suet for a night.
Joke with a strumpet, save the watermelon
rinds for the maids to fry in their hot saucepans.
The pandemic has ushered in verbal and physical violence against Asian Americans. On April 15, GW hosted a virtual town hall webinar to address the crisis. Alexa Alice Joubin, one of the speakers, showed how the language of disease has historically been connected to racism. Read the coverage in GW Today. From GW Today, April 20:…
In Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, JK Rowling describes a statue of the Potter family in Godric’s Hollow’s village square and a memorial sign in front of the house where James and Lily died but never explains where they came from. Listen to a theory about when these memorials were likely to have been…
Register Now, and Mark Your Calendar for Thursday February 7 at 7 PM Fiction Reading and Reception with Author Nadeem Aslam 2008 British Council USA/Jenny McKean Moore Writer in Residence at GW You are cordially invited to attend a fiction reading by renowned author Nadeem Aslam, 2008 British Council USA/Jenny McKean Moore Writer in Residence…
Although all of the Inauguration Festivities are likely in their own way to be worth attending, allow me to call your attention to two that you will not want to miss, both of them on Wednesday November 14. 1. “Cultural Mobility: The Travels of Shakespeare’s Cardenio” by Stephen Greenblatt, Professor of English, Harvard University. In…
Kali Fajardo Anstine is the author of the short story collection, Sabrina and Corina, a finalist for the National Book Award and winner of an American Book Award. Her work has appeared in Harper’s Bazaar, The American Scholar, Boston Review, the Oprah Magazine and elsewhere. Please join us for a virtual reading and Q&A on April…
Professor Tara Wallace was interviewed last month in the Washington Post about The Complete Jane Austen, to be aired on PBS. The interview was reprinted in the Honolulu Advertiser, Buffalo News, Charleston Post, Tulsa World, San Jose Mercury, Columbus Dispatch and Miami Herald. Professor Wallace is a popular teacher of eighteenth-century literature as well as…