The power of Amy Meng’s unexpected, exhilarating first book derives from a profound commitment to the work of anatomizing love, to saying what she sees as she looks bravely into the hopes and self-deceptions, the wishes, concessions and complicities that accompany love and marriage. Her taut lines and arresting images, her coupling of the raw and the elegant, serve a vision as energizing as it is unnerving, and Bridled is a terrific debut.
What does it feel like to be overwhelmed with pleasure and heartbroken all at once? This is the question I found myself staggered by over and again as I read Amy Meng’s masterful book, Bridled. These are poems of such sensual pleasure and such stark devastation. The clam unhinged and fed to the lover, the ear hovering over freshly baked bread, bodies opening and closing and feasting. But feasting at the end of the world. These are poems where love is real and symphonic and then entirely gone. How do we recover from that? Amy Meng shows us. She shows us every part of the journey with such compassion and deep honesty. Too many books are called brave. But this one? This one simply is.
Bridled is poetry as slow-burn opera. You’re going to want to read this book for its every crisp and jarring image, its every ingenious line and phrase, and if that isn’t enough, this is a collection enriched by plot, conflict, and character development, all the page-turning stuff of high drama. The poems here offer, in reverse chronology, the story of a crumbling relationship between an unnamed speaker and her nameless ‘lover.’ In this telling, Bridled articulates a politics of self versus other, of body and gender, of loneliness and togetherness. It’s a collection you’re going to want to read from start to finish and then from finish to start.
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