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Silent Anatomies is a poetic-visual hybrid that traverse the body’s terrain, examining the phenomena of cultural silences. Whether it is shame obscuring the female body, the social stigma shrouding certain illnesses, or the cryptic stories of her ancestors, Monica Ong interrogates the agency of the daughter, who must decide whether or not to speak out. What happens to stories that go underreported, un-translated, or are completely erased?
Emerging from a series of art installations, these poems are as much visual journeys as they are lyrical haunts of medicine and memory. Pushing the boundaries of text and image, Ong employs a range of medical ephemera, from x-ray scans to anatomical drawings, to frame the power struggles and the illusion of indisputable fact as a way to carry all the fictions that make up our multi-cultural identities.
2014 First Book Winner selected by Joy Harjo
Monica Ong is a visual artist and poet whose hybrid image-poems
juxtapose diagram and diary, bearing witness to silenced histories of
the body. She completed her MFA in Digital Media at the Rhode Island
School of Design and is also a Kundiman poetry fellow. Her work has
been published in several journals including the Lantern Review, Drunken
Boat, Glassworks Magazine, Loaded Bicycle, Tidal Basin Review, and the
Seneca Review. She has also been exhibiting work for over a decade
nationally and internationally.
Silent Anatomies, was selected by poet and Guggenheim Fellow Joy Harjo
for the 2014 Kore Press First Book Award in Poetry. monicaong.com.
This is one of the most unique poetry collections.
It’s a kind of graphic poetry book, but that’s not exactly
it either. Poetry unfurls within, outside and through
images. The images are stark representations that
include bottles that have been excavated from a
disappeared age, contemporary ultrasound images of
a fetus, family photographs and charts. They establish
stark bridges between ancestor and descendant time
and presence. This collection is highly experimental
and exciting. —Joy Harjo
Praise for Silent Anatomies
" In her sardonic, thus melancholic, Silent Anatomies, Monica Ong brilliantly skews the marking of surfaces. Writing—yes—but also defacement/effacement, surgical incision, racism. With text, photography, collage, and illustration, she maps the twisting way of familial shame; dissects metaphor; and hawks (and hocks) “Ancient Chinese Secrets” as medicinal cakewalks (who’s selling what to whom?). Slippery."—Douglas Kearney
"If you combined Marilyn Chin’s audacious underminings of history and gender with W.G. Sebald’s image-gathering forays into memory and loss, you would get Silent Anatomies. In lush visual assemblages and poems that are ironic and moving, Monica Ong delves into the often-silent selves that every self carries. In Ong’s case, these selves include the figures of her Chinese and Filipino backgrounds, the ghosts and demons of familial and cultural history, and the present American self grappling with race and identity. “There is a way to cultivate birds from torn things,” Ong claims in one poem. And, on the evidence of Silent Anatomies, nothing could be truer. This book is as ambitious and thrilling as they come".
----- Rick Barot
Excerpts from Silent Anatomies, a poetic-visual hybrid
Mother, each day I look for you. Try to recognize you in soup and sepia.
As it happens in other lives, you come to me in secret.
There were no elegant stairs in your childhood home, and this young woman, the nanny.
Just the way her brows bend with humidity.
I easily identify all four of your sisters in their von Trapp dresses,
and both brothers, sporting crisp white linens.
In your absence stands a son, slightly leaning,
toes ablister from your brother’s too big shoes.
You tell me Grandfather was ashamed.
He didn’t want people shaking their heads, their tongues clicking:
Bo, which in Hokkien means without, or not enough.
It does explain the hoarding, I suppose. Dusty magazines stacked into pillars. Grandmother’s purse of purloined sporks.
The way your long locks fell like black feathers onto the kitchen floor.
Suerte, is Catholic for karma, cruel as hunger, heavy as stone.
The fact of five daughters was the immutable kind.
Payback, perhaps, for an unsavory ancestor in an imperial court?
Or something during the war that Grandfather never told us?
Hidden like your graceful arms in a brother’s long sleeves.
Your boyface gazes at me. I place flowers at your feet, wet with pus.
For the daughter, you, but not only you.
Portrait as battle. The terror of asymmetry. This shortage of sons.
Readings & Events
Sunday, March 8, 2015, 5-6 PM
Verlaine Bar & Lounge
Kundiman Reading with Monica in NYC's lower east side
Friday, March 13, 2015, 7-9 PM
Silk Road Art Gallery
Silent Anatomies Book Launch & Pop-up Exhibition
Wednesday, April 8, 2015, 8-10 PM
AWP: Sexy MotherLover
Wed, Apr 15, 2015 11:30pm &
Sat, Apr 18, 2015 12:30am
UA Center for Critical Studies of the Body
Open Embodiments: Locating Somatechnics in Tucson