Last Friday we published two poems by Caroline Rayner, a contributing editor at Cosmonauts Avenue and the author of calorie world, a chapbook of poetry forthcoming from Sad Spell Press this summer. Both poems, “pink noise” and “smoke show,” are written in Rayner’s characteristic streaming verse that is punctuated by rhythmic breaths of negative space, a sort of coming-up-for-air within all the kaleidoscopic sensory detail. Her lines, at times delivered in a detached cool, are full of an internal musicality that makes them shiver and sway. In “pink noise,” she writes, “i puke lavender and get real precious / i love shaving candied fur off each branch / i love being hazardous / i love it.” Themes of danger and decay abound in Rayner’s poetry, but are fortunately coated in a kind of scented lotion and fruit zest that makes them potable for consumption.
A couple weekends ago, people gathered inside Rust Belt Books to hear Woogee Bae read from her master’s thesis, Above Ground. Bae is a recent graduate of the University at Buffalo’s Innovative Writing program, where she studied under Myung Mi Kim, and is soon leaving Buffalo for Seattle, where she plans to attend the University of Washington Bothell’s MFA program in Creative Writing and Poetics. The poems in Above Ground deal largely with translingualism, transculturalism, and history as cultural process. She opened with a poem about her experience of recently visiting Korea, a location that often surfaces in her work, and in which she details the hazy suspension of being in between cultures, languages, and periods of time. The themes in Bae’s poems are as diverse as war and skincare, but each exhibits a fascination with the type of language that is implicitly absorbed, such as news headlines or the ingredients listed on the product details of a moisturizer.
One of the most effective devices that Bae explores in her poetry is a subversion of translation, at times engaging with translated words as points of departure, while in others refusing to translate words from Korean into English. During her reading, a line that struck me as emblematic of this device was “(how are we to justify ourselves with speech),” so I caught up with her afterward to ask if she could expand on that. “I’m interested in the kinds of speech that is deemed acceptable versus the kinds of speech that is censored, banned, or neglected,” she said. “How are diasporic subjects to justify themselves (their culture, histories, language, their existence) through speech when both their English is limited and their native tongue is forbidden?” To find some of Bae’s work online, check out the Peach Season 1 archive page, where you’ll find “You do not communicate,” which we nominated for a Pushcart Prize back in December.
“Peach Picks” is a column of literary news and recommendations written by the editors of Peach Mag, an online literary magazine based in Buffalo. For inquiries, contact the editors at firstname.lastname@example.org.