Debora Kuan’s Lunch Portraits is a journey into husbands, hoagies, mermaids, earthquakes, lounge singers, fertility, mammals, hot dogs, and oranges. It is a journey into what it means to be female in America today and the ways in which the landscape of the everyday can both subvert and enlarge our existence. It is a journey on a weird tilt of ekphrasis, where the very stuff we see and experience has its holy time in the world of a poem—where language can be the thing to both save and destroy. Lunch Portraits is an awesome book and I know it will change your life for the better.
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Debora Kuan’s Xing is novelistic in its scope. From “Articles of Faith” to “How to Make Bells,” with numerous parabolic twists and turns, Xing unmasks at times the almost unsayable. This is a beautiful, necessary, veracious voice assaying the vagaries of contemporary life and culture illuminated by flashes of history.
This is a work of stunning crossings and double-crossings, crystalline opacities and ambiguous precisions. It’s quite unlike anything I’ve read: A dizzying blend of drama, fractured narrative, real or invented family history, elegy, dream, religious meditation, erotic diary, critique of both Western nihilism and of any suggestion of Eastern mysticism—critique, indeed, of the possibility of thinking “East” and “West” in the global marketplace. Kuan is a master of “the rhetoric of gamesmanship,” bringing a naturalist’s gaze to artificial surroundings, and a poet’s vestigial desire for transcendence to a landscape in which “We came to understand/ our place as elsewhere, anywhere/ always just before or after.”
Descriptive power, clear seeing, vivid, various material—Debora Kuan’s poems have everything. She is a provocative and deeply rewarding poet.
As Andre Breton’s epigraph proposes that “everything beyond is here in this life,” Debora Kuan’s marvelous debut book of poems, Xing, contains multitudes in this singular collection where the quotidian is replete with unexpected crossings and surreal transformations.