Monica Youn

Winner of the William Carlos Williams Award in 2017


We have seen claims that Twinkies…aren't baked, the sponge cake instead being 'a pure chemical reaction' involving something that 'foams up'; the deception is made complete by coloring the confections' bottoms brown to make it appear that they've been baked…. As always, the truth is far less exciting than the lore.


as if            you were ever wide-eyed enough to believe in urban legends
as if            these plot elements weren't the stalest of clichés: the secret lab, the anaerobic
                    chamber, the gloved hand ex machina, the chemical-infused fog
as if            every origin story didn't center on the same sweet myth of a lost wholeness
as if            such longing would seem more palatable if packaged as nostalgia
as if            there had once been a moment of unity, smoothly numinous, pellucid
as if            inner and outer were merely phases of the same substance
as if            this whiteness had been your original condition
as if            it hadn't been what was piped into you, what suffused each vacant cell, each
                    airhole, each pore
as if            you had started out skinless, shameless, blameless, creamy
as if            whipped, passive
as if            extruded, quivering with volatility in a metal mold
as if            a catalyzing vapor triggered a latent reaction
as if            your flesh foamed up, a hydrogenated emulsion consisting mostly of trapped air
as if            though sponge-like, you could remain shelf-stable for decades, part embalming
                    fluid, part rocket fuel, part glue
as if            you had been named twin, a word for likeness; or wink, a word for joke; or ink, a
                    word for stain; or key, a word for answer
as if            your skin oxidized to its present burnished hue, golden
as if            homemade


Robin Coste Lewis on Monica Youn

Blackacre, a legal or contractual term that defines a hypothetical property—a property that exists in the physical world, but has yet to be identified, marked, claimed —a legal fiction—in Monica Youn's distinct and astute hands becomes a wholly unanticipated, exacting metaphor for the early 21st century American body. With surreal lyrical precision, Youn explores deftly those interior landscapes we are reluctant to excavate, not to mention name.  Does the body construct history, or is the body history's passive repository—or both?  Youn never shies away from these inquiries simply because they might prove unanswerable.  Instead, these poems walk straight into this unmarked territory—this dark, unknown acre—with an unflinching, unapologetic verve all her own. Youn transforms English itself, a vast landscape of repressed histories, into a seemingly blackacre too, an unexplored site, where suddenly the fraught relationships between the body, time, and history are stunningly articulated simultaneously.  

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