MONSTERS I HAVE BEEN
Alice James Books
“Kenji C. Liu’s Monsters I Have Been writhes knotty tentacles through textual boneyards, disturbing screenplays, theoretical works, and literatures in their coffined-off sleeps. What it draws back are parts through which the poet might, as Lucille Clifton wrote, make up ‘a kind of life’ in the global slaughterhouse of heteropatriarchy and racism. Sharp, protean, dexterous, and discontent—Liu’s collection shows where the bodies have been buried, and that many won’t stay dead. No doubt, this book is alive as all hell.”
Kenji C. Liu (劉謙司) is author of Monsters I Have Been (Alice James Books 2019), and Map of an Onion, national winner of the 2015 Hillary Gravendyk Poetry Prize. His poetry can be found, among other places, in American Poetry Review, Anomaly, The Feminist Wire, Gulf Coast, Split This Rock’s poem of the week series, several anthologies, and two chapbooks, Craters: A Field Guide (2017) and You Left Without Your Shoes (2009). An alumnus of Kundiman, VONA/Voices, the Djerassi Resident Artist Program, and the Community of Writers, he lives in occupied Tongva land, Los Ángeles.
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Colony, conquest, citizenship, language, place—the almost infinite severances of power and culture, ultimately, a ‘paper cut theater.’ Here, Kenji C. Liu lays out the splicing of the onion, these blistering, translucent stacks of report, bilingual document, letters, notes, found materials and calcified fever-cells. These are investigations, surgeries, all crossing attempts to map some kind of in-between set of scars and wounds of ‘advice and consolation.’ Applaud it for its tough, serious, exacting pen and eye and mind, for its howl, its losses, findings and knife-thin metaphysical peeling gestures. I am in true awe of Kenji’s writing and poetics. Here, he gives us a 21st century read at ‘luminescent level.’ A groundbreaking giant, this collection.
—Juan Felipe Herrera, Poet Laureate of the United States, 2015-17
Craters overpours with animal (including Godzilla), vegetable, and mineral, but of an unfamiliar nature that’s already [ir]radiated and changed its patterns and behaviors — it’s an adaptation that borders [on] monstrosity, speaking a contorted but high register language that tries to resist colonial rules, while also doing its best to get rid of any scabs left by them.