SALLY WEN MAO reads from her new collection of poetry OCULUS with MURIEL LEUNG

Oculus (Graywolf Press)

Sally Wen Mao’s Oculus explores exile not just as a matter of distance and displacement, but as a migration through time and a reckoning with technology. The title poem follows a girl in Shanghai who uploaded her suicide onto Instagram. Other poems cross into animated worlds, examine robot culture, and haunt a necropolis for electronic waste. A fascinating sequence speaks in the voice of international icon and first Chinese American movie star Anna May Wong, who travels through the history of cinema with a time machine, even past her death and into the future of film, where she finds she has no progeny. With a speculative imagination and a sharpened wit, Mao powerfully confronts the paradoxes of seeing and being seen, the intimacies made possible and ruined by the screen, and the many roles and representations that women of color are made to endure in order to survive a culture that seeks to consume them.

Praise for Oculus

“Reading Oculus is like being given the gift of sight, not once, but again and again and again. In these poems it feels almost as if Sally Wen Mao is making her very own Asian American futurism, but this work is deeply rooted in a present that we can’t acknowledge, and so her futures are built out of what we won’t admit and won’t look at. And yet in the poems, she gives us both that and the pleasure in that—the possibility of being restored to who we could be, and who we could be next.”—Alexander Chee

Oculus is a stunning and mesmerizing journey, where each poem is a lesson—in listening, in power, in the music of words, in the side effects of erasure, in who we are to each other. Sally Wen Mao’s precise imagination is steeped in several histories, many of them painful: ‘The stories about our lives do not have faces.’ But she re-examines everything so sharply and playfully: ‘Rewrite this,’ she begs. Anna May Wong meets technological dystopia, and it is brilliant. Mao’s is a consistently inspiring and exciting voice, and in her world—full of horror, surprise, indignation, affirmation—all power is given to splendor, nature, and the people.”—Morgan Parker

Sally Wen Mao is the author of a previous poetry collection, Mad Honey Symposium. Her work has won a Pushcart Prize and fellowships at Kundiman, George  Washington University, and the New York Public Library Cullman Center.

Muriel Leung is the author of Bone Confetti, winner of the 2015 Noemi Press Book Award. A Pushcart Prize nominated writer, her work can be found in Gulf Coast, Drunken Boat, The Collagist, Fairy Tale Review, and others. She is a recipient of fellowships to Kundiman, VONA/Voices Workshop, and Community of Writers. She is the Poetry Co-Editor of Apogee Journal. Currently, she is a Dornsife Fellow of Creative Writing and Literature at University of Southern California.  

Event date: 
Wednesday, February 13, 2019 - 7:30pm
Event address: 
1818 N Vermont Ave
Los Angeles, CA 90027
Oculus: Poems Cover Image
ISBN: 9781555978259
Availability: On Our Shelves Now
Published: Graywolf Press - January 15th, 2019

Mad Honey Symposium Cover Image
ISBN: 9781938584060
Availability: On Our Shelves Now
Published: Alice James Books - May 6th, 2014