The Symmetry of Fish by Su Cho

I will admit that my motivations to read The Symmetry of Fish were rather superficial: I thought the cover design was stunning and the title itself intrigued me. In the last few months, I have been making an effort to read more contemporary poetry and so far I can safely say that I love Ada Limón’s work and that I found poetry collections like Nina Mingya Powles’s Magnolia, 木蘭 and Victoria Chang’s Dear Memory to be poignant and evocative. For some reason, this debut poetry collection by Su Cho didn’t quite work for me. I found most of her poems to be not contrived, which is too strong a word, but a wee bit affected. Cho’s poems explore and interrogate ideas, aspects, and experiences related to language, immigration, geography, and memory. Maybe I found Cho’s focus on the body and on the organic, to be irritating, but I can’t quite pin those things as wholly accountable for my failure to become engaged in her poems. I tried to get behind her poems, but her words failed to transport me or move me, and I am of the belief that you can’t really force yourself to like/get a poem. That is to say, do not let my review dissuade you from giving this debut a try, given that according to other reviews I am very much an outlier here. If you do give this collection a read I hope you will find it to make for a richer/enlightening reading/listening experience than I was.

My rating: ★ ★ ★ ☆ ☆

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