stephenhongsohn (stephenhongsohn) wrote in asianamlitfans,

A Review of Jenny Boully's [one love affair]*

 A Review of Jenny Boully’s [One Love Affair]* (Tarpaulin Sky Press, 2006). 


Jenny Boully’s [one love affair]* is an interesting amalgam of many different genres, blending together poetry, prose, and experimentalism together to engage a various meditations on love and loss of that love.  My first impression of this deceptively slim book comes from its interesting cover art in which a crack pipe is positioned over what seems to be a rainbow palletted sponge painting or water-color art pastiche of plants that shows a prismatic array including lavender, purple, blue, sky blue, hunter green, yellow green, yellow orange, red-orange, red.  The mix of impressionistically configured foliage as background to the crackpipe serves as an interesting metaphor for the ways in which affect and desire can warp the sense of one’s reality.  As such [one love affair]* is a highly fragmented text, with three larger prose poetic arcs, but even within this three arcs, they break down further into sets of stream-of-consciousness images that together do begin to mimic this sense of surrealistic disorientation found in the ruins of lost love.  The * denotes the use of footnotes that will appear alongside the various prose-poem sequences.  It is told that the lyric-narrative that emerges in [one love affair]* is at least and in part inspired by a number of different creative writers that the narrator-poetic speaker has read; this list includes Marguerite Duras, Carole Maso, Thomas Bernhard, among others.  The use of footnotes follows alongside Boully’s formalistic and experimental impulses that characterize her larger creative art and her two other major publications; we are reminded that there are always other side conversations, other thoughts that follow us as both read and write.  Characteristic of Boully’s work here is a lyric-sequence like the one below:


“The drive away from New York happened alongside a drizzle, a gray rain, the encumbered night.  You explained how you would someday explain your sickness; however, I already knew and already loved you in spite of it.  (In spite of it all, I did, I do.)  Along the highway, shrubbery that appeared like reeds, cattails and pussy willows; even in the dark, hidden things” (29).


I place that fragment alongside the one below:


 “The entire catastrophe of being a poet is that, after the fact, everything will be too eerily coincidental: the fact that the fire could not and would not light; the fact that the kindling flamed fast only to extinguish itself; the fact that the bed sheets were two sizes too small; the suggestion the doves gave of not being able to roost, of having to move on again” (54). 


There always is the sense of mourning in this text and it comes really to a pinnacle point with the admittance that “everything will be too eerily incidental” for the poet, who will seemingly find meaning in linking external references together.  In looking back at the early block, the rain, the drizzle, alongside the strange sense that more things can be hidden than those sheltered by the darkness.  Foreboding and foreshadowing appear in these moments, the retrospection. 


The advent of independent press has been an amazing boon for writers of all different backgrounds and inspirations.  Since my own interest has been in Asian American literature and given the recent questions about how to define the field, Boully’s work provides an interesting example of a text that moves far beyond the “cultural nationalist” foundations that helped define certain boundary points of the field.  While the text doesn’t promote some a "radical" activist politic, the terrain being offered is one in which the American writer of Asian descent doesn’t necessarily have to rehearse a particular racialized trope in representation.  To a certain extent, Boully’s meditations do include references to “Oriental” poetic forms, that of the renga and haiku, but it would be difficult to parse out Boully’s ethnic background from the content provided.  One of my recent forays was to read the excellent collection on Asian Canadian writing; when thinking about going beyond “autoethnography,” Boully’s one love affair brings us into constellation with various images and moments which are so particular as to evoke the impossibility of this desire as being anything other than imagined for one couple and yet, its sentiment, its pathos is universal.  

Buy the Book Here:

Tags: asian american literature
  • Post a new comment


    default userpic

    Your IP address will be recorded 

    When you submit the form an invisible reCAPTCHA check will be performed.
    You must follow the Privacy Policy and Google Terms of use.