Connotary by Ae Hee Lee is a sparsely humid breeze. The kind you open your windows for. The kind that brings with it a soft sensation of bliss. A bliss that does not bypass the struggles of being a transitory human living a “pendulous love” between two continents and, thus, diverse ecosystems of relation. A bliss that reminds us:
“it’s a quiet
and passionate affair–to dwell
in the meanwhile…”
Lee connotes the challenge set before her in this collection with an epigraph: “Words are our weakest hold on the world” – Albert Rios. And in the following pages, she proceeds to relinquish the grasping and manhandling of words to allow sensation to flow through them and speak for itself.
“to be reunited with love, waiting
at every side of a border,
to consider a country isn’t a womb
though a womb can be a country”
Connotary is an incantation into remembrance. And an edification from where one has been and is always going. And still is also this gift, this display, of honor and renewal.
The poems are immaculately woven together using the continual interplay of humanity and nature in a way that calls us to a deeper remembrance that transcends the lineage of a singular human being. “I think I’ll never grasp the true/ width of the world”. She humbly reinstates humanity in its rightful position as extensions and expressions of nature and love with the ability to resurrect what was once in decay. In “La Esperanza :: Poinciana Tree”, Lee paints a clear image of “How sad…” it is that the inhibitory concept of property ownership leaves a dead thing without the hope of ever being resuscitated through the hands, hearts, hurt, and laughter of children.
Lee’s mastery for elongating the minuscule moment into a meandering majestical display of adoration that transcends the material into what is novel and nominal and so beneficial is absolutely astounding. This deep tap into the undercurrent of life itself bleeds into Lee’s accounts of her personal experiences and relationships. “Alejandra welcomes me back/ and my heart stutters” Upon her own life Lee turns a tender, forgiving, and basking eye that magnifies the small, routine acts of life with the light of the love that carries them out. She presents herself as a devoted witness to herself and her love. And offers a home in the midst of her words, a home where we can “drift// into a time long before shame/ was something to dress for.”
And still, in the midst of this renewal, in the midst of this home, in the midst of this love, there is a tumultuous churn. There is a continual paralleling, verse to verse, in the migratory nature of these poems; the abundance and the longing, the want and the relishing, the saturation of satisfaction and the piercing residue of love still present even in the drought. “Wisconsin’s sky this evening is a glass/ half full of storm clouds.”
Melissa Ferrer (she/they) is a multidisciplinary artist, poet, educator, organizer, and friend living in Kansas City, MO. She lives chanting hallelujah into the liminal spaces of life. She is a Poetry MFA Candidate at Randolph College. Her work can be found in Fahmidan Journal, ZinDaily, and elsewhere. She was longlisted for the 2021 Palette Poetry Emerging Poet Prize. She is a lover of Asian dramas, rapture, and you.