I started reading As She Appears (YesYes Books) by Shelley Wong quite late at night, just wanting to get a feel of the writing before going to sleep–thirty poems in, I managed to force myself to stop and sleep. The term “debut collection” can be deceiving, but even without looking through Shelley Wong’s extensive publishing career, the maturity of these poems is clear.
Jewels become leaves, eyes aren’t only made to see through anymore, and the author herself is peacock and admirer at the same time. Mundane sights become extraordinary through her gaze, and unknown ones are as vivid as if we were seeing them with our own eyes.
She shares the aftermath of the end of a relationship in heart-wrenching poems like Perennials, where spring isn’t only the season where the world renews and love starts anymore, but it’s “a closing throat”, after her former partner’s allergy.
She homages Frida Kahlo, and with her all women, in Epithalamium. She says:
“Always, you are twinned:
one side a mirror, the other
a window—you have already
changed the sky.”
Courtship also reads as if written for women. With a hint of irony she reminds us of all the rules we’ve been exposed to growing up, of the smallest signs we have to use every day to express ourselves in front of the expectations society puts on us.
“Don’t tell me what’s unbecoming / for a woman: I was raised on magazines”.
With poems like “The Ocean Will Take Us One Day,” Wong explores universal issues, problems that don’t seem to touch us, and yet, she says, they should. “Who will stop a man from having his way?” She calls us all to the stand, wants all of us to do our part. When it’s over, readers are left with a sense of completeness, and emptiness, that only the best poetry collections can gift.
Valentina Linardi (she/her) holds a degree in Linguistic and Cultural Mediation from the University of Milan. Her writing has been published in Square Wheel Press and in The Hearth Magazine. She’s usually busy studying new languages, reading, or oversharing about everything and more on her website – valentinalinardi.com. You can find her on Twitter at