Franny Choi is a Korean American poet and “Floating, Brilliant, Gone” is her illustrious debut from Write Bloody Publishing. Jess X Chen’s accompanying illustrations add a surreal and haunting element to an already moving set of poems. Deftly written, Choi maintains an exquisite range from the quietly stated to the urgent and impactful. She packs so much imagery in a single line, just look at this segment from “To the Man Who Shouted ‘I Like Pork Fried Rice’ at Me on the Street“: “a fever. dead meat. butchered girl”. It’s a fiercely powerful line as it stands against sexism and racist fetish.
But racism is not the only topic she speaks about, as she also tackles loss and grief like in her opening poem “Notes on the Existence of Ghosts.” There’s that first stanza that denotes the ghostly qualities of a sidewalk: “Leaves stained onto the sidewalk from yesterday’s storm create gray-green watermarks on the pavement, like the negatives of pressed flowers, or the ghost of a letterpress still whispering up from the page. A sidewalk is a haunted thing.” Choi can turn what is ordinary and usually ignored into such a striking and delicate metaphor. Her writing stains your skin and stays with you.
Yet there is a joy in her occasional irreverence like in Ode to My Armpit Hairs:
“…For so long, I thought myself
a rich douchebag’s gardener- or else, hummed
India Arie and ignored your steady march,
claimed liberated but secretly calling myself
a negligent housewife…”
It’s a silly ode but definitely a fun one. She even goes as far as to rearrange the words from Lil’ Wayne’s “Pussy Monster” in order of frequency. It’s a clever piece on sexism in the mainstream and quite hilarious. Choi is quite inventive with her other poems, creating black out poetry, a flowchart, scientific analysis, a conversation and more. Overall, this is a significantly strong debut and marks the entrance of a poet who will remain someone to watch out for, for years to come.
Eileen Ramos is a Filipina-American writer with a deep, abiding love for words. This passion drives her to read, create, and absorb all she can. Let’s hope it ends well. Read more by Eileen on her blog.