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water/tongue

Ignited by the suicide of her great grandmother, mai c. doan conjures the visceral, the intuitive, and the felt to give voice to the gendered and intergenerational impacts of violence, colonialism and American empire. Out from silence, water/tongue crafts a constellation of voices spanning time, geography, and dimension, illuminating a pathway for both healing and resistance; for both poetry and sharpened teeth. water/tongue is as much a retelling as it is a reimagining, offering us a glimpse of the possibilities when we write both beyond and in spite of the narrative. In the end, it both does and demands: Do more than feel; Do something different than explain.

REVIEWS

"How many ways can we be killed by being forced to fit into a world we didn’t ask for? Death by emotional labor, by the clock and the soul-crushing imperative to professionalize. The 'we' here is misleading, for mai c. doan’s powerful book water/tongue is written from the position of being in, but not of, this monstrosity we call America. And she would rather stutter than be folded into the Empire. Here is a poetics of the trace, of unpronounced events reverberating on a sparsely marked paged, in the space between the cracked house that leaks memory: a girl running. Language becomes a placeholder for what cannot be said. Body becomes the event’s detritus. A gesture is repeated to make the dead undead. What is the speaker to do with the weight of what her ancestors have lived through? Repatriate the severed tongue. Build a politics of ritual, of hair and rose petals at the bottom of an empty bathtub." - Jackie Wang, author of Carceral Capitalism

"Attending to the incalculable losses of colonial terror and its many afterlives, mai c. doan’s water/tongue proposes 'one long ceremony' wherein the passage of time is knotted around your body. Feel its pressures: sharpened teeth to membrane, the scar of 'X' unforgotten, if/then scenarios that refuse to cohere. Feel its wounded logics of BEFORE; BEFORE; BEFORE? water/tongue reminds us that trauma has shape, has rhythm too. And feeling it, writing and [un]writing it, is an unending and needed ceremony. For how else to honor the suffering of our dead, to honor the suffering of those struggling to 'stay wild. stay free.'?" - Jenni(f)fer Tamayo, author of YOU DA ONE

"A compelling examination of the diasporic body in an uncertain landscape, mai c. doan’s water/tongue enacts the ancestral, the matriarchal, and the ritual by way of witnessing the self. Through a critique of the American dream plagued with societal ills, failing healthcare, and the ever permanent and devastating effects of colonialism, water/tongue gifts the reader with a resilient voice seeking out truths in the historical to question 'why the dead are more alive than the living.' These carefully crafted lines embody a language of remembrance that becomes a way of holding space for the both living and for the dead, 'until the dead is swept up / and the dead is not / dead anymore.'" - Mai Der Vang, author of Afterland

"mai c. doan's water/tongue is a reminder that hauntings happen in our bodies, in the memory of muscles, the transference of trauma, the weight of language. It is a reminder we carry this weight through the act of living, loving, resisting as existing. The poet writes, 'My great grandmother taught me that love is sometimes survival and adaptability: when there was no longer a river, she crawled into the bathtub and bit off her tongue.' Such hauntings can do the work of driving us forward, holding our hand as we lean over the edge in an effort to look back. Such hauntings have a way of sustaining us in these times." - Truong Tran, author of Dust and Conscience