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A nail the evening hangs on af Monica Sok

A nail the evening hangs on (original 2020; udgave 2020)

af Monica Sok

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251751,890 (3.88)6
Titel:A nail the evening hangs on
Forfattere:Monica Sok
Info:Port Townsend, Washington : Copper Canyon Press, [2020]
Samlinger:Adult Collection

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A Nail the Evening Hangs on af Monica Sok (2020)


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» Se også 6 omtaler

I do not know a lot about Cambodia - I had read some history, I had read a lot of news from the country (they keep getting there...) and I can find it on a map but I do not know the country or the people and their culture. So I was a bit worried when I picked up this collection - I know how a lot of poetry about my country does not translate well into other languages and this collection may be in English but it is Cambodian (or Cambodian American if you prefer).

Monica Sok is the child of Khmer refugees - they fled the country to save their lives and her longing for the mother country is palpable. A lot of the poem in this debut collection are set in Cambodia - mainly on trips in the present time but some go back in time. Most of them were published in various magazines and journals and anthologies - as usually happens. But assembled here together, they become a single whole.

The book is split into 3 parts, with the middle one consisting of a single poem "Tuol Sheng". That is also the poem that will stay with me for a long time (and which I kept rereading in the last few days) - set in the Genocide Museum of Tuol Sheng, it is full of shadows and ghosts. It used to be a school but in 1975 the Khmer Rouge turned it into a prison and an execution center. Thousands of people died in the classrooms where kids used to play and when a child comes to the museum, they want to play - it looks like a school after all. The ghosts of children and dead people and the live child and visitors of the museum merge irrevocably to a point where in places you do not know which one you are reading about; the black board and the torture share the same space. Here is a part of this poem:

"The boy is still inside a classroom.
He raises his hand to answer the teacher's question.
The teacher offers him a turn at the board
and gives him a piece of chalk.
His back is turned to the other students.
Now the teacher is a soldier.
Now the boy has chains on his wrists.
How he's smacked in the face.
Now his glasses break on hos nose bridge.
Now he pretends he cannot spell
or count how many teeth knocked out."

Which does not mean that the rest of the poems were weaker - they build pictures - of loss and longing, of a country in change and sometimes in tragedy. Some of the poems are about her family, some are about one of her countries and a lot of them are about a trip to Cambodia. The poem about her mother (and the mother's sisters) made me stop reading for awhile - there is so much love and longing in it that you need time to just think about it.

The cover of the book is also connected to her family - it is a photograph of traditional Cambodian Silk woven by the author's grandmother Bun Em. Some of the poems worked better than others but they all painted pictures and most of them made me think and feel. And that's what poetry is supposed to be doing.

With all these dark topics, one would expect the whole collection to be dark and repressing. But just like that bright orange cloth on the cover, it somehow manages to sounds hopeful and even the darkest tones seem to be subdued. Tragedies defines lives but they control them only if one allows them to. And Monica Sok refuses to do that. The collection is a love letter to the country her family had to leave - reclaiming the past and finding a way into the future. ( )
  AnnieMod | Feb 22, 2021 |
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