Jean Vengua is a writer and visual artist. She is the author of Prau, a collection of experimental poetry (for which she received the Filamore Tabios, Sr., Memorial Prize (Meritage Press), and a chapbook, The Aching Vicinities (Otoliths Press). With Mark Young, she co-edited the First Hay(na)ku Anthology, and The Hay(na)ku Anthology Vol. II. Jean’s poetry and essays have been published in many journals and anthologies. She is editor of the literary/art journal, Local Nomad and lives in Monterey, CA.
Jean Vengua’s CORPOREAL is forthcoming from Black Radish Books in summer 2018.
In CORPOREAL, Jean Vengua “takes dictation” from the body, navigating gender, ethnicity, and age, how these exact their tolls on a sense of self. Considers touch, what it makes of us, or any “thought let loose,” there amid the proliferating selves spooled out over time, no matter the effort to corral them. “Byproduct/ of multiple wounds,” the body persists inexorably mutable, unstable, in constant interface with its environment: lungs seizing up, unable to open, dream’s traces spilling into waking, the cracked, drying skin of the aged flaking away, life abandoning form. Identity fissions digitally also, replicating, person to persona—face-time, ZIP files, avatars. “Beset with memory,” Vengua asks, “what distance/lies between us?” Between you and me, between me and me—embodiment’s transformations and losses, personal, cultural, biological. CORPOREAL’s tender mirror spells us bent upon memory’s disintegrating half-lives—child, daughter, lover, maker, caretaker, profile, crone, corpse—each revision stitched from of the vestiges of those come before. “Look see/ into the leveraging// machine….// who looks back?” “Whose hungry ghost?”
Praise for CORPOREAL
To “[r]emember how / to touch our bodies” is to embark on the inevitable: “there was / a plot; / [you] did not / escape.” As Jean Vengua notes in Corporeal, the journey contains peril: “Aswang repairs her wound / with bone and thread.” However, knowledge is its own good: “but / grow to love the scars.” These poems are scars from bodily interactions—with ourselves, with others, with environs, and even with language. What for? Perhaps “a new angel, thrashing / on the wings”? That Vengua articulates “angel” implies hope. From a body intimate with suffering, such hope presents potential for ecstasy—in these poems, the poet’s “wrists are magic” and the receptive reader can be led to grace if not bliss: “some kisses are / sweeter than wine.” —Eileen R. Tabios
Beneath the layers, there is uncertainty. The mysteries of the body; what rituals might be appropriate to unlock its speech? Pressures build behind the left ear and along the back of the neck; pinpoints spark the left shoulder, and now the muscles give in to a formal rictus; how, some mornings, one rises still fastened in its clasp. Yet, water penetrates. Heat. I watch a documentary about flooding: pressure expands, sentences flow into each other, lose proportion, breach levees. The whole population migrates toward the freeway. They travel toward a dome, a river, a major artery; transformations sever control, topple the barricades.
Panglawasnon as foreigner, martyr, saint. Supplicate. Take flesh and cut into small pieces, each symbolizes a letter or syllable, a falling or rising taken into the mouth as communion. Say words over the feet or hands, light incense to scent breasts, hair. Take these letters; cut them into wafers, mix into a poultice, burn in a pyre, scatter over the soil, the internet.