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by LaTasha N. Nevada Diggs
Belladonna*, $15 (paper)
LaTasha N. Nevada Diggs’s first poetry collection was published months before chagrined teddy bears and errant pop star tongues were seared onto our social media feeds, but many readers may still experience TwERK as a contest between this hype and the poems’ substance. This isn’t entirely superfluous, as the tension between hype and substance is central to TwERK’s multilingual, mixed-genre, cross-referencing poetics. Had the book been written in the post-gesamtkunsTwerk era, those bears and tongues would likely have appeared alongside Diggs’s wry depictions of Zwarte Piet and Dragon Ball’s Mr. Popo. To “twerk” is to flex and flaunt one’s muscles, and Diggs’s powerful arsenal is poetic and inclusive of those girding the Culture Industry. In poems such as “mista popo™ hollas @ jinx™,” she sets racist and sexist commercial images against themselves in order to expose their full absurdity, but she also powerfully resists the notion that there are more authentic modes of expression. In TwERK’s “ghost translations,” the originals float between multiple languages and grammars—“se comio el subarashii arufabeto a todo la carrera”—while the English translations maintain a distinct air of translationese: something is amiss or missing, even if the surface of the language appears coherent: “You’ve been waiting long my / imaginary seahorse?” TwERK bewilders. Through that bewilderment we realize how much of our world we have left illegible. Now, alongside Diggs, we meet the dazzling prospect of reading it.
Mia You was born in South Korea, raised in the United States, and currently lives in the Netherlands. She is a lecturer in English at Universiteit Utrecht and the author of I, Too, Dislike It (1913 Press, 2016) and Objective Practice (Achiote Press, 2007).
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