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Book Review :: Slows: Twice by T. Liem

Guest Post by Jami Macarty

The poems, “filled with ellipses and reversals,” of T. Liem’s Slows: Twice are offered by a “speaker” who doesn’t “always feel / like” they are who they “say” they are, from a “threshold / between [self] and potential in any direction.” That is, the poems explore and explicate a betweenness: “on either side / of leaving… on either side / of the kind of words that look / right at you and leave you / in the middle of nowhere.” Even “nowhere” is “somewhere.”

This “threshold” is a way to “conceive of what a border could consist of.” A “border” is a place where “two things can be true at once”; both a place where “every fact has an afterlife” and a place “to link arms with some future.” At a border, time folds in on itself. The present reflects “what looks back at you”; the future “what can unfold from hurt.”

Liem’s poems swing on the hinges of “asking and repeating” the question: “[W]hat will carry you through what hurt you?” The poet uses mirror imaging and strikethroughs of poem text to suggest this phenomenon of “renewal or expiry.” The poet also uses their poems to argue with “time… spent // in omission” because, they assert, “there is no place and time / without names.” Our “bodies become an etymology”; “language is change.”

Dear Reader, whether you would choose to “slow time, / speed it up,” “[w]ouldn’t you like to be transported?” To read T. Liem’s Slows: Twice is to encounter “what other kind of living”—and writing—”is possible.”

Slows: Twice by T. Liem. Coach House Books, May 2023.

Reviewer bio: Jami Macarty is the author of The Minuses (Center for Literary Publishing, 2020), winner of the 2020 New Mexico/Arizona Book Award – Poetry Arizona, and three chapbooks, including Mind of Spring (Vallum, 2017), winner of the 2017 Vallum Chapbook Award. Jami’s writing has been honored by financial support from Arizona Commission on the Arts, British Columbia Arts Council, and by editors at magazines such as The Capilano Review, Concision Poetry Journal, Interim, Redivider, Vallum, and Volt, where Jami’s poems appear.

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