My review of Jennifer Wong's 'Letters Home' for Poetry School

Posted on 9 May 2020

I recently reviewed Jennifer Wong's accomplished new collection 'Letters Home' from Nine Arches Press for Poetry School. It's an enlightening collection that resists easy answers to questions of identity, geography, and belonging that affect us all.
Letters Home Jennifer Wong

'Home’ is a contentious word. Both personal and political, ‘home’ implies belonging, and not belonging. In Robert Frost’s ‘Death of the Hired Man’, ‘Home is the place where, when you have to go there, / They have to take you in’. But is that place where we live, where we were born, where our family is from, or where we raise our own family? Is it the country(ies) whose passport we hold? In Jennifer Wong’s Letters Home, home is a shifting concept, suspended between places, pasts, cultures, and potential futures...

In the PBS Spring Bulletin, where Letters Home is a Wild Card Choice, Wong says the Chinese book title means ‘returning’ home. Instead of writing to home from a distance, as the English title implies, the Chinese presents the speaker in motion towards home. This drives the narrative of the book. We are vividly presented with the story of Wong’s migration from her native Hong Kong to England, but also constantly considering her draw back ‘home’...

For Wong, remembering is an act of commemoration and keeping contact with her (other) home. Although it is ‘An almost-past life now’ (‘At the wet market’), it is not ‘past’. The collection ends: ‘each year I think of going back because of the soup’ (‘Personal history of soup’). We are back at the beginning with the book’s title, with the speaker in motion towards home.'

You can read the full review here: