Focal Point is a scientist's unofficial dissertation, a daughter's faithful correspondence, and a coming-of-age story. Written largely while Jenny Qi was a young Ph.D. student conducting cancer research after her beloved mother's death from cancer, the collection turns to "all the rituals of all the faiths," invoking Western and Eastern mythology and history, metaphors from cell biology, and even Jimi Hendrix, as Qi searches for a container to hold grief.
Although the book roughly traces an arc that enacts illness, loss, and bereavement, the speaker begins with poems set in the days surrounding her mother’s death. 'The Last Visitation' is a deft and wrenching account the speaker’s decision to take her mother off life support ... Typical of Qi’s poems, and indicative of the remarkable coherence of the collection as a whole, the effect of the poem is amplified by considering it in context ... Grief, like the echoes within and between Qi’s poems, like the body itself, remains the pervasive element of the present, even as it recedes into the past.
[A book like] this requires courage, a certain kind of nerve, an unflinching gaze into the mirror ... At the center of Focal Point is the death of the mother from cancer. We are shown the agonizing days of suffering leading to death and the intense grief, the seeming impossibility of losing forever a loved and loving parent ...For all of the heaviness of loss, sprinklings of humor provide a welcome relief from the trauma and darkness ... How certain she is that she can never explain her grief and its manifestations to anyone ... But then comes this marvellous book where she finally succeeds in pulling us toward her so we may join her in this painful experience. We feel we are with her, those who have suffered the death of a loved one and even those who haven’t yet. With the speaker, and to the extent possible—and risking an assumption—we feel we are with Jenny Qi.
Ambitious ... There is no fixed focal point linking poems sequentially; a narrative chronology threads the work instead ...Qi’s poetry is marked throughout by a steady eloquence which comes to touching fruition ...At other points Qi’s fevered language and mixed metaphors push our minds through synaesthetic whirls ... Qi’s synesthetic eloquence is on a roll as the end of the collection nears. She conveys a delicate fragility...via internal rhymes and alliteration ... Qi’s infinite scope recalls those other exploratory Americans: the beatniks, Jim Morrison even, and his better colleague in poetry Michael McClure. Her relative youth may well signal more startling work to come.