In her debut volume of poetry, Jackie Wang presents a collection of poems interpreting the surreal cinema of dreams ... Each poem is a miniature world of the familiar made strange, calibrated to the uncanny tempos and extravagant imagery of a lucid dream ...These poems of intense longing articulate the dream as a space of social planning at the end of the world ... Wang’s poems center on the sociality of dreams, not only the shattering tenderness of being with others, but also dreaming as a response to endless crisis: techno-dystopian surveillance, policing and prisons, the threat of climate change and total war, supercharged diseases, the brutal exhaustions of racial capitalism ... Wang’s focus in The Sunflower on the social promise of queer eros and the role of sexuality in building radical communities, as well as her capacity for warm absurdism and comedy, are welcome demonstrations of her flexibility as a writer and thinker ... Riffing on the symbolic resonances of the sunflower, Wang offers poetry as method for social invention.
Once the internet and social media seem to merge everyone into a single hivemind, there is no longer an interpersonal connection that preserves the distinction between you and I and the sense of the unconscious, the self that is other. In Wang’s collection, the poems that save us from the void cast the same kind of spell as dreams ... The infiltration of capitalism into every aspect of life, facilitated by the internet, erases the boundaries between individual people, and between the conscious and the unconscious. In The Sunflower Cast a Spell to Save Us from the Void , poems and dreams reinforce our sense of these boundaries by 'invading' them.
A fascinating mix of fantasy and reality to start off the new year. Many of these poems have a startling beginning – frequently we enter in the moment of a catastrophe, whether it is a natural disaster, attempted murder, perceived poisoning, or just a vague sense of something strange looming. Wang lends credence to the value of dreams in a way that few seem to, and what is often dismissed with a wave of the hand is held in a gentle spotlight here ... She gives careful consideration to philosophy, nods to well-known thinkers from Kant to Kafka, as she uses the lessons of dreams to inform daily life ... She encourages us to think about what is truly worthwhile to pursue, what parts of crazy dreams might essentially be brilliant, or give root to a blossoming thought. In a dream where she mistakes possession/obsession for love, she notes that making an assertion about whether you have been wanted or wronged is also making a subconscious judgment about your own worth.