(by Bhanu Kapil)

It’s been a while since I’ve read poetry other than the poems that are in the New Yorker, and so maybe I was extra grateful for Eunsong Kim’s foreword and Emgee Dufresne’s “afternotes”, both of which were helpful in providing context/points of orientation for Kapil’s text. In the foreword, Kim writes about the book as “a migration narrative that contends with histories of the colonized, in which an immigrant ignorant to the violence that is the United States, arrives to give birth to a monster”; Dufresne, in the afternotes, mentions “Kapil’s appropriation of On the Road’s structure.” These are useful reference points to keep in mind when reading this book, which follows Laloo, “a Punjabi-British hitchhiker on a J-1 visa,” on a journey to and through America. Kapil’s text explores what it might mean to be a “cyborg,” what it might mean to be a “monster,” what it might mean to emigrate from one country/to immigrate to another, to be someone who can say “I came here to complete a thing I began in another place.”

Near the start of the book, there’s a description of final scene of the film Inside Daisy Clover, in which Natalie Wood’s character is walking away from a house that then explodes, followed by this: “I wanted to write that. Continuance. As it related to loss.” Later: “The removal of a person, abruptly, from a set of conditions, is complicated for the soul.” We get bedtime “stories of complex deities” and scenes from a childhood swim meet; I liked these more realistic moments in the text, but realism is not the point. There are striking images: a girl driving to America, under the Atlantic, emerging in New Jersey; a baby rolling out of bed and out of the house and through London, being carried across the ocean by a swan. “A monster is always itinerant,” Kapil writes. And: “A monster refuses its future.” The allure of the road, meanwhile is “a beautiful hazard: to go and keep going.” After which you can say, as Laloo does, “I wanted to go and did.”






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