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Publication date: 2024-10-08 ISBN: 9780691264042

Advanced Praise for Stem:

The poems in this volume demonstrate an extraordinary sensibility, which is imaginative, perceptive, and intrepid. Reading these poems is like riding a verbal roller coaster, full of excitement and surprises.

-- Ha Jin

Stella Wong's Orpheus is female, and the poet herself a forceful Eurydice who refuses to return to the Underground and play dead. She's a switched-on, savvy, confident, get-out-of-the way poet, "naked voiced," aggressively witty, her "expression . . . violent." American poetry just now has need of her fighting spirit. Her lines are not to be dull or sleepy: "Every grapple is over / submission." The poetry is perpetually on the verge of being self-interrupted by its own robustness. It rejects "gray areas." Its vivid imagining doesn't stop. Nodding again and again to various experimental women composers of the 60s and forward, Wong herself has a taste of the synthesizer's surrealism and something of its effect of starting right up and made on the spot. "Where / you don't have a nested hierarchy, . . . the synth is . . . personal, the synth is built." She goes where her uncaptured nature and her powers of observation take her: "The best things to score are / like us, unnumbered."

-- Cal Bedient

Stella Wong wields the kind of weaponry I live to be slayed by. Funny as hell, delightfully strange and full of a sneaky and giant heart, holds its beloved subjects — friends, siblings, Lucy Liu, grapefruits, all the jesuses the poet can muster — and gives them body with wicked imagination and knock-out tenderness. This book will knock the windows of your heart not just open, but out the frame once you see how far Wong can dive into fear and the terrible possibles of humanness can still carry back something like hope, gooder than joy. Wong has crafted a brief, but mighty collection of poems that point towards the bright possibly of power to make us better dreamers, better lovers, better homies, and oh my jesuses how thankful I am for this abundant offering. I'm sure you will be too.

-- Danez Smith

If poetry were a biathlon, Stella Wong would take the gold. She's a solid skier and a crack shot, each poem a bullet hitting its mark. Thank God she's turned all of this energy and accuracy into poetry. 'Where do you put your body of color' she asks. Then proceeds to school everyone. Stella Wong is a force, a maker, a master.

-- D.A. Powell

Spooks is an inquiring of rhythms. Its poems think in rhythms derived from many cultural sources, but most often from hip-hop as filtered through everyday speech—but not only rhythms derived from music, but also rhythms derived from the motions of culture both at the center and the periphery of Stella Wong's attention. While foregrounding various rhythms, the poems in Spooks defy those sources thereof that are rooted in patriarchy and other forms of oppression—these poems ask what new songs can be made of a tainted music, even while being such songs.

-- Shane McCrae

Reading SPOOKS is the most fun I’ve had since dandelion-ing at a fetish party. The titles are brilliant. The speakers of the poems are secret agents, search engineers and dissociative fugues. The poems are elastic with tones that range from hilarious deadpan one-liners to astonishing tenderness. ‘Oh, love is at // no cost to you’ reads one poem and I’m like ‘yr gonna make me cry right after you made me laugh.’ If Catullus were around, he’d be so proud.

-- Cy Jillian Weise

Spooks is, among other things, a generous and richly populated book. The poems are both challenging and welcoming, filled with as many entrances and exits, as much warmth as honest, as much risk as playfulness. This is a beautiful book of enduring images, and masterful storytelling.

-- Hanif Abdurraqib

You and Stella Wong are the last two people on Earth. You’re going to witness her “ride in/to hell” and you will need to prepare yourself for the moment when she decides to use her “daddy voice” on Jesus. You’re the last two people on Earth because the truth—the truth of Stella Wong’s voice, the truth of these poems—has scared away the timid. But be strong. The apocalypse of American Zero is scary and dangerous, yes, but it’s also a lot of fun.

-- Josh Bell