Muriel Leung: Bone Confetti
REVIEW BY SARAH ESCUE
(NOEMI PRESS, 2016)
“No one talks about what they have lost,” writes Muriel Leung in her debut poetry collection, and the 2015 winner of the Noemi Press Poetry Award, Bone Confetti. This collection is a meditation on mourning couched in the residue of memory. Leung dedicates the collection to her mother: “To my mother, Fei Chin, and all the ghosts who came before us.” Throughout the collection, Leung focuses on loss, matrilineage, death, and resiliency through a graveyard of molten birds, apparitions, body pulp, and ash.
In Bone Confetti, Leung attempts to undefine the defined and reconcile with what and with whom she has lost. She explores survivorship, and loved ones, or ghosts, who die, are resurrected, and die again. Each death and resurrection challenges the speaker’s, and the reader’s, own sense of mortality. What’s left is the debris, or confetti, that floats from wedding to funeral, from garden to forgotten city. The speaker collects this debris, the residual memories, and attempts to mosaic the fragments to create a new sense of reality and humanity—to celebrate the life that can emerge from decay.
Throughout Bone Confetti, Leung utilizes illegibility to undefine the gnawing absence of loved ones, of grief, through a stunning use of white space and raw, yet elegantly abstract language. She uses the power of withholding to create arresting poems that ripen with each read: “The body, a violin that someone is always fingering. The body, elastic but also put over a cold rock slab. To sharpen.” The body is a cathedral, a tomb, a dark and diaphanous thing; it scars, holds memory, and heals. Leung uses the body and language as an instrument for exploring memory; she combs through dead cities, excavating the bones of her past.
Trauma and grief magnify the resiliency of the human spirit. Bone Confetti is haunting and otherworldly, an offering to the ones without—those who have lost someone—and the ghosts themselves.