The singular Jane Wong offers her distinct eye as she carefully unpacks the poems in Silent Anatomies in this review for Warscapes. A gorgeous excerpt:
The most impactful poems in Silent Anatmonies are the poems written on medicine bottles, with “directions” on the labels. Here, home remedies are rooted in value systems. These faux labels consider cultural conceptions of health, particularly gender value systems. In “Fortune Babies,” Ong writes: “Does not guarantee protection from bearing daughters. Consult your fortune teller if you suspect your pregnancy may be at risk.” In other medicine bottle poems, Ong offers dictionary entries on the label – interrogating linguistic colonialism. Such poems recall Harryette Mullen’s Sleeping With the Dictionary (2002). For instance, one bottle features an image of an older woman, followed by the words “withstood,” “withy” “witless,” “witling,” and “witness.” These words highlight our gender and age expectations – that we see older women as passive and “witless.” Ong exposes such shameful stereotypes throughout. Moreover, through these dictionary labels, she underscores the hierarchy of the English language, highlighting the “prescriptivism” of language as a silencing tool.