COUNTERFEIT SKIN by Yi-Sung Oliver Ho

COUNTERFEIT SKIN

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KIRKUS REVIEW

Ho’s debut collection of poems touches on the universal themes of childhood, the passage of time and memories of place.

This three-part collection of poems moves back and forth on a timeline between adulthood and past memory, tying the poems together with recurrent household images and a voice of irony and hope. The author uses images involving animals, from crows to cats to kitchen insects, in several poems, inviting readers to explore the delicate perspective of a nonhuman species. For example, in the poem “Memory Place,” Ho describes a shotgun’s “[t]rigger clicking…with the easy tension of our cat / When she leaps from the roof to go walking.” Later in the same poem, the speaker leaps off a pier into icy New Year’s Eve water, “[u]nder the watchful black eyes of a rooftop cat.” Ho wields these feline images precisely, creating a sense of objectivity, as well as innocence, in a poem that hints at suicide with violent images—knuckles, cheekbones, shotguns and broken mirrors. Ho frequently intensifies poems by juxtaposing everyday images, contrasting soft with hard and light with dark. The theme of alcoholism saturates all three sections, as well, but it’s blended with the humor of adult life, from visits to tattoo parlors to strolls through Pacific cities. The author uses concrete images loaded with metaphors while treading lightly on the topic of substance abuse. In “Walking in Seattle,” Ho describes a “blurred fragment” of a mother’s finger filling a photograph and “parallel lines in the concrete / underfoot like tightrope wires.” Ho’s subtle sensibilities with rhyme and alliteration are evident as he delicately portrays the innocence of the poem’s young speaker: “my flat paddle / steps in cheap sneakers, the tune / my brother hums from some cartoon.”

A rich collection of poetic images from a debut author.

Pub Date: Sept. 6th, 2012
ISBN: 978-1479205882
Page count: 78pp
Publisher: CreateSpace
Program: Kirkus Indie
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 15th, 2013