Here at BOA, we're celebrating Pride Month by highlighting the work of our LGBTQ+ authors! We asked each of our wonderful summer interns to pick a title or two and write about them! For part two in our series, BOA intern Olivia Harkin reviews Alicia Mountain's Four in Hand and Chen Chen's Your Emergency Contact has Experienced an Emergency!
“Shall I compare thee to a summer’s day?” The poetic form of a sonnet has always been utilized to express love, and Mountain revives it in Four in Hand to express queer love, creating a space for representation in a poetic form that’s typically been dominated by heterosexual narratives. I loved Mountain’s precise attention to detail; for example, her crown of sonnets “Train Town Howl” is filled with repetitions and repeated “s” sounds which conjure up the image of a train constantly chugging forward. She also grounds us in familiar scenes: “House party borrowed bass beats and cheap no-chaser tequila,” and “I write to you now from the counter of the Waffle House” while allowing our minds to soar to new heights. By contrast, her section, “Sparingly,” as the name suggests, is an impressive crown of sonnets that exercises careful restraint; each line consists of only one word. In doing so, Mountain emphasizes the need to choose one’s words carefully. Her final crown “MyMerrill” touches on politics and the Covid-19 pandemic in a freshly creative way: each poem acts as an analysis of the state of her mental and physical state as if it were a bank account. Yet, Mountain leaves us with a note of hope. Similarly, to the country’s healing post-pandemic, Mountain gradually regains her ability to trust and love after heartbreak. She sums it up best in her final line, which dawns across the page like a triumphant sunrise: “This rolling wave of confidence— it takes you by your sharp part, points you home.”
Poem Excerpt: MyMerrill
You, Bull-Bear, you’ve received new statement(s) here,
our messages of episodic care
in email. What is waiting here? What’s found?
You may not turn euphoric—still, you could
give love, be loved, and keep your trust in trust
along a path that’s been made clear for you.
Create the signposts, mark them as you go
outside the page of what you can control.
A softening away from vigilance,
from individual. Become a team,
leave footprints all together. Save your world
from shock and fears. Awake you, generous
with hope. This rolling wave of confidence—
it takes you by your sharp part, points you home.
Chen Chen’s Your Emergency Contact Has Experienced an Emergency maintains homeostasis of humor and heartbreak, as the body of work reckons with concepts of identity, culture, and politics. Chen’s unique descriptions made each line a striking surprise, such as “You are the ice cream sandwich connoisseur of your generation,” and “god stopped by in his magenta rowboat.” Chen also exerts a mastery over many different forms, from a poem framed as a
doctor’s note, to an interview with himself, emphasizing the fact we are comprised of many different versions of ourselves as we grow. The title suggests we are stranded alone, our “emergency contact” unable to help us due to their own disaster. Chen’s poems encapsulate the process of overcoming this, the triumph of finding inner strength despite all odds through celebrating his identity.
Poem Excerpt: Summer
You are the ice cream sandwich connoisseur of your generation.
Blessed are your floral shorteralls, your deeply pink fanny pack with the travel size
lint roller just in case.
Level of splendiferous in your outfit: 200.
Types of invisible pain stemming from adolescent disasters in classrooms,
locker rooms, & quite often, Toyota Camrys: at least 10,000.
You are not a jigglypuff, not yet a wigglytuff.
Reporters & fathers call your generation “the worst.”
Which really means “queer kids who could go online & learn that queer
doesn’t have to mean disaster.”
Instead, queer means, splendiferously, you.
& you means someone who knows that common flavors for ice cream
sandwiches in Singapore include red bean, yam, and honeydew.
Your powers are great, are growing.
One day you will create an online personality quiz that also freshens the
The next day you will tell your father, You were wrong to say that I had to change.
To make me promise I would. To make me promise.
Olivia Harkin is a rising junior at Syracuse University, majoring in English and history, currently interning at BOA Editions. She lives in Syracuse, NY.