◐ Book Name: Turning to Wallpaper
◐ Author: Heidi Wong
◐ Genre: Poetry
◐ Pages: 128
Heidi Wong brings us a collection of poems about complex topics, such as womanhood, growing up in a family of immigrants in America, death, and trauma.
Recommended for people who enjoy lyrical writing, plenty of metaphors, and personal poetry.
mentions of death, sexual assault, racism, abuse
◐ Review: 5/5 ⭐
It takes an uncommonly gifted author to inspire me to write (particularly these days, when I have run out of writing steam). Heidi Wong is one such author. I had followed her writing for some time on Instagram, and it was a rare poem that could not move me. When I published my own books, I had to privilege of having them reviewed by Heidi, one of the highlights of publishing, personally.
This collection of poems deals with several heavy topics, yet they are never oppressively despairing. Each is infused with courage and strength in the face of tremendous pain. There is empowerment even amidst trauma–acceptance and a deeper understanding of the self.
Yes, many of the poems are hard to read. Having experienced similar things in my life, however, I found hope in Heidi’s story of overcoming her circumstances. Perhaps there is no complete healing in this life, but ultimately, we survivors learn to rise above, even with our broken pieces.
As a first-generation child of immigrants, Heidi’s poems about the sense of not belonging to either culture struck me deeply.
Heidi’s poems are full of ethereal imagery and metaphors, yet still accessible, as any great poem should be. It would take a few readings to unveil all their meanings and layers. There is no doubt Heidi has a way with words. As I read, I felt emotions drawn from deep within me more than once. She writes so authentically; no reader can be unmoved by her words. I especially liked the nods to Greek mythology and Vincent Van Gogh.
Not only is the writing excellent, but this book is full of Heidi’s original artwork, which is equally stunning, and complements the poems well.
For a thought-provoking read with beautiful, genuine writing, read this book. I already can’t wait to read it again.
you say be careful when you mean
i love you.
god is a mirror above the water
looking down with your eyes;
if you want to live, live.
the grave of my body was full;
they could not live there anymore
they say a woman should never survive her shame. because any woman who does will force her stomach to swell with words and bleed into the kirkland sky until the tongues of her ghost hands haunt these woods, long after her body forgets.
america, america, you are the lover who never wanted me.
so maybe there’s something triumphant about heartbreak, too. the way it opens, the way it spills. somewhere, another sunset dampens the evening with fresh pollen yellow.
in the end, not all stories get to be told.
those that search for truth only from the mouths they can accept are unconcerned with truth.
that to be a poet means to forgive your inability to forget.
my clean body says i love you, you, you, you, and the words only make ripples on the surface. my clean body says bleed into me. let me carry what’s inside your bones. and your bones are buried too deep underwater to hear me.
she falls in front of a priest and cries hell is real. hell is real. hell is what we do to each other. heaven is to forget what has been done.
i could barely hear it sing, but i saw its wings beating against the wind, as if they had known flight beyond this lifetime. i pressed my hands to the glass and imagined you, too, were somewhere in the sky, wings stretched out in open air, still trying to sing.
forever is a series of nows. but there’s no warning when your present consists entirely of recollection.
you cannot make someone unlearn overloving them as permission to underlove you. and so you are abandoned.
at night, the last of your light unhooks from my eyes and tries to travel towards the yellowwood tree. i catch it in my hands and say we can’t go home. we can never go home. despite what we promised each other in those infinite summers, we must try to find that feeling elsewhere.
once, you had the color of spring and the ecstasy of summer. once, you made me real. real enough to know that a wanting, so deep it mirrors frenzy, is still not fatal. real enough to know that love can happen twice, without losing its meaning. so put our stories back to sleep.
still, we dug out each other’s rot with teeth till we bled blackberry blood—the ink i mistook as understanding.
ghosts and poetry are the twins of neglect, constantly finding each other for the first time. one, a tongue. the other, a voice.
what else is there to being an artist? to turn grief into food and feed the dead until color returns to their cheeks. to nurse your wounds until they rearrange into a new limb and watch as a knife appears in your hand.
see, old habits die a slow death. it takes a lifetime to forget and one instant to return, return to the comfort of a mouth that both shelters and smothers.
mama said to love is to open yourself up to slaughter. i have done my part already, and learned that none of this is romantic. this pilgrimage of ash.
but do not believe the words i say. in saying them, i have already avoided the fate of a bird who dies before she tastes flight. so god, take my sky again. we both understand why i cannot keep it. how long have you stayed silent in the fear of becoming real?
when you leave, i will build a home from the skeleton of the last, and i will no longer think of you.
something in me, something that began the day i knew of language, continues to fill the room with smoke. but never speaks to me.
i am not a broken girl. i know where my pieces lie, each one, still mine.