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Cindy Juyoung Ok

I was told not to shake            my foot that way—            the luck leaks outyour restless limbs—            so could you sit            more glassilyand not leave the pillows            upright, another hollow            place to ward away yourfortune. I feared young            dying, hating to            waste, but latelywhen I cough or clot blood I            register this potential as            passed, my agenow emblem of having aged:            nothing to be envious of,            nothing to revere.I survived past fulfilling            other's schemas for decades            and I offer youthe grammar of this chance:            keep your hair            unwashed to holdits knowledge and            avoid writing            your name, or anyone's,in red except the dead            or those you wish            to be dead soon.Nights turn off your            fans, collect            your toenailclippings, and refuse            hums so you dream            of persimmons andpigs. And if you have loved            then be early, even            earlier, to the afterdeath ceremony and            when you kiss            the other grieversas you listen to            the chants, force your legs            greenly still.

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Cindy Juyoung Ok is the author of Ward Toward from the Yale Series of Younger Poets and the translator of The Hell of That Star by Kim Hyesoon forthcoming from Wesleyan University Press.

Cover of the book "Ward Toward"

New Haven, Connecticut

Yale University

“Ok in her refreshing debut uses language to push against the staid edges of the status quo, exposing the tenuous and often contradictory beliefs that seemingly undergird reality. With their capacious perspective, these verses bear witness to the hypocrisies of convention on the personal and global scale.”
—Publishers Weekly (starred review)

“In Ward Toward, Ok takes language apart: questioning its origin, proposed syntax, and meaning to separate the form from its built-in rules.”
—Chloe Xiang, Los Angeles Review of Books

“Cindy Juyoung Ok’s debut moves through spaces seamlessly—psych ward, hospice care, nation upon nation—and unites them through an impressive articulation of their violences.”
—Summer Farah, The Millions, “Must-Read Poetry: Winter 2024”

“With a candor bolstered by curiosity and experimentation . . . Ok’s poems challenge the reader to see beyond what is.”
—Poetry Foundation

“With brio and sorrow, Ok’s book investigates such subjects as hospitalization for a major depressive disorder, the anti-Asian Atlanta spa shootings, and the failures of romantic and familial love. . . . Ok’s métier in this lovely debut is an elegantly discursive, analytical style studded with ironies.”
—David Woo, Literary Hub

“With bleak humor, an eye for the absurd, and careful attention to the line, the poems offer a window into the Kafkaesque labyrinth that is the U.S. medical establishment, elegiac analyses of racist violence, and critiques of popular culture.”
—Poets & Writers

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