Tell it Slant (Paperback)

Tell it Slant By John Yau Cover Image
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Poems that consider doubleness and truth-telling through the voice of an Asian American poet, while referencing a range of writers and pop culture figures.
Emily Dickinson begins one of her poems with the oft-quoted line, “Tell all the truth but tell it slant." For Asian Americans, the word “slant” can be heard and read two ways, as both a racializing and an obscuring term. It is this sense of doubleness—culminating in the instability of language and an untrustworthy narrator—that shapes, informs, and inflects the poems in John Yau’s new collection, all of which focus on the questions of who is speaking and who is being spoken for and to. Made up of eight sections, each exploring the idea of address—as place, as person, as memory, and as event —Tell It Slant does as Dickinson commands, but with a further twist. Yau summons spirits who help the author “tell all the truth,” among whom are reimagined traces of poets, movie stars, and science fiction writers, including Charles Baudelaire, Thomas de Quincey, Philip K. Dick, Li Shangyin, and Elsa Lanchester.

About the Author

John Yau is a poet, art critic, fiction writer, and publisher whose recent books include Foreign Sounds or Sounds Foreign and Bijoux in the Dark. He founded Black Square Editions and cofounded the online magazine Hyperallergic Weekend. He has received awards and fellowships from the John Simon Guggenheim Memorial Foundation, National Endowment of the Arts, and Academy of American Poets, among others. He teaches at Mason Gross School of the Arts at Rutgers University and lives in New York.

Praise For…

"Yau’s charming latest reflects on a lifetime of making art from the periphery. Playing on the eponymous phrase, Yau explores artistic process and the limits of communication, all under the specter of anti-Asian hate and racism. Many poems make overt reference to painting and painters, suggesting Yau’s strong association with poetry and painting as primarily imagistic and often abstract art forms: . . . This wise and sometimes ominous collection shines."
— Publishers Weekly starred review

“Emily Dickinson famously brought her poetic attention to two slanted things: light ('a certain slant of') and truth ('tell all the…but tell it…'), it is part of Yau’s far-reaching genius to remind us that both light and truth depend on perception, as he turns a racist slur (slanted eyes) into the sign by which we recognize the trustworthy phenomenologist. In this latest collection, Tell It Slant, Yau—following his inclination—holds the mirror up to vision itself: watchful of his own watching, noting what poetry sees, involved in close observations which are endlessly productive of lively and original insights, creatively sampling the doxa, and always returning to ekphrasis, 'scout[ing] the path the painter has left for us to follow,' the poet has given us his most tender, open, resonant, and beautiful book yet. My slant? I think we are astonishingly lucky to add Yau to the list of our great American poets at this moment, when we most need his work to help us recognize that gradual and constant dazzle which is the transformational capability of attention.”
— Laura Mullen

“In this innovative and lyrical new book, Yau employs serial variations and pantoums in which the repetitions become a form of mesmerizing insistence. Using voices that revel in the multiple and shadowy selves inside the self, and that implicate the reader through indirection and surprise, where a reader may smile and wince at the same time, Yau has written a set of remarkable poems.”
— Arthur Sze

Product Details
ISBN: 9781632431257
ISBN-10: 1632431254
Publisher: Omnidawn
Publication Date: October 6th, 2023
Pages: 73
Language: English