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Goddess of Democracy
an Occupy lyric
Henry Wei Leung

Omnidawn 1st/2nd Book Contest

2017 • 128 pp. 6 x 9"
Poetry / Poetry - Asian American / Poetry - General Subjects

$17.95 Paperback, 978-1-63243-040-3

“Leung draws his passion for writing from a natural hunger to create and to express—not from the confines of academics, though he appreciates its rigor. He combines course studies with self-education, which he achieves by an insatiable appetite for literature.”—University of Hawai'i News

A lyric and historical examination of the Umbrella protests in Hong Kong

Selected by Cathy Park Hong as winner of the Omnidawn 1st/2nd Poetry Book Prize

Written in and of the protest encampments of one of the most sophisticated Occupy movements in recent history, Goddess of Democracy attempts to understand the disobedience and desperation implicated in a love for freedom. Part lyric, part autoethnography, part historical document, these poems orbit around the manifold erasures of the Umbrella protests in Hong Kong in 2014. Leung, who was in those protests while on a Fulbright grant, navigates the ethics of diasporic dis-identity, of outsiderness and passing, of privilege and the pretension of understanding, in these poems that ask: “what is / freedom when divorced from / from?”

Reviews / Endorsements

“Addressed to the Goddess of Democracy,...[Lueng] bears witness to the ongoing struggle for human rights up to the 2014 Umbrella Revolution in Hong Kong. We experience the protests at street level through a 'torn off' I both inside and outside the movement: 'I myself have been here:/ been a hollowing throng of sweat/ …I stood among and gave you/ neither stay nor shore nor help.' Throughout, there’s a grappling, an urgency, and a passion that makes the experience very real. VERDICT: Sometimes challenging, but a strong testimony in verse for those interested in both poetry and politics.”—Barbara Hoffert, Library Journal

“. . . Leung uses the deeply symbolic statue known as the Goddess of Democracy as the focal point for thoughts on such issues as the misinterpretation or misrepresentation of a social movement and what it means to take a political stand. What makes this collection magnetic is the measured way that Leung unpacks his own roles—witness, outsider, American, and translator—in the Hong Kong protests. “I can’t declare myself ‘for’ or ‘against,’ ” Leung writes. “These two words are as useless as ‘us’ and ‘them’ in the face of understanding, in the face of all our failures to understand each other.”
Publishers Weekly

“These reflective last lines, “even I spend my best years / in a golden future’s cage” sit the reader squarely in impassibility: the promise of a better tomorrow can become today’s trap. Through a present tense, imperfect statement, not “I spent my best years” or “I had been spending my best years,” but “I spend” as in “I am now spending,” Leung underscores the complexity of the cage’s confines.”—Laura Wetherington

“Eventually, the I is torn off”—thus, the blanks, redactions and erasures in Leung’s evocative book. Hong Kong has, Hongkongers have, been increasingly silenced. How even to speak, to be, if, when, there’s no more I, no more desire, no more public to speak of and to?...Leung conjures the supersession of universal suffrage by a cold dystopia when in one poem he iterates “But the machines insist. The / machines insist” before concluding in the next stanza with “Let me be / your country. Let me be nothing for you.” He evokes the Romantic utopia of the spotless pedestrian-populated protest thoroughfares when in another lyric he asks forgiveness for “my love for freedom // and for my foreign question: what is / freedom when divorced from / from?” 
Jason S. Polley

Written in and of the protest encampments of one of the most sophisticated Occupy movements in recent history, Goddess of Democracy attempts to understand the disobedience and desperation implicated in a love for freedom.”
Poetry Daily

“Henry Wei Leung’s Goddess of Democracy: an Occupy lyric is a powerful poetics on civil disobedience. The voice is both impassioned and detached, coalescing into prose passages or atomizing into words scattered on the page. Leung not only documents disobedience, but historicizes it, turns it to a global question, and asks what comes after.”—Cathy Park Hong, judge of the Omnidawn 1st/2nd Poetry Book Prize

HENRY WEI LEUNG is the author of a chapbook, Paradise Hunger (2012), and the translator of Wawa’s Pei Pei the Monkey King (2016). He earned his degrees from Stanford and the Helen Zell Writers’ Program, and has been the recipient of Kundiman, Soros, and Fulbright Fellowships. His poems, essays, and translations have appeared in such journals as the Crab Orchard Review, The Offing, Spillway, and ZYZZYVA. He is the Managing Editor of the Hawai’i Review.

Mon, 18 Jun 2018 12:44:35 -0500