Review by Erika Rothberg
Michelle Wing’s poetry collection, Body on the Wall, is a haunting and deeply personal work. While this is her first collection, Michelle is not a novice writer by any means; she has been a writer for more than a decade and has had her creative nonfiction and poetry published. Her experience as a senior staff writer for The Calistoga Review has helped guide her as she published such a neatly compiled and carefully ordered collection; it was truly remarkable how thoughtfully organized it was. Wing’s collection is divided into four sections: Wind, Fire, Earth, and Water—with a quote to preface each section (each of which she explained beautifully in our interview with her back on May 14th) that perfectly introduces the tone of each segment.
One of the most remarkable things about Wing, both through her poems and through her domestic violence awareness campaign (Changing Hurt to Hope), is her resilience. Some of her pieces—particularly in the “Fire” section—can difficult to read because with each carefully chosen word, you cannot help but feel the hurt and anguish that inspired each poem. The statistics regarding rates of abuse, rape, and molestation are insanely (horrifically) high; far too many women have suffered through sexual abuse, but very few speak about their traumas. It takes an immense amount of courage to write, or speak, or even think about abuse, so the fact that Wing has published a collection that intimately discusses her experiences shows extraordinary emotional fortitude.
Favorite poems in the collection include “If You Asked Me,” “Zazen,” and “Even a Woman.” The first is a very sweet recollection of a woman fetching a dropped ring below a porch, getting covered in mud and dirt in the process, but laughing the whole time. The second is a longer piece that recounts a meditation session that is constantly interrupted by everyday nuisances. “Even a Woman” is a moving piece about being haunted by the memory of a former abusive partner. Body on the Wall has such a diverse range of poems, but all of the pieces are executed successfully. It is truly a well-written and beautifully crafted collection by a highly talented poet.
These deeply intense and personal pieces could possibly unhinge a whole web of emotions, except that they’re each so beautifully crafted and considerate in their plea for a collectively healed wisdom. With each section, a new breath of life is imbued in the reader, as well as the poet, by resurrecting past events and giving them a new space in which to transform. By fusing each of these poems together within each elemental section, they take on the strength of that element and eventually grow into one beautifully looming, yet grounded, body of work by the last page of the collection. These poems make up our world as we understand it—Wing’s world as she’s experienced it—and form an organic connection between the reader and poet. Like a closely-knit blanket, Wing has expertly covered us with her unabashed intimacy, where we find ourselves looking out through the different colors of yarn, at a world cloaked with heaviness, but flooded with light.
Michelle Wing has a B.A. in English from Montana State University, and an M.A. in Japanese Studies from the University of Washington. After graduate school, she received a fellowship from the Ministry of Education in Japan to study abroad, living in Osaka and Kyoto for three years. She is also a lay-ordained Soto Zen practitioner.
Wing’s poetry and creative nonfiction have appeared in Sinister Wisdom, The Gay & Lesbian Review, and several anthologies. In October 2012, two of her poems were shown in Sacramento in an exhibit at the California Museum,Creating Freedom: Art & Poetry of Domestic Violence Survivors, with the poem Dreamwork taking first place honors. Currently, she writes a monthly literary column for a small chain of newspapers in Northern California – Sonoma West Publishers. You can find her online at http://michellewing.com/