“Erudite and imaginative”
—Mary Karr, Oxford University, Author of How to Look at Art
“One admires the Dionysian spirit in Mhyana’s writing
as well as the large-scale intellect that ranges over various cultures”
—Major Jackson, Guggenheim fellow; Poetry Editor, The Harvard Review
The Wonder Turner is a meditation on time, vision, and delusion. Giotto’s fresco The Death of St. Francis in Florence, for example., falls prey to moisture and pollutants and flakes to the floor of the basilica over time. Even the eyes of the mourning monks fall away, leaving blank swathes on the fresco like blindfolds. In time, the narrative of the artwork will be completely lost and the monks, what is left of them, will have become gloriously senseless, unaware that they are in mourning. Another essay explores sight from a different perspective: My ex-husband and I have always been good at creative visualization. Before we quit drugs and got married he’d place tabs of acid on his eyes to see things that weren't there and I'd lay blank sheets of photographic paper on the cornea of developing solution to conjure images. I had prescription eyes that allowed me to see better, and prescription panic pills that allowed me to play blind.
Dreaming in night vision / pillow book
Elegiac and childlike, Dreaming in Night Vision is an effervescent meditation on her crumbling first marriage written with subtlety, imagination, and bite. As Mhyana tackles themes of war, isolation, otherness, memory, grief, clinical depression, sexuality, loyalty, and parenthood. Often called naked or raw, the hybrid collection of essays, chapter excerpts, prose fragments and poems in this chronological series of vignettes are rich with magical realism and wonder, whether describing acts of love or the brutality of the military emergency room. Dreaming in Night Vision takes the reader on a journey from Texas to Japan, Amsterdam, Germany, France, Afghanistan, Korea, and England. With nods to Hundertwasser, Twombly, Horace, Dante, Thoreau, Dickinson, and others, Mhyana’s prose draws upon wide-ranging sources such as Burton’s Anatomy of Melancholy, medieval superstition and lore, Victorian optical illusions, Giotto’s frescoes, adult dating sites, and military codes of conduct.
The Wishing bones / poems
(Pudding House Press Winner)
The Wishing Bones is a collection of poems at once brutal and tender. A long poem brings into focus the interaction between Afghan children and American troops who roll through the desert in convoys, throwing candy to the children while kicking them off the vehicle in case they’ve been strapped with explosives. In a eulogy for a lost friend, Mhyana writes: The hemp's choke-hold wrought siege warfare, starving breath and syllable. Like a child you choked in twine’s breach birth. A magical realist poem imagines a street vendor’s grasshopper made from folded palm fronds coming to life while still attached to the frond: In the town square I freed it, snipped the umbilicus that connected It still to the plant kingdom it was plucked from and watched
as it practiced being free. Mhyana plagiarizes a garden catalog in an erotic poem, then switches tone to memorialize an ancient battle: In Ayuthaya, ancient Thai capital, Buddha’s severed head is entangled in the roots of a Banyan tree, swept into the curve of a wooden elbow. Soon the head will be taller than it once was, dwarfing the centuries-dead Burmese who sent it rolling, its new legs taking root in the memory of battleground while the phi ton mai—ghosts in the tree—adopt the face as their own.
Echo borealis/ poems
From a suite of poem-prayers and curses written on the poet’s solo pilgrimage across Europe—a punch-drunk antidote to homelessness following deportation from the UK and exile in Italy—to a requiem for civilian casualties at Hiroshima; from a meditation on the etiquette and life span of grieving to a crown of sonnets about a miracle cure using dreadlocks to raise the dead—each stanza diffuse as the grenade thrown in her husband’s path; from poem-medicine prescribed by medieval poet-priests to peeling back the palimpsest of Florentine art history; from a paeon to the demons within us (the criminal tangled soul) to the gods within the chrysalis who shiver off their skins.
Spikeseed: six years in rural japan/ Poems (Bad moon books)
The poem Shadows & Stone was chosen to represent Shadow Day, a world-wide commemoration of Japanese survivors of Hiroshima and Nagasaki. Shadows & Stone is a poem that explores how a Japanese mother became incorporeal in an instant, her shadow imprinted on a city street— and how female survivors of the atomic bomb bore lifelong scars of cherry trees, cranes, or Mt Fuji on their bodies—the patterns of their silk kimonos indelibly tattooed on their skin from the heat of the blast. Mhyana delves into young motherhood in the rural Aomori Prefecture in the north of Honshu, the history of sushi in the delectable poem Swallow the Ocean, the ancient Japanese art of Ukiyo-e, and the tradition of confessing one’s guilt to a small wooden Kokeshi doll, then sending it out into the ocean. From Mamasans counting the cost of fruit at the farmers’ market on abacuses to dreams of becoming moon thieves with her two daughters, Spikeseed is a haunting first collection. Mhyana is a poet to watch. —Tamara Kaye Sellman, Editor, Margin: Journal of Magical Realism