1998 • 80 pp. • $11.00
“Sianne Ngai’s writings use, among others, devices of analogy and repetition to investigate philosophical questions about language. The pressures she puts on her conventional use of devices yields a third, and somewhat more enigmatic, trick of language, which I would call “migration.” Like birds of formal gestures, Ngai’s poetry and prose patterns, through distancing, questions about valued categories of knowledge. Relationships of science, language, and the body are part and parcel to the patterned movements of her texts, which please this reader above all because of their lucid sensibility, skepticism, and wit.”
“In her first collection, Sianne Ngai deftly deploys the language of capital to phenomenalize the betrayals and failures of both words and commodities. As the lines in these poems repeat and fold back on themselves, a narrative of loss & groundlessness accrues. This heady yet plaintive verse alternately builds and demolishes its own rhetorical architectures to emerge with a new “criteria” for poetic entitlement.”
“criteria is aerobics for the mind. Though it admits we are
——————-by weaker muscles
A high of quick surprise.”
“Please rendezvous with criteria. Its bodily captivation “of inside things” makes for unconcludable detective work, an enabling disautomatism of multiple borders and clues to scramble “the with” or “puncture the enough.” If we “say head must be the about,” we’re in for sympathetic debunking: —”or get to know your inner poodle.” Foolproof pronouns blur into affidavits of density, careful cavortings “solicited in between” by “microcosmic intercom,” rolodexing both protagonist and the space for our guilty presupposings— of “abashed’s luxe” with “night in arrears.””
Sianne Ngai is Professor of English at Stanford University.