Ward Toward (Yale Series of Younger Poets #118)
Yale Younger Poet Cindy Juyoung Ok resolutely searches for hope in spaces of fragmentation
“Ok’s métier in this lovely debut is an elegantly discursive, analytical style studded with ironies.”—David Woo, Literary Hub
“There are places,” Cindy Juyoung Ok writes, “where shaking is expected, loss is / assumed.”
In the 118th volume of the Yale Series of Younger Poets, Ok moves assuredly between spaces—from the psych ward to a prison cell, from divided countries to hospice wards. She plumbs these institutions of constraint, ward to ward, and the role of each reality’s language, word to word, as she uncovers fractured private codes and shares them in argument, song, and prayer.
Using visual play in invented forms, Ok counters familiar narratives about mental illness, abuse, and death, positing that it is not a person’s character or will that makes survival possible, but luck, and other people. The poems disrupt expectation with the comedy of institutionalized teens, nostalgia after the climate crisis, tenderness in a nursing home, and the wholeness of faltering Englishes. How do pagodas, Seinfeld, ransoms, swans, and copays each make or refuse meaning? Ok’s resolute, energized debut shifts language’s fissures to reassemble them into a new place of belonging.
Praise for Ward Toward (Yale Series of Younger Poets #118)
“With brio and sorrow, Ok’s book investigates such subjects as hospitalization for a major depressive disorder, the anti-Asian Atlanta spa shootings, and the failures of romantic and familial love. . . . Ok’s métier in this lovely debut is an elegantly discursive, analytical style studded with ironies.”—David Woo, Literary Hub
“Cindy Juyoung Ok’s debut moves through spaces seamlessly—psych ward, hospice care, nation upon nation—and unites them through an impressive articulation of their violences.”—Summer Farah, The Millions, “Must-Read Poetry: Winter 2024”
“Ward Toward is a piercing debut: a startle, a fissioning. These poems fragment, cleave and cluster, seek new grammars, strategize not for cohesion but proximity, convergence.”—Donika Kelly, author of The Renunciations
“Reading Cindy Juyoung Ok’s poems is like witnessing the Big Bang in close-up slow motion—infinite collisions of syntax, thought and emotion—pyrotechnic and glorious. This debut volume spectacularly showcases an utterly singular poetic sensibility.”—Monica Youn, author of From From
“A delectable, scintillating read that leaps long into strangely elegant foray. In the dwelled, survived, and warded world, this poetic is utterly remarkable and calls for a rainstorm of awards.”—Allison Adelle Hedge Coke, author of Look at This Blue
“Cindy Juyoung Ok is a wonderfully inventive poet. . . . She writes in many forms, some invented, and her constant impulse is to break the frame, to escape oppressive containment.”—Rae Armantrout, from the Foreword to Ward Toward