Publisher Marketing: Jenny Liou’s debut poetry collection conjoins the world of cage fighting and the traumas of immigration
In Muscle Memory, Washington-based poet Jenny Liou grapples with violence and identity, beginning with the chain-link enclosure of the prizefighter’s cage and radiating outward into the diasporic sweep of Chinese American history. Liou writes with spare, stunning lyricism about how cage fighting offered relief from the trauma inflicted by diaspora’s vanishing ghosts; how, in the cage, an elbow splits an eyebrow, or an armbar snaps a limb, and, even when you lose a fight, you’ve won something: pain. Liou places the physical manifestation of violence in her sport alongside the deeper traumas of immigration and her own complicated search for identity, exploring what she inherited from her Chinese immigrant father—who was also obsessed with poetry and martial arts. When she finally steps away from the cage to raise children of her own, Liou begins to question how violence and history pass from one generation to the next, and whether healing is possible without forgetting.