Name Date of Birth Emergency ContactValerie Hsiung
November 2020 (out now)
Published by The Gleaners Unpress
Name Date of Birth Emergency Contact is a promiscuous, labyrinthine hybrid that navigates and collects itself across poetry, dystopian fairy tale, choreography and performance score, soliloquy, origin story, dirge, oath, terms and conditions, and evidentiary material. To read this book is to witness the full mask-making force of the poet caught between ancient hierarchies and 21st-century cultural collateral as she investigates gender, race, technological mediation, and language itself, it is to journey into the personal-political-mystical field with a time-sensitive puzzle for a map. In poems that move from psychotic laughter to psychic pain in a millisecond, from accumulations of artifice to disappearing knowledge of homeopathy, and from powerlessness to complete self-possession, Hsiung offers up her own body to test the full capacities of the vehicle.
Read the whole book as a pdf here.
Listen to the author read selections from the book here.
“In Name Date of Birth Emergency Contact, a shift in the idiom spawns an alternate reality. Say rock, paper, needle and reveal the Englishes in which we’re not surprised to learn tear gas sterilizes, the diagnosis is available, words can actually communicate pain. In which walkway and cell are obvious synonyms. Hsiung’s slang reveals an English capable of mapping traffic in women and the traffic in trash: coin slot, washing machine, gluts. Wishing machine. This proliferation of speech vaudevillian and oracular as Joyelle McSweeney and Alice Notley, cool-brained as Adrienne Rich, sure-footed as Sarah Vap, grotesque and precise as Kim Hyesoon or Hiromi Ito, playful and piercing, by turns imperious, impervious, and totally permeable interrogates the violent pageants we’re obligated to call living, while creating the phenomenological space in which we may relate anew. The composite you of this book suggests a formation in which I might eventually find myself able to hold and hold out. Where I/thou can operatically travel the extremes of two-headed time--Jurassic, futuristic--it also checks the singular moment of missed opportunity. Finally again, two demigoddess girls throwing voided checks at the paparazzi. Spit-take funny, soul-wrenchingly accurate Hsiung crafts this physically inhabitable tome. Play it: tome, time, tomb, womb, to me...”
- Danielle Pafunda
“Name Date of Birth Emergency Contact’s structure is a recurring fever dream; a reeling, tearing whir of ‘hospital English,’ ‘vesuviated faces’ and operatic leprosies during a late capitalist ‘germ time’ of ‘ubiquitous emergencies.’ In all this stunning leering and wheeling, Valerie Hsiung resists blur; her searing details take an uncanny clarity, a grotesque accumulation that places the terrible absurdity of life and death under colonialism in high-def. These are her stakes. This book is a walloping critical lamentation of local excesses with global tolls, a prescient account of life in pandemics, a sickbed stretched over the world with the patient still in it, racked and furiously clutching the bill. Hsiung is here to tell us what this mess costs. It isn’t pretty.”
- Douglas Kearney
“Never has the apocalyptic nightmare of technocratic neoliberal capitalism been more clearly rendered than in Valerie Hsiung's Name Date of Birth Emergency Contact, a dizzying hybrid collection of myths and folktales gone awry, theory and art critique, personal account, and attempt to define what it means to be ‘a very bad poet.’ Bold, fiercely innovative, and infinitely chaotic, this collection depicts what it feels like to be caught in the talons of 21st century late capitalism. It seeks to pry our voices open from its grasp, revelling in what is possible when these systems break down, and I believe her vision. When Hsiung declares, ‘Let our bodies belong to the quake right now forever,’ I catch myself saying aloud, ‘Yes, let us.’”
- Muriel Leung
Valerie Hsiung is a poet, writer, performer, and the author of five full-length poetry and hybrid writing collections--hummingbird et partygirl (Essay Press, 2021), outside voices, please (CSU, 2021), Name Date of Birth Emergency Contact (The Gleaners, 2020), YOU & ME FOREVER (Action Books, 2020), and e f g (Action, 2016). Her work can be found in places such as The Nation, The Believer, New Delta Review, The Adroit Journal, Ghost Proposal, Black Sun Lit, The Rumpus, Chicago Review, jubilat, Denver Quarterly, and beyond. She has performed at Treefort Music Festival, Common Area Maintenance, The Poetry Project, Poetic Research Bureau, and Shapeshifter Lab, and her writing has been commissioned by Montez Press Radio and Downs & Ross. Born in the Year of the Earth Snake and raised by Chinese-Taiwanese immigrants in Cincinnati, Ohio, she now lives between nowhere and somewhere.
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