Forage: a set of poems for our age

by carlyrough

Rita Wong’s Forage is a hard-hitting, compact set of poems describing and highlighting the popular and modern topic of environmental awareness. She focuses on the horrific obscenities that take place each day that contribute to the degeneration of earth’s biomes, and hasten the depletion of natural resources. She describes consumerism as the environment’s most vicious enemy, and today’s public’s most pesky and dangerous addiction. Her style throughout is generally free-verse, and takes on many different aesthetic forms. It’s originality and quirkiness shines though with a lack of capital letters, and handwritten-looking notes framing some of the pieces.

Sometimes the abstract nature of free-verse poetry can have a confusing and disenchanting effect on the reader. Although the poems are abstract, what with the Chinese characters and seemingly random formatting, I believe Wong managed to clearly deliver a message by using direct language and clear metaphors. What separates Rita’s collection from others like it is her impeccable use of imagery as a tactic for both grabbing hold of the reader’s attention and entertaining all the while. Even looking only at the first poem, “Value Chain”, in which each line serves as a building block for the entire message. “Cartons of cigarettes wait[ing] for lungs to reside in” combines beautiful writing with hard-hitting images of waste and death.

Decidedly my favorite line of poetry in the collection is from the poem, “Reverb”. Rita writes, “She stumbled through the mall in a consumerist trance until she decided to slice up her credit card in time to the muzak”. This line speaks the volumes that it does because it applies to everyone. Every day the public is bombarded with brand names, advertising, and plots to empty wallets, and Rita recognizes she can relate to every reader living in the modern world with this statement. In my opinion, that is one of the greatest strengths within Wong’s works, the ability to include everyone without a condescending anyone directly.

word count: 322


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