Silent Anatomies by Monica Ong


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7.5 x 10″, 96 pgs, perfect bound

ISBN: 978-1-888553-69-7

Price: $23.95

Silent Anatomies is a poetic-visual hybrid that traverse the body’s terrain, examining the phenomena of cultural silences. Whether it is shame obscuring the female body, the social stigma shrouding certain illnesses, or the cryptic stories of her ancestors, Monica Ong interrogates the agency of the daughter, who must decide whether or not to speak out. What happens to stories that go underreported, un-translated, or are completely erased?

Emerging from a series of art installations, these poems are as much visual journeys as they are lyrical haunts of medicine and memory. Pushing the boundaries of text and image, Ong employs a range of medical ephemera, from x-ray scans to anatomical drawings, to frame the power struggles and the illusion of indisputable fact as a way to carry all the fictions that make up our multi-cultural identities.

Praise for Silent Anatomies

In her sardonic, thus melancholic, Silent Anatomies, Monica Ong brilliantly skews the marking of surfaces. Writing—yes—but also defacement/effacement, surgical incision, racism. With text, photography, collage, and illustration, she maps the twisting way of familial shame; dissects metaphor; and hawks (and hocks) “Ancient Chinese Secrets” as medicinal cakewalks (who’s selling what to whom?). Slippery. —Douglas Kearney

If you combined Marilyn Chin’s audacious underminings of history and gender with W.G. Sebald’s image-gathering forays into memory and loss, you would get Silent Anatomies. In lush visual assemblages and poems that are ironic and moving, Monica Ong delves into the often-silent selves that every self carries. In Ong’s case, these selves include the figures of her Chinese and Filipino backgrounds, the ghosts and demons of familial and cultural history, and the present American self grappling with race and identity. “There is a way to cultivate birds from torn things,” Ong claims in one poem. And, on the evidence of Silent Anatomies, nothing could be truer. This book is as ambitious and thrilling as they come.” —Rick Barot

Excerpts from Silent Anatomies

Bo Suerte

Mother, each day I look for you. Try to recognize you in soup and sepia.
As it happens in other lives, you come to me in secret.
There were no elegant stairs in your childhood home, and this young woman, the nanny.
Just the way her brows bend with humidity.

I easily identify all four of your sisters in their von Trapp dresses,
and both brothers, sporting crisp white linens.
In your absence stands a son, slightly leaning,
toes ablister from your brother’s too big shoes.

You tell me Grandfather was ashamed.
He didn’t want people shaking their heads, their tongues clicking:
Bo suerte.

Bo, which in Hokkien means without, or not enough.
It does explain the hoarding, I suppose. Dusty magazines stacked into pillars. Grandmother’s purse of purloined sporks.
The way your long locks fell like black feathers onto the kitchen floor.

Suerte, is Catholic for karma, cruel as hunger, heavy as stone.
The fact of five daughters was the immutable kind.
Payback, perhaps, for an unsavory ancestor in an imperial court?
Or something during the war that Grandfather never told us?

Hidden like your graceful arms in a brother’s long sleeves.
Your boyface gazes at me. I place flowers at your feet, wet with pus.
For the daughter, you, but not only you.

Portrait as battle. The terror of asymmetry. This shortage of sons.

Monica Ong

Monica Ong, Kore Press Author, Photo by Matthew Fried

Monica Ong is a visual artist and poet whose hybrid image-poems juxtapose diagram and diary, bearing witness to silenced histories of the body. She completed her MFA in Digital Media at the Rhode Island School of Design and is also a Kundiman poetry fellow.

Her work has been published in several journals including the Lantern Review,Drunken Boat, Glassworks MagazineLoaded Bicycle, Tidal Basin Review, and the Seneca Review. She has also been exhibiting artwork for over a decade nationally and internationally.

Ms. Ong’s debut collection, Silent Anatomies, was selected by poet Joy Harjo as winner of the Kore Press First Book Award. Of the collection, Ms. Harjo noted: “This is one of the most unique poetry collections. It’s a kind of graphic poetry book, but that’s not exactly it either. Poetry unfurls within, outside and through images. They establish stark bridges between ancestor and descendant time and presence. This collection is highly experimental and exciting.”

For more information and other work by Monica Ong, please visit her website:

Readings & Events

Women’s Work @ WCSU
Thu, Jan 26, 2017 4:00am -Sun, Mar 12, 2017 4:00am
Western Connecticut State University Art Gallery
WCSU to host Women’s Work, which highlights the work of alumni artist of the Vermont Studio Center. Reception: January 26, 6-8 pm


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