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Yesterday was Bernadette Mayer's 75th birthday, but it was also the birthday of Jenny Zhang's new collection of poems, My Baby First Birthday, published by Portland's Tin House.

My Baby First Birthday follows Zhang's Sour Heart, a "frequently disgusting" book of short stories that won a couple big-time awards and earned high praise from good writers.

I only had the chance to read half the poems from the new book before handing off my copy to Jasmyne, but the few I read were, as ever, funny-sad as hell, soaked in bodily fluids, and full of thoughts on the indignities endured by women and Asian Americans. Though these were also cut with leftist critiques and critiques of leftists, plus meditations on acting like a baby as an adult (I think?), plus jokes. Luckily for me and for you, LitHub published a poem from the book called "'communication ≠ connection,'" which is more than worth your time.

By the way, if you're looking for a reason to clock out at 4:00 p.m. tomorrow (7 p.m. EST), Zhang will launch her book into the world at a Zoom party hosted by Brooklyn's Books Are Magic. Poet, screenwriter, and Food for Thot co-host Tommy Pico will serve as her book doula, and will likely read from one of his four very good books of poetry, all available at local bookstores.

In the meantime, a few notes:

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• Like a lot of contemporary poets, in “communication ≠ connection” Zhang presents a series of bold declarative sentences that appear disconnected at first—as if the reader were simply tuning into the random thoughts of the speaker—but that actually coalesce around a single concern. In this case, that concern is the interlocking structures that dominate the world: whiteness, capitalism, and sexism. Or, as bell hooks often had it, the white supremacist capitalist patriarchy.

• In the first three lines, Zhang's speaker offers a possible escape from these systems that the conclusion ultimately refuses—"what if there was something softer?" The speaker quickly dismisses the thought—"it’s not a vibe if it’s uncompensated"—and starts leveling some critiques at the inescapable systems, and then some critiques of those critiques.

• She gives a class and race analysis of who gets to be "sloppy" and who doesn't: "legacy girls for example look best undone / not me or my mother or my cousins or my aunties;" then acknowledges she doesn't have it as bad as others "at least I don’t worry about a bullet thru my brain;" then drops the saddest zinger ever: "at least when I talk I’m only silencing myself." After that, the speaker attempts to find strength in identifying and reconnecting with her ancestors, but finds some trouble there before "accepting some blame" with a self-critique of a moment of attempted assimilation. She then closes with jab at the self-serving effacements of men, and, somewhat like the Roger Reeves poem we looked at last week, an acknowledgment that apocalypse is the only actual escape from these horrors: "we were extinct so long ago / all you’re seeing now / is a dream that lives / only as long as the dreamer." Few poets can deliver that much sophisticated, depressing philosophy while cracking you up at the same time, so what choice do you really have except to buy all of her books.