Memorable art seems impervious to our faulty, though necessary, distinctions of what constitutes high and low culture. Shakespeare then was considered a baser art form than it is now. The classic stories of Dashiell Hammett were then considered leisure reading; now, they are timeless standards of hard-boiled detective fiction that some of our greatest films in America have aspired to (e.g. Chinatown
, or Miller’s Crossing
). Siel Ju’s poems also seem impervious to this odd and illogical distinction of high and low culture. These poems are formally jarring and require the eye and ear of reader to come into synch with its syntax and lines. Like Shakespeare’s double-entendres, they require a second guess, or a second regard, to see the way the poem functions vertically and horizontally. Ju’s works seem to take strongly into consideration the paradoxical relationship between the poet’s world and reality.
Look at the witty and wonderful world of juxtaposition in “Stilettos.” In this poem, there seem to be two voices, one of speaker and echo. There exists a wonderful fixation on Ovid’s Narcissus and Echo fable here, where Echo is not some pining lover of the insatiable and neglectful lover of the self, but a devious and glamorous diva of wordplay. The poem moves in labyrinthine fashion in any direction, and as we descend through its corridors, the asides to the right prove just as necessary and vital as the syntax in the left column. This proves to be astute and enjoyable wordplay, and there is a muscularity and dexterity to the syntax. Notions of high and low culture juxtapose also on the level of theme and imagery—the scrumptious lobster is replaced with dry chicken; the strut of one “in a bebe LBD” must yield to the poem’s grand declaration of truth: “Everything stole time.//bought on my dime”. These poems are both fun and inventive in their wit, but they are dark and haunting in their revelation of the abyss.