Dive into How Do I Look?’s poetry to experience a life at odds

How Do I Look?

Sennah Yee, 79 pages, Metatron Press, [email protected], $15 plus postage

“How do I look?” Holly Golightly asks in the 1961 film, Breakfast at Tiffany’s. In the scene, Audrey Hepburn steps out of a bedroom (large brim hat, black dress), still fiddling with a pair of earrings. It’s a picture of a woman mid-grooming, in no rush, tinkering with her appearance, her self. How do I look? The plainest, most anticipant expression of desire to be seen, clocked in by the first person, “I.” A desire that Sennah Yee’s poetry collection traces in different forms: addressing film (Sixteen Candles, Fast & Furious, Ex-Machina, etc.), remembering video games (GTA IV, Dollz Mania, Sims), and personal anecdotes (skinny-dipping, purchasing a fake pearl necklace, owning Mulan paraphernalia, applying for jobs, putting on makeup).

To read Yee’s poetry feels intimate. In small vignettes written in prose-poetry, it captures what it means to live in a body that is distorted by the tensions of visibility and invisibility.

“How come my alienation isn’t soft and beautiful?” she writes in the poem, “Lost in Translation (2003)”.

There’s poignancy to Yee’s writing, that lingers in the brevity of experience, memory, and the ways language is able to hold and carry both. It’s a style that is carried throughout the collection, most often when Yee’s speaker addresses the media that has surrounded and consumed her identity, asking: How do I look? Do you see me? Is it enough? Or, perhaps beyond that, do I want to be seen? And if so, how do I want to be seen?

Such a desire is parasitical. How many times can the Asian, queer female body see herself in media but never fully? For Yee, she’s in fragments waiting to reclaim everything for herself; like looking through the webcam, a selfie, she writes: “During my MSN days, I feel prettier looking at a webcam than looking at a mirror. Looking at myself look at myself being looked at.”