A Lesser Love by Ej Koh
LSU Press, 2016
Reviewed by Tiana Hodzic
Ej Koh leaves herself unraveled and vulnerable on every page of her collection of poems, A Lesser Love. Painting reality raw with abrupt, blatant, and simple language, there is a holistic progression through the three sections: heaven, war and love. Exposed is a life lived in the presence of fear and warfare; love and neglect; and immigration. Koh depicts the lives many live behind closed doors and grieving hearts. The dynamics of culture are intertwined within the collection of poems much akin to how culture is intertwined in Koh’s own life. Most moving and compelling is Koh’s section on war:
“The history book says girls were dragged
from their houses and tied to telephone poles
followed by unspeakable torture…
I get the paper and the front page
talks about why Korean girls use plastic surgery
and white men, the title reads, “South Korea:
The Plastic Surgery Capital.” They put their money
where their mouths– and eyes and noses– used to be” (43).
This stanza exemplifies how upfront Koh is with the realities of her experience as a Korean woman. Quite blunt, the reader is confronted with brutal truth.