In-Depth Look: Franny Choi – “Split Mouth”

In-Depth Look: Franny Choi – “Split Mouth”

Appreciating poetry is often about patience: sitting with a poem, meditating on it, and re-reading it multiple times. With spoken word, we don’t always get a chance to do that. This series is about taking that chance, and diving a little deeper into some of the new poems going up on Button.

“Do you know that? What it means to come from catastrophe? To have no word for homeland except the crack of bone?”

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Write-up by Kyle “Guante” Tran Myhre


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Franny Choi’s work is always inspiring in its willingness to challenge the audience, to withhold easy answers and cultivate a more critical understanding of complex issues. This poem approaches that work by using personal narrative as an entry point into an exploration of something potentially abstract: how power isn’t just about armies and economics; it’s about whose definitions we accept, and who gets to set the terms of engagement for battles both physical and cultural.

That could be an essay. That could be a book. That could take any form– but as poetry, there’s a heightened awareness of the relationship between language and matter, between the symbol and the thing being symbolized. Note lines like “My mother’s tongue is a snipped string, a stripped stinger,” or “…except a myth that we were once whole, except a hole, rising from the ground, oh holy, holy the fractures through which lava comes…” I hear that wordplay, that use of assonance and consonance, that focus on homophones– not just as fun poetic pyrotechnics, but as the poem’s content (its interest in questions about language, identity, etc.) being elegantly reflected in its form.

One other thing I’d like to point out: the hand gesture at 2:47 is a fantastic example of how spoken word choreography doesn’t have to be super complex or flashy to be effective. That small movement does so much work as the poem approaches its conclusion.

Find more from Franny Choi here!

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While you’re here on our site, make sure to check out our books and merchandise in the Button Store, including Guante’s own book, as well as titles by Danez Smith, Neil Hilborn, Donte Collins, Sabrina Benaim, Melissa Lozada-Oliva, William Evans, Rudy Francisco, and our newest releases from Claire Schwartz and Stevie Edwards!

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