Ame Ai, Valley of the Mind’s Shadow. Baltimore: PublishAmerica. 2009.
Reviewed by Yearn Hong Choi
Ame Ai a young woman who has been writing her poems from her high school days. This book based on Psalm 23 is her second poetry book in two years. She is a very productive poet. Poems in this book are products of her views and thoughts on her life from her Christian perspective. In it, she confesses that she is a sinful woman. No one is free from the sin, anyway.
I read a couple of poems with a great interest in this poetry book, because they are on the Virginia Tech tragedy triggered by a mentally sick Korean youth several years ago. The killer’s mental illness and possible prevention of such a tragedy has been seriously discussed and still is.
Ame Ai seems sympathetic to Cho who was a killer. Cho’s depression was understandable to her. A South Korean immigrant’s son could be depressed from his American life. What could be the cause of the depression? This young poet wrote: Cho was no body. She seems to lament the fact that Nikki Giovanni, famed poet and Cho’s teacher in the English Department, could not reduce or remove his pain. Ai suggested that we must be able to live like a Nobody and die like a Nobody. It is sad! (“Ismail Ax,” pp. 27-28).
In the following poem, she made an explanation of the depression: even mother is not interested in her daughter’s friends and lovers. She is naturally interested in her daughter’s life. She cannot expand her interest into her friends and lovers, because she does not have time and energy to go beyond her daughter. It is desirable and ideal for all mothers take care of her daughter and her daughter’s friends and lovers. They may not be the mother’s favorite friends and lovers.
This reviewer likes one three-line poem as an extension from the depression. It is sad but witty.
Only know how to die.
To Pessimism (“The Illusion of Hope,” p. 32)
The second part of this poetry book is titled under “Redemption/Salvation” under which I find another short poem that contains poetic metaphors with very common language. This poem shows eloquently her view and attitude toward poetry and literature. There are million different views and interpretations on the things we see. There are no mathematical answers to the human and social questions. We could reach the Moon in nine years, but we never reach the Utopia in million years or so.
Literature is a heated argument
Resolving into some consensus.
Miscommunicated through diverse minds,
An experience like the Bible. (“Interpretation,” p. 67)
Ame Ai’s poems are readable. Her language is not sophisticated as the poems appeared in the New Yorker. Her poems are not sophisticated at all. Some are naïve. Some are hilarious. In some, she is agonized with her young life. She is still struggling with her “boyfriends” or “lovers,” most confusing two words in English to me. I hope and wish she grow up as a good poet.
I hope and wish she read Psalm 23 again:
Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I fear no evil; for Thou art with me; Thy rod and Thy staff, they comfort me.
Ame Ai may be a good Christian.