Lantern Review: A Journal of Asian American Poetry
Issue 1 | June 2010

The movement from the first discursive sentence into a maze of associations creates a cut-up feel to the text, a certain understroke of organization. Shin’s use of colons repeats later in the poem: “carriage: skirt: drawers: shades: ghost: confusion: lifting”. The effect is quite haunting as we are made to fill in the association—relating both to typewriter, but also to something more ghostly. Following the above line, the poem shifts again:

The native carries goods to market to be bartered. She returns home with rice, salt,
cloth. She strips to the waist at the river, singing work songs while beating clothing
against wet rocks in the sun. Over time the basket shapes to the curve of her skull
but we do not know if her head responds to pressure in the same manner.

The relationship between women and work becomes transformed in this poem. While the reader might imagine that women would only use the typewriter for “occasional typing” or that the work for a native woman is to carry goods, Shin shows that writing becomes something more to those with access, a space for memory and protest, expression and explosion.

The poem above really acts as a carriage for the other poems, drawing and shading our experience of Skirt Full of Black. In the serial poem “ECONOMIC MIRACLES,” there’s a similar collage of discourse. The first section begins with “Also this confusion about Korean names is further complicated by the fact that Korean women retain their maiden name even after marriage” and ends:

Legally abandoned
foster child
eligible for adoption
legal resident alien
naturalized citizen
alien registration number A35300104