”Linguistically dexterous and formally astute, Mao’s tight and textured debut [Mad Honey Symposium] onjures an absurd, lush, occasionally poisonous world and the ravenous humans and animals that travel through it. . . . With echoes of Glück and Plath, Mao generates stunning landscapes where the flora and fauna reflect her presence and strength of voice.”  

 —Publishers Weekly, starred review

“The luminous image of a mouth ‘digesting light’ and later spitting ‘the light out because it sears you‘ underscores the ways Sally Wen Mao transforms sense (and sentence) into sensation. Like Sylvia Plath’s poems, these visionary poems are not only astute records of experience, they are themselves dazzling, verbal experiences. Worldly, wily, wise: Mad Honey Symposium is an extraordinary debut.”   

—Terrance Hayes

“In this dazzling debut,  Sally Wen Mao writes with a breathtaking assurance and linguistic brio. Reading her is like taking hits of pure oxygen: I’m energized by audacious splendors of language coupled with a stunning intelligence and depth. The charged surfaces are matched by the feral power of Mao’s subjects. Passionate and cerebral, surprising and funny, her poems fully deserve the descriptor brilliant.”   

—Alice Fulton

“This is one way to render the feeling—a massive nuclear reaction; an intensity of flavor that parts flesh—of losing yourself in Sally Wen Mao’s debut Mad Honey Symposium. It’s a “dendriform paradise” birthed from seeds of sensations of hunger, desire, and danger—among a host of other subjects—all fertilized by a visceral, textural synaesthesia...This constant flood of diction swells the brain and excites nerve endings. It's like being at a concert where the bass frequencies rise from the floor and suffuse the air; tightening your chest, setting your hair on end, and relaxing certain muscles that should stay constricted in polite company.”   

—Alex Crowley, The Literary Review

“The most exciting book in this trio...is Sally Wen Mao's debut, Mad Honey Symposium...She learned Plath's tension: the stakes are always high -- perhaps sometimes one gets a little sweaty in the heat in these lines -- and when there's humor, it is of a dark kind...she's catchy in other ways: there are plenty of portable lines here, esoteric truisms that would make excellent T-shirts, tattoos, or trucker hats. I’m tempted to tattoo “Even the thickest skin is still a membrane” on my chest. 

—Craig Morgan Teicher, Poetry Magazine

 

 

Reviews for Mad Honey Symposium

 

The Absolute

The Literary Review

Poetry Magazine

Publishers Weekly, starred review

Scout Poetry