By Sophia Terazawa
2022 Finalist for the Firecracker Awards in Poetry category.
A profound debut collection blending testimony and tribunal, Winter Phoenix creates a courtroom for colonial and linguistic reckoning after the U.S. war machine in Vietnam.
Publication Date: November 9, 2021
A book of testimonies in verse, Winter Phoenix is a collection of poems written loosely after the form of an international war crimes tribunal. The poet, a daughter of a Vietnamese refugee, navigates the epigenetics of trauma passed down, and across, the archives of war, dislocation, and witness, as she repeatedly asks, “Why did you just stand there and say nothing?” Here, the space of accusation becomes both lyric and machine, an “investigation” which takes place in the margins of martial law, the source material being soldiers’ testimonies given during three internationally publicized events, in this order—The Incident on Hill 192 (1966, Phù Mỹ District, Vietnam); The Winter Soldier Investigation (1971, Detroit, USA); and The Russell Tribunal (1966, Stockholm, Sweden; 1967, Roskilde, Denmark). Ultimately, however, Winter Phoenix is a document of resilience. Language decays. A ceremony eclipses its trial, and the radical possibilities of a single scream rises from annihilation.
Sophia Terazawa is a poet and performer of Vietnamese-Japanese descent working with ghosts. A recent graduate of the University of Arizona MFA program, she is the author of two chapbooks, I AM NOT A WAR (Essay Press), a winner of the 2015 Essay Press Digital Chapbook Contest, and Correspondent Medley (Factory Hollow Press), winner of the 2018 Tomaž Šalamun Prize. Additional honors include the Bill Waller Award for Creative Nonfiction, LaVerne Harrell Clark Fiction Award, and Monique Wittig Writer's Scholarship. Terazawa's work appears widely in journals and magazines, such as The Offing, New Delta Review, The Iowa Review, and The Rumpus. Her favorite color is purple.
“Wildly inventive in its experiments with abecedarian form and Morse code, the collection explores the complicated legacy of English, asking us what it means for court proceedings to unfold in the language of the abuser…Terazawa’s striking imagery draws attention to the fact that atrocity often unfolds amid beauty and asks us to consider what it means to find stunning images in times of trauma.” —Layla Benitez-James, Harriet Books (Poetry Foundation)
In her debut, Terazawa, daughter of a Vietnamese refugee, considers the colonial and linguistic legacy of the Vietnam war in a work comprising imagined testimonies in verse." –Publishers Weekly, Maya Popa
"What language can we use to describe atrocities mounting on top of atrocities? How do we organize the telling? What happens after? In Sophia Terazawa’s stunning and necessary debut collection of poetry, we begin with the letter A, we begin in Vietnam. Terazawa splinters, she reconstitutes, we witness the burn, the rise. There’s a limit to what can happen in a colonial language. In Winter Phoenix, Terazawa takes us beyond it." ––Susan Briante, Defacing the Monument
"I envy you, who are about to experience Sophia Terazawa’s Winter Phoenix, for the jagged, life-harrowing testimony / the searing counter-autopsy performed on the overspreading shadows of human extremity / and the enforced contortions and yet finally free revelations of language / that are about to incite and irrevocably transform your mind and especially your heart. Terazawa’s poetry—trial, exhibition, demonstration, transfiguration, ballad of descendant unquiet—is the hardest won form of love." ––Brandon Shimoda, Evening Oracle
"...Sophia Terazawa leans closer to the page, to its ink, deeper into the chest and throat, closer to the edges of her fingertips, so she can lift quiet into the imagination and thereby inaugurate a courtroom for reckoning, a chamber for transformation, a hill for a tattered flag, and a hill again, to run down, arms open, holding out an amulet of love."––Farid Matuk, This Is A Nice Neighborhood
"Sophia Terazawa’s profound debut collection Winter Phoenix invites us to seek out radical healing rituals as a means to persevere amidst the horrors of empire during the Vietnam War. Beneath its testimonies, exhibits, cross-examinations, and diagrams of war crime tribunals is the incantation of voices that can no longer remain unheard. The poet honors these voices that span “between documents and justice,” along with the ancestral and astral, toward greater possibilities of repair...the reader is compelled to not look away but then to ask: where does complicity end and healing begin? This collection guides us to listen deeper and encourages us to consider who speaks and is allowed to speak, who jurors the justice and receives the justice, who can and cannot answer the questions to make us whole."––Anthony Cody, Borderland Apocrypha
"With Winter Phoenix, Sophia Terazawa conducts a symphony of voices, documents, and archives in the form of lyric testimonies...Incisive and microscopic, Terazawa examines the intimacies of the unnamed speaker's matrilineal line while cross-examining those who were complicit in war crimes during the Resistance War Against America, or American War, or the "Vietnam War"...Terazawa is exacting in her visions of the personal and trans-national past. ––Diana Khoi Nguyen, Ghost Of