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Beast at Every Threshold

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An unflinching shapeshifter, Beast at Every Threshold dances between familial hauntings and cultural histories, intimate hungers and broader griefs. Memories become malleable, pop culture provides a backdrop to glittery queer love, and folklore speaks back as a radical tool of survival. With unapologetic precision, Natalie Wee unravels constructs of “otherness” and names language our most familiar weapon, illuminating the intersections of queerness, diaspora, and loss with obsessive, inexhaustible ferocity—and in resurrecting the self rendered a site of violence, makes visible the “Beast at Every Threshold.”

Beguiling and deeply imagined, Wee’s poems explore thresholds of marginality, queerness, immigration, nationhood, and reinvention of the self through myth.

102 pages, Paperback

First published April 5, 2022

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About the author

Natalie Wee

4 books77 followers
Natalie Wee is a queer creator. She wrote two poetry collections, Our Bodies & Other Fine Machines (San Press, 2021) and Beast At Every Threshold (Arsenal Pulp Press, 2022).

Her work explores themes of race, gender, queerness, and nationhood, and is deeply informed by grassroots communities. Born in Singapore to Malaysian parents, she is currently a settler in Tkaronto.

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5 stars
81 (26%)
4 stars
110 (36%)
3 stars
87 (28%)
2 stars
21 (6%)
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4 (1%)
Displaying 1 - 30 of 77 reviews
Profile Image for Jack Edwards.
Author 1 book205k followers
January 1, 2023
3.75 stars rounded up -- so many gorgeous, tender poems (my personal highlight was In My Next Life as a Fruit Tree) but I'm not sure all the experimentation worked 100% of the time. Overall, though, I enjoyed this poetic exploration of "otherness".
Profile Image for Seigfreid Uy.
151 reviews406 followers
October 23, 2022
beast at every threshold was SUCH a joy to read. when @arsenalpulp reached out to send me an ARC all the way from canada — i was cautious, ocean vuong is my absolute favorite writer of all time and has allowed me to learn and appreciate poetry. but how well can i process a whole other collection from a poet i didn’t yet have the pleasure to know?

spoiler: i fell in love with this collection, and i do not mean that lightly.

let me count the ways — it is a poetry collection that explores themes of queerness and identity from a southeast asian perspective with chinese heritage. it looks at the feeling of otherness and connection from this point of view.

let me continue — it utilizes pop culture references that i hold near and dear to me, namely: ocean vuong, the avatar franchise, phoebe bridgers, mo dao zu shi (okay, more the untamed), and studio ghibli.

and to close — natalie brought elements of her background and heritage and a beautifully intimate way, integrating chinese characters and malay words (that are similar to filipino) that made the reading experience more intimate since i had the pleasure of having my own background to source from

but beyond all of this — natalie wee brilliantly mixes inspiration and originality. from the pop culture references that she injected a unique point of view on (she cites the different works that have inspired some of her works at the acknowledgments part), to the wonderfully original stylistic choices and word choices she makes — you have poems done in cross-words, read three-ways, creative breaks, etc. that make an already engaging poetry collection, so much more.

i have far more thoughts on this and i’m excited to do a multiple-part review/annotation dump on the many times this collection made me feel.

it is beautiful and worth all of your time.
Profile Image for CaseyTheCanadianLesbrarian.
1,154 reviews1,465 followers
December 13, 2022
A truly incredible collection of poetry. Themes include queer love and desire; pop culture; immigration; racism and being othered; pets and plants; diaspora; myth and folklore; parenthood and childbirth.

Intertextual in nature, the poems often explicitly reference other poet's work, from Sappho to Ocean Vuong, as well as musicians including Mitski and Phoebe Bridgers.

They are delightfully and fiercely innovative in their form, style, and word play. One poem is written as a crossword with clues. More than one is written in multiple columns/stanzas justified left and right so it's open to being read straight across both columns or one column at a time -- or both, of course. 

Wee has a talent for clever line breaks that appear to end on one word only to supply the second part of the word on the next line, changing the meaning as you first read it. For example: "I understand how one mistakes the kind / -ling of lovers for a fuse."

Her word choice is often delightfully uncanny, making mundane words strange and wonderful in their unexpected use. I'm not surprised to see the collection has a blurb from Billy-Ray Belcourt, who has a similar ease and play with language that makes the old and familiar look new and curious. 

I loved this and highly recommend it!
Profile Image for naviya .
259 reviews6 followers
January 8, 2023
- what a lovely collection!! i love so many poems
- this collection has some shape(?) poems and read-three-ways poems which i enjoyed alot
- alot of sensory images, a lot of violence, a lot of detail : excellent
- my fave poems: in defence of my roommate's dog, bordersong, in my next life as a fruit tree, 10 years after diagnosis, the korrasami poems and the one with the phoebe bridgers title
Profile Image for Jennifer.
1,028 reviews57 followers
August 2, 2023
Arsenal Pulp has become one of my favorite publishers, and when I was looking at their spring releases, I knew I needed to pre-order this one. The cover already had me set up for an easy sell, but then the blurb had phrases like "familial hauntings and cultural histories," "glittery queer love," "folklore speaks back as a radical tool of survival," and "inexhaustible ferocity."

This book absolutely did not disappoint.

I was already five-starring this in my brain with a long list of favorite poems noted that I wanted to return to, when halfway through the collection I arrived at "Wei Ying Tells Me About Resurrection" and !!! Wei Ying brainspace already has my heart half-flayed open AND THEN IT CUTS FURTHER. "Choose a hell of your own making over the hell that unmakes you." Insert keysmash of overwhelming emotion here.

AND THEN THAT ISN'T EVEN MY FAVORITE POEM IN THE COLLECTION. That place being currently held by "Listen I Love You Joy is Coming." "How much of the world must we pass through to arrive at ourselves?" with its nods to the new ways we found to show care for each other in the pandemic.

I always say I will reread collections but rarely do, but this one I WILL.
Profile Image for Clara.
57 reviews19 followers
July 26, 2023
incredibly imaginative collection of poems that takes the reader on a journey into queer longing and loneliness, familial histories, mythologies and a glittering assemblage of pop culture references ( we get Mitski and Phoebe Bridgers and Wong Kar-Wai and so much more). could also file this book under convinced Felix has a sixth sense when it comes to gifting books, he didn't even know it had a crossword puzzle poem !!!
Profile Image for Mel A Ninny.
287 reviews21 followers
January 31, 2023
I don't usually read a lot of poetry books. I've always enjoyed poetry but sort of closed myself off to it, and I'm pretty picky. Classic poetry can be lovely, but gets tiresome if you have a whole book of it. Modern poetry can be too pat and obvious.

I found Beast at Every Threshold at a bookstore. I loved the cover, read one poem, and then the author's blurb, and went for it.

This is a beautiful collection. It has a bit of everything--philosophy, connection, nature, bodies, queerness, immigration, power, emotion. There were lots of bits I read over and over to savor them, and I sent snippets to friends. I think that's proof of a good poetry book; that immediate desire to share the feeling it evoked.

Really look forward to more from Natalie Wee, and honestly, more poetry in general, now.
Author 5 books6 followers
July 17, 2022
“we arrive at a kinder fiction by surrendering the self / to a new era. what must survive. what must survive us. an hour, a pendulum admits, / can last lifetimes, really, depending on how many you’ve lived. so perhaps alive at all / is alive enough.” (from EN ROUTE TO THE SIXTH STATION, CHIHIRO COUNTS THE CLOUDS.)

so tender, so honest, so sharp, so lovely. Natalie Wee is a bright & brilliant force of nature.
Profile Image for Viv (read.withviv).
107 reviews14 followers
Read
February 1, 2023
no rating because I’m not a huge poetry reader and don’t think I was able to grasp majority of the poems. The ones I did understand, I did enjoy though!
This collection of poems makes me want to read more poetry 🫶🏻

Poems I enjoyed:
“Can You Speak English?”
Self-Portrait as Monster Dating Sim
In My Next Life as a Fruit Tree
When My Grandmother Begins to Forget
Profile Image for Ann Marie.
35 reviews2 followers
March 23, 2022
This is a beautiful and haunting collection of poetry and prose. Natalie touches on her own diaspora, queerness, love of different forms, anti-Asian hate, rage, familial struggle and teachings, grief and other intersectional radical thoughts. Her talent to be able to translate all of these themes in a digestible and comforting way is outstanding. I really appreciate and love this book. I’ll always think about it and will definitely read it again.
Profile Image for Molly Duplaga.
72 reviews
May 24, 2023
i honestly feel like i raced through this collection and maybe want to give it at least one more read through, though maybe perhaps i just wasn’t clicking with it. sometimes i’ll read a collection and i don’t find myself pulled in, but the more i think about it and the second time i read it i’m able to appreciate it more (i guess less about this collection and more about how i read poetry)

BUT

there were a lot of moments that i really enjoyed, and i appreciate how wee experimented with different formats. i love being able to find different meanings because you can read the poem in different ways based upon how the poet has formats their stanzas/lines (plus visually it’s just more fun). i also enjoyed wee’s pop-culture references (such as the legend of korra and the grandmaster of demonic cultivation/the untamed). even though those poems could still be meaningful without understanding the references, i liked it because i feel like i don’t always get those references because they are made to things that are more obscure/niche (or are these niche??).

also in terms of content, the threads i picked up the most on were wee’s commentary of memory and family heritage, specifically how the memory of our parents/grandparents can set the stage for our own existence, as well as our own memories of them. then too i saw these ideas about memory being explored in poems about romantic (queer) love, but i think those poems held more wistfulness.

ok so maybe writing this review made me realize how much i appreciated the content and craft of this collection! i hope more people give it a read, i picked it up because i saw it was nominated for a lammy.
Profile Image for Lulu.
517 reviews27 followers
July 1, 2022
What an ambitious and stunning collection of poetry, maybe my favourite that I've ever read? There was so much goodness in these pages, that I want to write an essay for every single one, on the virtues of Wee's words and craft on a whole. This weaves a tapestry of something beautiful, something queer and diasporic and precise and yet not afraid to be strange or unknowable. I liked the more experimental forms too, the poems that could be read three ways, or made up a crossword, or others like them. It was such a treat to be able to sample so many forms in one little book.

I have a lot of feelings. The only downsides to this collection were that, for two reasons, I ended up having to stop and start my reading a lot. The first was because I was writing down snippets to remember and store, so I could return to them at a later date, so much did they touch me. The second was that, a few times, I would find myself inspired to my own poetry, something I haven't written in a long, long time.

I'm really glad I found this poet. She is jaw-droppingly talented. Now I just have to keep hope alive that I can track down her out-of-print debut collection, because I need more of this in my life.
Profile Image for Linda.
639 reviews32 followers
July 5, 2022
Introspective and contemporary, with many modern pop culture references. There was a compelling quality to the poems Wee crafted. The poems explored a range of topics; immigration, queerness, selfhood, diaspora and mythology. Wee wields language like a shard of glass; sharp and reflective with a delicacy that doubles as strength.
Profile Image for Ellie Foster.
124 reviews1 follower
May 3, 2023
I enjoyed this poetry collection. I took longer than usual to read it, as I wanted to savour every poem. There were some beautiful poems contained within it, but it didn't make it to 5 stars for me because some of the poems were not memorable for me. I can see how many of the poems would touch the hearts of many, and some of them certainly did for me.
Profile Image for Amanda.
Author 49 books112 followers
August 13, 2022
an utterly stunning collection. i want to take every poem and put it up on my wall to read over and over again. i'm in awe. The images are striking; Wee doesn't just passively observe nature, her words embody it. The work is visceral, connected to family, childhood, trauma, othering, blood, bone, popular culture. it's a gorgeous and brilliant work.
[...] I ask the silver beneath passages//to reveal someplace I can mistake for light.//I ask new anthems to greet me with a jaw // soft enough to hold my name." Frequent Flyer Program
Profile Image for feux d'artifice.
826 reviews11 followers
July 21, 2022
A promising collection, with some poems i like more than others, as usual lol

One of my faves was music theory: opus

Def interested to read anything else Natalie Wee has to offer!
Profile Image for Annelise.
95 reviews
April 20, 2023
The magic of poetry❤️❤️❤️ so many of those were incredible, and makes poetry so important. I'm trying to find ones that really reach me and even though they're all beautiful in their own way, finding something that touches you has such a special feeling. I can only recommend this one to everyone
Profile Image for Kelly D..
822 reviews23 followers
August 2, 2022
Fuckkkkk this blew me away. Beautiful and haunting, it even includes poems about Legend of Korra and Spirited Away. Some of my favorite poems were Can You Speak English?; An Abridged History; Self-Portrait as Monster Dating Sim; I Always Bet On Losing Dogs; En Route To The Sixth Station, Chihiro Counts The Clouds; etc.

Some favorite lines:

we were shored clean of fathers

each lonely syllable a stillborn

a man wearing a bullet for a face, convinced a girl/is the width of his fist.

I return uncorpsed & say Ahma, a man hurt me/she says it's over, baobei, & looks/beyond the bruises mottling my neck/to the breath in my mouth

write is to cradle myth/& memory both & emerge with the fact/of your flesh

How much of the world must we pass through to arrive at ourselves?



Profile Image for Eryn.
137 reviews
November 7, 2022
My first book of poetry since classes in college! It was a lovely read, filled with thoughtful lines emotional challenges. I spent good time on this collection. You should too.

Some favorite quotes (Spoilers, I guess?) (Quotes complete with a rough facsimile of the typography):

"We are so damn lucky to be loved like this
w/ endless ways 2 bless one another

our voices crowned w/ something new
& tender
& no on else's"
-from the poem, Inside Joke

"Every sentence I start about a man who hurts me ends
with a sentence about the men who hurt my grandmother."
-from An Abridged History

"This body isn't a trial run
for your real life.
Take your life
in your hands. Make your hands useful
or you'll be sorry.
You say sorry
more than anything else."
-from Ten Years After Diagnosis

"A joke I was once told goes, I didn't choose
this life, this life chose me.
Fuck that. Choose a hell
of your own making over the hell that unmakes you. Flower
a garden of rage & eat & eat & eat."
-from Wei Ying Tells Me About Resurrection (YES THAT'S RIGHT THAT WEI YING)

"here's a forgiveness we don't need to earn...
....less a place, & more the year you thought
you'd never touch, kissing your cheeks at last."
-from En Route To The Sixth Station, Chihiro Counts The Clouds
Profile Image for Elliott.
21 reviews
Read
April 24, 2023
I have no experience with reading poetry, so I won't be rating Beast at Every Threshold, but I would like to offer my thoughts about it for any other novice poetry-readers who are thinking about picking up this collection.

I can tell that Natalie Wee is definitely a talented poet, and there's definitely something interesting happening in her works, but I also definitely lack the toolbox necessary to interpret these poems. The language and formatting of the text was very confusing, and I struggled to parse the connections between lines in many poems. There were some poems that I enjoyed and genuinely understood, "Self-Portrait as Monster Dating Sim", "In My Next Life as a Fruit Tree", and "I Always Bet on Losing Dogs" being my favourites, I really loved these three. This collection also explores the very personal themes of Wee's family history with immigration, and I thought the poems about her relatives (especially her grandmother) and their experiences with immigration were beautifully written. Overall, I don't think that the majority of Beast at Every Threshold is very accessible to audiences of minimal experience with reading poetry. I found myself frustrated by my confusion and it took me over two months to make my way through this book. I think that a more seasoned poetry-reader would be able to enjoy this collection more than I did though, and I feel like Wee is an advanced poet, which just isn't compatible with my own background.
Profile Image for Lauren.
190 reviews3 followers
April 28, 2022
Some of my favorite lines:

Let someone’s lover fashion from the ocean / of my solitude a shoreline for their sins to wash up on

Maybe the trade-off for resurrection is shame vast enough to kill us

In the name of not vanishing just a little longer
— in defense of my roommates dog

We echo what we love / to keep it
Born w/ everything it knows / already in its blood
— inside joke

Enjoyed the moment you had no one left / to disappoint before remembering why

It is not the moon’s light that demands our praise / but the space it travels / to reach us
— Asami writes to korra for three years

That’s what it means to become a light / year, to become memory: never stay long enough to speak belonging the way the ocean pronounces the sky
— frequent flyer program

If I just believe in anything, I choose this: my lover / whispering, in my next life, I want to be the bird that rests on your branches—knowing the whole while / in my next life, I want to be / is already a complete sentence
— in my next life as a fruit tree

Choose a hell / of your own making over the hell that unmakes you. Flower / a garden of rage & eat & eat & eat.
— Wei ying tells me about resurrection

The mandarin word / to bear / * / is written knife / over heart
— Phoning home to tell my grandmother I survived a hate crime

At the end of my shadow (there is a man)
— sayang

Bury her / name under a tongue
— that time I thought phoebe bridgers…
This entire review has been hidden because of spoilers.
Profile Image for Kate.
844 reviews50 followers
June 23, 2022
*CANADIAN*

🌿
'A joke I was once told goes, I didn't choose this life, this life chose me. Fuck that. Choose a hell of your own making over the hell that unmakes you. Flower a garden of rage & eat & eat & eat' ~pg.57

'I asked for a legend about what glows so we could fill our bellies with something death hasn't yet touched.'~pg.79

🌿
Thoughts ~
Ferociously beautiful and brilliantly written!

A BEAST AT EVERY THRESHOLD is profoundly told. Exploring different thresholds of marginality, queer love, immigration, reinvention, disporia, pop culture, folklore, and ancestry.

I have a new favorite poet! Wee's collection completely captivated me. Her words were written with such calculated purpose. I could feel them deeply while also being visually stimulated by the story she was telling. So many fantastic lines!
I honestly loved this entire collection, I could have highlighted the whole book. So imaginative! Each sentence, each poem offers something new but familiar. I could go on and on. But I will leave it at this, if you read any poetry, read this!

Thank You @arsenalpress for sending me this book opinions are my own.

For more of my book content check out instagram.com/bookalong
Profile Image for J.
476 reviews6 followers
August 5, 2022
This was such an enchanting collection of poems that covered so much ground. It travels from queer love to being a part of the diaspora, and there are plenty of references to popular culture, musicians, and other contemporary poets. I appreciated the reflective and organic nature of these poems, almost as though Wee released her thoughts to shape themselves however they please.

I think one reason this worked so well was because Wee really played with form in many of her poems, sometimes writing ones that would have more than one meaning, depending on the direction you read them; other times, it was breaking free from your typical poetic form to do something subversive.

Some favorites: “Field Notes: Time Travel,” “Frequent Flyer Program,” “Self-Portrait as Monster Dating Sim,” “In the Mood for Love,” “Self-Portrait as Pop Culture Reference,” “Wei Ying Tells Me about Resurrection,” “Immigrant Aubade,” “Listen I Love You Joy Is Coming,” “En Route to the Sixth Station, Chihiro Counts the Clouds,” “After the Atlanta Spa Shootings, We Sat in a Field,” and “Etymology of Minotaur”

Read for the Sealey Challenge.
Profile Image for Drew.
104 reviews1 follower
April 11, 2023
“Beast at Every Threshold” by Natalie Wee is a collection of poetry about queerness, pop culture, grief, folklore, survival, & what it means to be part of a diaspora. It’s language is beautiful as it is imaginative.

Favorite poems include “Because ‘San Junipero’ the Queer Bar is a Marriage Hall,” “Birthright,” “Asami Watches Korra in the Rear-view,” “Favourite TV Trope,” “En Route to the Sixth Station, Chihiro Counts the Clouds,” “Self-portrait as Beast Index,” “That Time I Thought Phoebe Bridgers Sang, ‘When I Grow Up, I’m Gonna Look Up From My Phone and See My Wife,” & “I Am My Dreaming Self Getting Better At This.”

Some favorite lines are “Yes, I remember this: the first time I listened to a tape of my favorite ghost” (pgs 35-36), “To write is to cradle myth & memory both & emerge with the fact of your flesh” (pg 47), & “How much of the world must we pass through to arrive at ourselves?” (pg 71).

Would wholeheartedly recommend & suggest anyone read. Will read again someday! Loved it! 💜
Profile Image for ALittleJude.
127 reviews
May 31, 2023
Such a tender collection. So many favourite poems with lines that made me consider everything I know about life and what it entails.

The poems about the mother, grandmother and father were among my absolute favourites. It’s a bittersweet feeling to encounter a new favourite poem but to be subjected to the pain and trauma of it all.

Some of my favourites:

Bordersong
Can You Speak English
Asami Writes to Korra for Three Years
An Abridged History
Blood Triptych
Frequent Flyer Program
Music Theory: Opus
Coping Mechanisms
In My Next Life as a Fruit Tree
Ten Years After Diagnosis
Self Portrait As Pop Culture Reference
Birthright
Wei Ying Tells Me About Resurrection
Phoning Home to Tell My Grandmother I Survived A Hate Crime
Asami Watches Korra In The Rear-view
Interruption: B-Side
Listen I Love You Joy Is Coming
I Always Bet On Losing Dogs
Sayang
En Route to The Sixth Station, Chihiro Counts The Clouds
I Am My Dreaming Self Getting Better At This
Profile Image for julie | eggmama.
339 reviews13 followers
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May 5, 2023
It's fun to read poems by someone from my generation (and a queer Asian to boot) because it's like...okay. I don't know you, but I Get you. Like the rina sawayama, mitski, and phoebe bridgers poems, the avatar and spirited away poems...it's fun to see how pop culture can live in poetry.

I like the concept of poems you can read multiple ways, but not in practice. I get distracted by the other versions.

I tabbed a lot of poems/lines but I also read this over an extended period of time so I didn't feel a huge impact when I finished it.

Favorites:
- bordersong
- music theory: opus
- in my next life as a fruit tree
- ten years after diagnosis
- Wei Ying tells me about resurrection
- en route to the sixth station, chihiro counts the clouds

there is anger and hurt here but also quiet joy and celebration :,)
Displaying 1 - 30 of 77 reviews

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