In our continuing attempt to bring you a glimpse of some of the great content that will appear in our next issue, I’m delighted to present our first micro-review of the Fall blogging season: an excerpt from Ashely Waterford’s review of Michelle Naka Pierce’s latest work, Continuous Frieze Bordering Red. You can catch Ashley’s review in its entirety in our upcoming issue. Enjoy, dear reader, and stay tuned for other exciting content.
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Michelle Naka Pierce
Continuous Frieze Bordering Red
Reviewed by Ashley Waterman
Continuous Frieze Bordering Red by Michelle Naka Pierce first catches the reader’s eye with its cover art. Mark Rothko’s Black on Maroon, 1959 sets the tone for the book, representing a feeling of dislocation between Naka Pierce, her surroundings, her heritage, and being “boxed in” by all of these factors. She also uses Rothko to demonstrate her experiences in a painterly way. The form requires the text to be read line by line, across each page, creating a flow similar to painting a picture.
Naka Pierce’s knowledge of Rothko is evident from the start. The phrase “frieze bordering” in the title comments on the framing of Rothko’s Seagram Murals. Naka Pierce says, “The frame turns and paint drips in multiple directions. This is how one navigates new geographical locations.” An image of people dripping through the London Tube in different directions adds a layer to her experience as “Other.” It also describes how Rothko painted the Seagram mural. Naka Pierce’s metaphors (such as this one) describe both Rothko’s art and her sense of “[dis]location” providing a strong connection to the inspiration for this book.
As a tourist, Naka Pierce applies Rothko-esque analogies to her situation. “…The wall of red, the lack of breathing room when you stand inside searching for exits, which are painted over [they do not open]” is a comparison Naka Pierce makes to the crowding and alienation felt when in a foreign country.
Despite the art references, one does not need to be familiar with Rothko to enjoy Continuous. The reader is presented with the knowledge they need to read the text the way it was intended through the title as well as the synopsis.
Clearly influenced by art, the words and structure become paintings themselves. Naka Pierce’s identity as an Asian American is embodied with the use of brackets throughout the text, creating its own [dis]location to the surrounding text.
Naka Pierce also comments on lack of hyphens: “Fucking hyphen. Can you translate authority? You do not identify as combined words, lined grammar, division of recognized sloth.” Naka Pierce chooses not to use hyphens to recognize that she has and embraces multiple identities. She challenges the reader to classify her in one category.
If you are looking for a text that is an innovative project in collaboration with artwork, challenges the confines of the page, and questions identity, Continuous is the book for you. With this work, Naka Pierce has created a text that borders the reader as much as Rothko borders a canvas.