Happy Thanksgiving, friends! This week, I’ve been thankful for poetry. More specifically, I’ve been spending time with Angela Veronica Wong’s collection How to Survive a Hotel Fire. This collection is delightfully littered with holey socks, witty titles, unicorns, and unsolicited advice (“Never send naked pictures”). The speaker in How to Survive a Hotel Fire is funny, imaginative, sometimes impulsive, and always surprising. I love the collections that make me feel like I never know what to expect, and this collection did just that.
Split into six sections, the poems in How to Survive a Hotel Fire take up many forms. In the second section, titled “If You’re Hoping Something Interesting Comes From This I Would Hold Your Breath” the poems do not have a title, and they appear on different spots on each page. They are also broken up into short stanzagraphs. Lots of white space is used, which is unlike the poems in the third section of the book, which are written in the middle of the page, and utilize bold titles.
Something I really enjoyed about How to Survive a Hotel Fire is its use of humor. In one poem, titled “In Which Our Heroine Attempts An Alternate Ending” the speaker says, “We stopped / making plans. Because / allergies happen” (lines 4-6). Each line in this collection is unpredictable, making it charming and accessible to all readers. Similarly, on page 69, Wong does a great job of disarming readers yet again with the line “I would kiss you right now but I can’t stop eating peaches.” This whimsicality feels honest and daring, making the collection a fun and emotionally compelling read.
The series title poems utilize the same elements, but many of the poems are written as instruction manuals. In my favorite, the speaker begins the poem by saying “first stop the fucking tears because it’s pathetic, really” and then later ” i / need a boyfriend because carrying my own stuff / is boring” (page 77). How to Survive a Hotel Fire is a wonderful collection. I’d recommend it to anyone who is just starting to read poetry, or anyone who is looking for a light read.
Buy the collection here.
Visit Wong’s website here to check out her other work.