Shortlisted for the Forward Prizes for Poetry Best First Collection 2021
Date: 24th June 2021
Extent: 72 pp
Cover artwork by Gordon Cheung
Cynthia Miller’s debut poetry collection, Honorifics, is an astonishing, adventurous, and innovative exploration of family, Malaysian-Chinese cultural identity, and immigration. From jellyfish blooms to glitch art and distant stars, taking in Greek gods, space shuttles and wedding china along the way, Miller’s mesmerizing approach is experimental, luscious, and expansive with longing - “My skin hunger could fill a galaxy”.
Here, the poetry is interwoven with the words for all the things we honour – our loved ones and our ancestors, home and homecomings, and all that is precious and makes us feel that we belong and are beloved. It is also a book that examines contemporary issues of migration in sharp and enquiring relief. Language itself becomes a radical power for reimaging, challenging, and making change, and Miller’s distinctive and multifaceted poetry creates an extraordinary space for multiplicity and celebration.
Praise for Honorifics:
"Honorifics opens with fractal grace, sounding out the beloved astonishments we leave to memory. Alight with blooming, “twilight radiance” and “ordinary amazement,” this startling first book floats among the dialects of our past and future selves, guiding you back to where every family’s universe begins: a mother’s voice, her stories and hands. This is oceanic—even cosmic poetry wedded to the dear intimacies William Blake calls “Minute Particulars.” I am awed and overjoyed by Cynthia Miller’s work. In these days of near-despair and fugitive delight, her poems glow as beatitudes and beacons for “all the terror, all the sweetness” of what survives us." - R. A. Villanueva
"I’ve been excited about Cynthia’s work since I first read poems from her for her Primers submission. This collection delivers on the expectations those earlier poems established. This is language and detail, honed and luxurious. This is space and memory and migratory patterns and fable. An array of formal play and innovation. And everything finely weighted like a gift-box of intricate, interlocking mechanisms. This is the kind of poetry that leaves the poet in me dizzy with jealousy and admiration." – Jacob Sam-La Rose
"Honorifics is a dazzlingly inventive collection that circles around themes of love and yearning, family history and migration, with a sophisticated touch. Formally playful, these poems are alive with imagery and a restless intelligence. Miller asks: ‘which one of us is / the ghost and which is the / haunted thing’ – a complex questioning of selfhood and identity that permeates this heartfelt book."– Jane Yeh
Cynthia Miller is a Malaysian-American poet, festival producer and innovation consultant living in Edinburgh. Her poems have appeared or are forthcoming in Ambit, The Rialto, Butcher's Dog, Poetry Birmingham Literary Journal, harana poetry, The Best New British and Irish Poets and Primers Volume Two. She is also Co-Founder of the Verve Poetry Festival.