Author: Carl

Nikyatu Jusu’s “Nanny” is a Poem About the Immigrant Experience

Nikyatu Jusu’s “Nanny” is a Poem About the Immigrant Experience

Review: Nikyatu Jusu’s ‘Nanny’ artfully centers an immigrant’s terror in a palpable nightmare of domesticity

In the years since she wrote “When I was Young,” Nikyatu Jusu has kept her own, well-worn family chronicle to herself. Her second collection of poetry, “Wake Up,” appeared in 2015 but has elicited a more thorough public response than her debut collection, “I Am, Who Came From the Forest.” The poems in the collection are more fully rounded by the experience of growing up—a kind of self-enlighting, of finding your way out into the great unknown. But in “Nanny,” Jusu reverts to the first-person voice, returning to a time when she could write directly from the experience of a child, before she had developed the art of poetry. She writes: “My mother, the only daughter of a family of eleven, sat in the living room, watching a rerun of ‘The Honeymooners’ on one of the wall lamps. She was wearing what seemed like an old uniform.”

This isn’t Jusu’s first foray into immigrant remaking as a poet. The two books in her debut collection, “I Am, Who Came From the Forest,” were written in the aftermath of the 2008 financial crash, as part of her attempt to find a new way to understand the immigrant experience, after a brief spell of living in a small town in Pennsylvania. More recently, she has been writing about the immigrant experience as it applies to the young, the poor, and the undocumented. Now, more than a decade and a half later, Jusu returns to the immigrant experience through the lens of a grown daughter, watching the terror of her immigrant childhood in a mother’s terror of her own, in her poetry collection “Nanny.” In so doing, she’s created a collection that speaks directly to her first love: poetry. As her poem “Lily of the Valley / To Lily of the Valley” begins:

In the fields

by dunes

of sand

I watch

the horses

with their

blue-black eyes

wobble from

a lily-pond

to a red

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