Shortlisted for the Mary and Peter Biggs Award for Poetry in the 2023 Ockham NZ Book Awards
I tackled you to the floor, locked you between my thighs, used my free arm to grab my phone. Put on the NBA highlights. You relaxed immediately. This is intimacy.
People Person is a debut collection by Joanna Cho. These adventurous, funny and dissonant poems are about the endless work of fitting in when the goalposts are constantly changing. They ask: how can we nail the perfect routine? How can we be a people person in the world? What parts of ourselves must we leave behind?
Moving between South Korea and New Zealand, Joanna Cho’s poems range excitingly in form, drawing upon and cleverly subverting the folktale, the phone conversation and the basketball game. At the heart of this book is a mother – a generous, artistic woman who has limited choices in life, in comparison with our narrator, who is almost paralysed by choice – and the deep, almost haunting comfort she brings.
‘This book is taut and strong, rigorous and funny. With skill and care Joanna Cho has produced a work which envelopes and accommodates but never gives. And somehow, also, all this power makes room for hope and tears and a renewed sense of the world. In these ways, it is very much like the magic sock which opens this magnificent collection which shows the essayistic potential of the poem and the poetic potential of the essay. People Person is an amazing reading experience which will make itself felt in your non-reading world.' —Pip Adam
'What I really love about this book is that it explores this idea of potential, not only in terms of life and the future, but potential in terms of who you can be as a person. ... These poems feel so lived in, but there's something about them that feels quite magical as well.' —Chris Tse, RNZ
'beautiful, beguiling, funny and has a bitter sweetness' —Claire Mabey
'It is humorous and witty and revealing. It is confessional and withholding, gifting and gifted.' —Paula Green, NZ Poetry Shelf
Joanna Cho was born in South Korea and currently lives in Wellington. She completed an MA in Creative Writing at the International Institute of Modern Letters in 2020 and received the Biggs Family Prize in Poetry.
Cover photograph: Constance Mary
Cover design: Axel Olsthoorn