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As She Appears

Distributed by YesYes Books and Ingram

Cover & Interior Design: Alban Fischer

Author photo: Margarita Corporan

$18  |  ISBN: 978-1-936919-89-5

Poetry  l  Perfectbound  |  81 pages  |  May 10, 2022


Reviewed at The Poetry Foundation


Reviewed in the San Francisco Chronicle


Featured in "7 Feminist Poetry Collections About Gender and Identity" at Electric Lit


Featured in "May 2022 Must-Read New Releases" at Nylon


Featured in "Poetry For the Rest of Us" at Ms. Magazine



For the Living in the New World


There are so many ways to explore a forest—

over clover clusters, past skunk cabbages


to a field where we listen for a ghost

of song. The hypergreen periphery


is the opposite of Los Angeles on fire.

Any tree can become a ladder. These trees have


too many branches, but it is not my place

to revise them. I may be happiest


improvising the language a body can make

on a dance floor. We are just learning


how female birds sing in the tropics.

Spring insists we can build the world


around us again. How has love brought you

here? My head is heavy from the crown.



About the Author

SHELLEY WONG is the author of As She Appears (YesYes Books), longlisted for the 2022 National Book Award and winner of a 2023 Lambda Literary Award and the 2019 Pamet River Prize. Her poems have appeared in American Poetry ReviewBest American PoetryKenyon Review, and New England Review. A Kundiman and MacDowell fellow, she lives in San Francisco.

As She Appears

SKU: 2201002
  • Longlisted for the National Book Award!

    "What is living if not the desire to see and be seen, as Shelley Wong expresses so tenderly in her debut collection that centers queer women of color—at Pride dances, late-night meals in Chinatown, and a summer on Fire Island. As She Appears explores femininity, sexuality, and identity, and remains open to joy, lust, and self-love despite, or in contradiction to, the brokenness of the world." 

    —National Book Foundation

    Winner of the 2023 Lambda Literary Award for Lesbian Poetry!

    Finalist, 2023 Northern California Book Award for Poetry!

    Longlist, 2022 Julie Suk Award!

    Winner, 2019 YesYes Books Pamet River Prize!

    The incredible Ada Limon reads from As She Appears by Shelley Wong on The Slow Down. Wonderful!


    Starred Review in Publishers Weekly!

    “Wong’s incandescent debut offers an understated but ebullient celebration of queer and Asian identity grounded in appreciation for art and the natural world. Sublime artistry. . .this vivid collection sizzles with remarkable nimbleness and energy.”

  • About As She Appears

    Winner, 2019 Pamet River Prize


    Shelley Wong’s debut, As She Appears, foregrounds queer women of color in their being and becoming. Following the end of a relationship that was marked by silence, a woman crosses over and embodies the expanse of desire and self-love. Other speakers transform the natural world and themselves, using art and beauty as a means of sanctuary and subversion. With both praise and precision, Wong considers how women inhabit and remake their environment. The ecstatic joys of Pride dances and late-night Chinatown meals, conversations with Frida Kahlo, trees that “burst into glamour,” and layers of memory permeate these poems as they travel through suburban California, perfumed fashion runways, to a Fire Island summer. Wong writes in the space where so many do not appear as an invitation for queer women of color to arrive in love, exactly as they are.

  • Praise for As She Appears

    "Her visionary debut, As She Appears, centers queer women of color in shape-shifting poems of becoming and knowing, seeing and being seen." Electric Lit


    "As a girl, I never / saw a woman / who looked like me," Shelley Wong writes in this steadfast and assured debut, "I had to invent her." And it’s this very faith in self-manifestation that makes these poems accrue towards bold, prescient, and lasting architectures of being and feeling; they not only depict but think themselves into existence, which make them more than the sum of their parts, more than just an invention of "hers" or "womanhood," but a quietly profound indictment of contemporary culture. And yet, what’s most indelible about Wong’s circumventing and vexed forays into the big questions, is her careful and tender rendering of our joys.

    —Ocean Vuong, author of Night Sky with Exit Wounds


    As She Appears is visionary in more than one sense. It’s a riveting exploration of how one’s sense of self—not just as the perceived, but also as perceiver—is affected by the way one is represented, or not represented. Shelley Wong’s poems are heady, frank, kaleidoscopic, refractive, sensual, wondrous. They unsettle the distinctions we assume we can make between viewers—whether voyeur, consumer, spectator, or witness. I found myself wanting to linger in their pleasures and challenges.

    —Mary Szybist, author of Incarnadine


    It is the rare first book that arrives fully voiced, but in Shelley Wong’s  As She Appears, we enter these pages escorted by a steady hand at the small of the back, a mouth carefully placed just beneath our ear, the warmth of the body realized beside us in each fierce and tender poem of queer womanhood. These poems are haunted by the living, by the most vital impulses among us: to love, to be present, to declare the self. And in these declarations lies a femme heaven where we wander through poem after poem, each more lush and invigorating in their insistence. This is the book I’ve been waiting for all my life, and I have known for years that Wong would be the one to deliver it. I want to live inside its pages, take comfort as I wrap myself in its words. As Wong writes, “We are the new names, / the ones we’ve always known.” When I read this book, I am every quiet queer girl with a desperate crush on the world.

    —Keetje Kuipers, author of All Its Charms


    In this tender debut, Shelley Wong contemplates the geographic, social, and bodily terrains of womanhood after the end of a relationship. Wong moves as seamlessly through the landscapes of a California marked by fire, an island populated with both non-native and invasive species, and the tidal waves of the ocean, to the interior spaces of a museum, the intimate vulnerabilities of a person discovering their mettle. "As a girl," the speaker tells us, "I never // saw a woman / who looked like me. // I had to invent her. / I'm inventing her," and this quietly daring collection reveals how to find oneself, how to be seen, invoking powerful women along the way: Beyoncé, Lucy Liu, Frida Kahlo, Madonna, and Whitney Houston. It is through these invocations, meditations, and encounters with both the brilliant worlds of flora and fauna (most notably, a motherless fawn), that the speaker can firmly say "I choose myself" and take the reins of her own agency: "But I am // no lady-in-waiting. / I gather the bouquet // myself." Never have I traveled on such a gentle but strengthened path.

    —Diana Khoi Nguyen, author of Ghost Of

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