Zero DistanceNew Poetry from China Edited by Liang Yujing (Tinfish, 2017) Response by Ya-Wen Ho Buy from Tinfish Press
O victor-bird, o vector, / I am like you, a non-state actor, / Death-fletched, alive, immune to all elixirs.
Valleys, oceans, crumbling earth, slices of tomato, milk, the presence of something ethereal, the absence of something wild.
I can only describe the narrator as a lost zoologist who must regress into memory and childhood yet also cannonball our awareness into a strange new world.
They say that one day, powerful star-gazers will be able to detect American tidal waves from the centre of Germany…
I am often concerned by the use of deaths as openers, and about the ethics of condensing the entirety of a person’s life into a soundbite, into an enticing introductory hook.
I don’t like émigré simply because I agree with the book’s sociopolitical underpinnings (although I do), but because it’s beautiful and well-crafted.
I’d heard of Carolyn DeCarlo, Sophie van Waardenberg and Rebecca Hawkes in publications like Starling, Landfall and Sweet Mammalian; AUP New Poets 5 gives them centre-stage.
This is my ambered sarcasm. / This is my garden’s rough / cut blossom my / bitter jewel with veins of pearl / and the hard-edge glow of the / indigestible.
I sat with this book for a very long time. Dipped in and out, from all points, like a capybara in an onsen.
Harkin is active in her writing and recording of what was done and to whom. People from the past return through her words, they do not remain buried in the archives.
This isn’t a book claiming to be anything it’s not. It’s a tender observation of the small things…
by friday / i am 50% used up / tho i’m tired / i make my weekly pilgrimage / taking foodscraps up to the compost bins at the innermost gardens
They build a cardboard shell to become larger, and paint a white stripe down the centre of the face.
watch me disappear. live / & never let but i’m / fine. for it’s not / a thing of bitterness / but love / demolished, set against itself, / not a thing to stir
My notes for the remainder of this response continue for several pages. A loose-leaf file of notes and photographs is, it turns out, far harder to summarise than a traditional story.
into the ship’s side the over her lowered we ,after days four and ,calms of / belt been had we as soon as suddenly give-way to seemed
do you feel the quiet? / it’s you. // do you see the quiet? / nah, you.
memory seafoam / a big surprise / lose balance / rug burn / mirror crash / car engine runs / aircon on / soft pat cheeks / emit fuel price / double click / to hide white space
…it is curiously simple, in many ways, it doesn’t hurt, not in the usual way; perhaps I am jaded, perhaps I am accustomed to being flayed to pieces.