Review by Matt Turner
Most American readers of Chinese poetry come to it through classic translations by Ezra Pound, Gary Snyder, Burton Watson, and a few others. With some notable exceptions, those translations have tended to focus on the poetic triumvirate of the Tang dynasty (618–907 CE): Li Bai (Li Po), Du Fu (Tu Fu), and Wang Wei. The literary context in which those three Tang poets are placed—in China as well as the US—is part of a long, ascendant tradition in Chinese letters, beginning to certain degree with the early anthology that Confucius legendarily put together: The Shijing, better known in English as the Book of Odes or the Book of Songs (Pound translated it as Shih-Ching: The Classic Anthology Defined by Confucius). The poems of the Shijing, which often seem little more than folk ditties, span seven centuries during the fabled Zhou dynasty (1046–256 BCE)—the time, according to Confucius in his Analects, when politics and society were ordered as they should be. In China, the Zhou and Tang periods are acknowledged as two golden ages, exemplars of what is best in the Chinese tradition. A trajectory of one to the other is easily assumed.
Reviewed by Adriana X. Jacobs
Sylvia Legris’s new collection The Hideous Hidden articulates a fixation with the body and its composition that encompasses its relation to home, society and language. The relationship between the body’s interior and its exterior also preoccupies this volume, as it does human life, for which the body remains a continuous site and source of discovery and inquiry. In The Hideous Hidden, Legris takes us into the specific language of the body, a dense, multilingual lexicon so far removed from the way we generally speak about and engage with our bodies that it can feel, reading this book, that she is addressing a different species entirely . . .
Review by Eric Dean Wilson
Last September, for the first time, we observed gravitational waves. Two supermassive black holes, after waltzing around each other for some eons, merged. This observation—an invisible ripple in the fabric of space-time, detected only because of the enormous energy released from the collision—was recorded as an audible “chirp,” a kind of cosmic trombone slide up three octaves, low to high. This proved, almost exactly one hundred years after, a new part of Einstein’s general theory of relativity. It seems fitting now for New Directions to release Gap Gardening, the first selected poems of Rosmarie Waldrop. She stands apart as a writer who translates these astronomical rules—the force of gravity, the curvature of space-time—into the sport of human experience. This volume, edited by Nikolai Duffy alongside the poet herself, offers selections from each of Waldrop’s seventeen collections of poetry, plus a verse section of her “novel,” A Form / Of Taking / It All. With this collection, it is evident that Waldrop’s universe begins where Einstein’s ends. Nearly fifty years of lyric riffs, meditations, and collages—using as source material the works of physicists, philosophers, explorers, historians, and critics, from Columbus to Wittgenstein—seek to simultaneously define, deconstruct, and, finally, re-construct a mind in motion . . .