“A Winding Line: Three Hebrew Poets” by Maya Bejerano, Sharron Hass and Anat Zecharia & “So Many Things are Yours” by Admiel Kosman
Asian Review of Books » Poetry
by Susan Blumberg-Kason
1M ago
Hebrew is unique, an ancient tongue that was all but lost for millennia as a spoken language, but was revitalized in the late 19th century and is now the official language of Israel, a country of nine million. Despite this relatively small number of native speakers, Hebrew literature is robust, yet Hebrew literature in English translation remains rare. So it’s unusual to see two new poetry collections come out around the same time. A Winding Line: Three Hebrew Poets by Maya Bejerano, Sharron Hass, and Anat Zecharia, translated by Tsipi Keller and So Many Things are Yours by Admiel Kosman, tran ..read more
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“A Cha Chaan Teng That Does Not Exist” by Derek Chung
Asian Review of Books » Poetry
by Susan Blumberg-Kason
1M ago
Derek Chung is not only a prolific poet, novelist, and essayist, he’s also an acclaimed translator that has brought work from Li-Young Lee, Carl Sandburg, Williams Carlos Williams and others into Chinese. Now a new English translation of his poetry collection, A Cha Chaan Teng That Does Not Exist, from May Huang, brings back to life Hong Kong from twenty years ago. As the title and colorful cover artwork imply, the poems describe a Hong Kong that has changed greatly. May Huang provides a comprehensive translator’s introduction and defines a cha chaan teng for those unfamiliar with this unique ..read more
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“Chinese Fish” by Grace Yee
Asian Review of Books » Poetry
by Melanie Ho
3M ago
When Ping arrives to live in New Zealand in the 1960s, the young mother from Hong Kong is expecting “paradise”. On her first night, Ping compares her new home with her homeland. Poet Grace Yee writes:   Ping steps out into a million-starred hush – not traffic horns sizzling woks banging cleaves clacking mahjong tiles no hoicking squabbling squawking singing – seven-thirty in the evening, her kitten heels sinking in the dew-soaked law, the whole word asleep.   But of course, it isn’t paradise. The family settles in their new home (house number 18, “8 is the lucky number fat number mea ..read more
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“The Corrected Version” by Rosanna Young Oh
Asian Review of Books » Poetry
by Lily Nilipour
4M ago
A family grocery store is the primary backdrop for Korean American writer Rosanna Young Oh’s debut poetry collection The Corrected Version: a backdrop refracted by memory and myth. Taken at face value, the grocery store—owned and run by Oh’s immigrant parents—represents the regular mundanity, tediousness and humiliation that accompanies the experience of starting over in America. At the grocery store, life appears prosaic, as described by the speaker’s younger self in the sonnet “Homework”:   I wrote in Mrs. Katz’s fifth-grade class in Jericho, Long Island, this short answer for homework ..read more
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“Sweet Malida: Memories of a Bene Israel Woman” by Zilka Joseph
Asian Review of Books » Poetry
by Susan Blumberg-Kason
4M ago
Sweet malida is a dish made from rice grains softened in water mixed with sugar and dried fruit and nuts. It’s enjoyed in Afghan, Indian and Pakistani homes, and it’s also a dish popular with the Bene Israel, a Jewish community with a 2000 year history in India. Zilka Joseph has written before about her Bene Israel background, but her new book, Sweet Malida: Memories of a Bene Israel Woman, is a more vivid account of the origins of the Bene Israel and its many delicious culinary dishes. In the title poem, “Sweet Malida”, Joseph begins with the ingredients of this dish and goes on to note how f ..read more
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Epic Poets from India: Nandi Timmana and Tulsidas in the Murthy Library Indian Classics
Asian Review of Books » Poetry
by David Chaffetz
5M ago
When Mark Twain interviewed the leader of the Mormon Church, Brigham Young, in 1861, he found the religious patriarch mightily preoccupied with the problems of equal treatment for his 56 wives. Young told Twain of gifting a handkerchief or a fan to one woman; before long, all the other wives clamored for similar attentions. Polygamy’s downside provides the starting point for the epic poem, The Theft of a Tree, composed in classical Telegu by Nandi Timmana for Krishnadeveraya, ruler of the 16th century, south Indian, Vijayanagara empire. Surely the maharaja, with three documented consorts, coul ..read more
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“The Ink Cloud Reader” by Kit Fan
Asian Review of Books » Poetry
by Lily Nilipour
7M ago
Kit Fan’s latest poetry collection, The Ink Cloud Reader, hinges on anticipation of change. In “Cumulonimbus,” which opens the main section of the book, Fan compares the current state of his writing career to the moments before a thunderstorm breaks.   Halfway through my life the reeds by Meguro River where the ducks made love stop whistling. I fear I’ve over- inked, or the linseed oil soured the sky. The wind tastes of oysters grilled over autumn soil. A fish draws a ripple, or did a raindrop win? My papers will topple the house before the tin roof falls. I’d better make haste and find a ..read more
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“Temple Lamp: Verses on Banaras” by Mirza Ghalib
Asian Review of Books » Poetry
by David Chaffetz
7M ago
The poet Ghalib took a broad view about spirituality and ritual. He told a British friend he was half a Muslim, because while he wouldn’t eat pork, he enjoyed as hurrah peg of whiskey. Did Ghalib retain a medieval belief in cultic efficiency, or did he have a modern’s skepticism about revealed religions in general? That question comes to mind when reading his 108-verse long praise poem to the city of Vanarasi—so holy to the Hindus. In 1826, Ghalib, perpetually beset by debts and cheated out an inheritance by conniving relatives, set off mostly by foot and bullock cart from Delhi to Calcutta, i ..read more
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“From From” by Monica Youn
Asian Review of Books » Poetry
by Jennifer Wong
7M ago
Deeply experimental, creative and thought-provoking, From From by leading Korean-American poet Monica Youn, looks at the complexity of race through myths, history and popular culture, comparing the ways “otherness” is seen in both East Asian and Western cultures and norms. Through these complex, original and tragic-comic poems, the poet explores the deep roots of human fear or hysteria against other bodies.  Throughout the collection, there are mini sequences of poems that draw from Greek mythology and yet these are poems that examine or revisit body metaphors. Some of the poems capture t ..read more
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“Basho: The Complete Haiku of Matsuo Basho”, translated by Andrew Fitzsimons
Asian Review of Books » Poetry
by Lawrence Pettener
7M ago
Active in the 13th century, poet Matsuo Basho has been a cornerstone of literature globally since the late 19th century when the word haiku was used to cover traditional “haikai” and “hokku” (more about which further down). Largely due to 19th-century Realism, Western onlookers and practitioners have made much of direct personal experience in haiku; DT Suzuki, Alan Watts and the Beat poets in turn exaggerated the influence of Zen on haiku, lauding their depth of truth and presence. Haiku has since become the world’s most prevalent poetic form, with Basho the standard bearer.    ..read more
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