A Smell of Burning Starts the Day

Susan Tichy, Author Wesleyan University Press $10.95 (77p) ISBN 978-0-8195-1154-6
The great grandniece of a soldier who was part of the occupying U.S. army in command of the Tarlac Province of the Phillipines at the turn of the century, Tichy ( The Hands in Exile ) translates the specific circumstances of Filipinos during the Insurrection and its aftermath into universally accessible verse. With chilling clarity, she depicts a people of courage and restraint. Sensitively but never sentimentally, she tells their stories of then and now, and her own while visiting Tarlac in 1985. The poems, which often include dialogue and resemble prose, are relentlessly direct: many of the voices speak to the second person, while the narrator, the ``I,'' questions, criticizes and reveals with the innocence and persistence of a child. Tichy weaves the rich, colorful fabric of her subjects' lives honestly and humbly, with respect and wonder. She structures her lines so that the sadness of a thought comes quietly at the end, like a sigh, the crystalline images powerful and lingering: ``Even the baby is still, watching the plastic gunship / fish air behind the heads / of three seated, solemn men. /Two girls in love with the same boy /giggle in the crisscross shade. But not one person / claps hands, taps a foot, or sways / although it is permitted, now, to dance.'' (October)
Reviewed on: 08/05/1988
Release date: 08/01/1988
Genre: Fiction
Hardcover - 77 pages - 978-0-8195-2153-8
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