The Past

Wendy Xu. Wesleyan Univ., $15.95 trade paper (112p) ISBN 978-0-8195-8046-7
“What can I do, except continue to demonstrate love?” asks Xu near the beginning of her ruminative third book, which includes a poem titled “My Dissent and My Love Are Woven Inside Me.” Xu, who was brought from China to America as an infant just days before the Tiananmen Square massacre, was praised for her good behavior on the airplane: “Perhaps Mom and Dad cried in lieu of me/ I had not yet known about my losing.” As an adult, the speaker of these poems feels caught between cultures, languages, the private and public, and—most vividly—past poverty and recent privilege. Her self-described “agitated bouquet of ideas” examines itself for authenticity before discovering the fallacy of that notion: “I begin to feel trapped inside the tower of white Western intellectual/ consideration/ I feel sick, and worse, ‘misunderstood’ ” (“Notes for an Opening”). Moving glimpses of family—Mom, Dad, Uncle—veer toward the abstract: “China green, the sound aspiring/ to evidentiary music but the jasmine/ takes no milk, won’t froth the way you like.” “Traditional” Chinese forms are subverted into English, and a series of erasures (“Tiananmen Square Sonnets”) give the collection formal variety and depth. These poems offer readers a memorable exploration of the “fantasy and nightmare” of “immigrant dreams.” (Sept.)
Reviewed on : 09/28/2021
Release date: 09/01/2021
Genre: Poetry
Book - 1 pages - 978-0-8195-8047-4
Hardcover - 104 pages - 978-0-8195-8045-0
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