The Conference of the Birds

51fzz9mvysl-_sx329_bo1204203200_Translated by Sholeh Wolpé
W. W. Norton & Company, 2017

Considered by Rumi to be “the master” of Sufi mystic poetry, Attar is best known for his epic poem The Conference of the Birds, a magnificent allegorical tale about the soul’s search for meaning. The poem recounts the perilous journey of the world’s birds to the faraway peaks of Mount Qaf―a mythical mountain that wraps around the earth―in search of the mysterious Simurgh, their king. Attar’s beguiling anecdotes and humor intermingle the sublime with the mundane, the spiritual with the worldly, and the religious with the metaphysical. Reflecting the entire evolution of Sufi mystic tradition, Attar’s poem models the soul’s escape from the mind’s rational embrace. (Publisher’s Description)

Sholeh Wolpé is an Iranian-American poet and writer. She is the recipient of the PEN/Heim Grant, the Midwest Book Award, and the Lois Roth Persian Translation Prize, among others.

Year of Reversible Loss by Norma Farber

 

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Year of Reversible Loss by Norma Farber
El León Literary Arts, 2012

Year of Reversible Loss is an exquisite cornucopia of meditative insight and poetry, pondering the trajectory of grief and capturing its changing rhythms through gemlike poetry and sustained passages of remembrance and reflection. Norma Farber traces the turning of the seasons as a deeply felt metaphor for the journey of the grieving heart in this journal of the year following the death of her husband, Sidney Farber, dedicated pioneer in the field of pediatric oncology.

Where once a leaf clung,
the ashtree wears a scar,
a moon halted at half.

Her observations of the natural world as well as the hidden recesses of the heart are startling, fresh, and brilliant, at once keenly personal and sublimely transcendent.

Sign your name on the wind.
Then I’ll know which way
to follow you.

This is a book to be savored for its insight and surprising humor, and for its passionate, astounding beauty.

Reviewed by Lillian Howan, author of The Charm Buyers.

Coyote Traces: Aku Wuwu’s Poetic Sojourn in America

coyote-traces

Foreign Language Publications, The Ohio State University, 2016

Coyote Traces author Aku Wuwu, of the Yi ethnic minority in Southwest China, shares his real journey through both nations and the internconnection of cultures and languages.

In the words of author Aku Wuwu: “In these poems, I have tried to record the tangible and intangible heritages of Native Americans as I perceive them. In the process, I occassionally invoke my own Nuosu heritage. Imbibing the fresh air of other peoples’ cultures, I ponder over my personal spiritual life and the home of my soul. I wish to combine these shattered fragments into some serious ideas and thoughts. While writing these so-called cross-lingual and cross-cultural texts, I have attempted to explore the real nature of humanity, which has occassionally turned out to be a spiritual pilgramage back to my own native civilization.”

The collection of 80 poems, written in both Chinese and English translations, includes 9 full-color photo plates from the author’s journey. Paperback, 377 pages. (Publisher’s description)

Steep Tea

by Jee Leong Koh
Carcanet Press, 2015

koh-jee-leong-steep-teaSteep Tea is Singapore-born Jee Leong Koh’s fifth collection and the first to be published in the UK. Koh’s poems express many of the harsh and enriching circumstances of a postcolonial queer writer, in a voice both colloquial and musical. Like the poetry of Elizabeth Bishop, Eavan Boland and Lee Tzu Pheng, Koh’s writing is forged in the pleasures of reading, cultures and communities. (Adapted from publisher’s description)

“Here are short, deft narratives that map the mismatched patterns of male and female desire grounded in partial understandings of love. The author’s native Singapore sounds out sharply, often ironically, in counterpoint to the intimate domestic interiors that help to constitute what will surely be recognized as some of contemporary poetry’s classic love poems.” -David Kinloch

Jee Leong Koh was born and raised in Singapore and moved to New York in 2003. He has a BA in English from Oxford University and an MFA in Creative Writing from Sarah Lawrence College. He is the curator of the website Singapore Poetry and the cochair of the inaugural Singapore Literature Festival in New York City. He lives in New York City.

Adamantine

adamantine072710by Shin Yu Pai
White Pine Press, 2010

Drawn from global news stories, the subjects of these poems range from the tallest man in the world, an Olympic medalist, and a burning monk to a family stranded in the Oregon wilderness. A suite of poems contemplates the work of Goya, Warhol, Rothko, Cornell, and Calder, as well as the work of artists and craftsmen from the Eastern traditions.

Shin Yu Pai, born in 1975, is a second-generation Taiwanese-American. She received her MFA from the Art Institute of Chicago, and is currently assistant curator for the Wittliff Collections. She has published eight books of poems and been anthologized in America Zen: A Gathering of Poets and The Wisdom Anthology of North American Buddhist Poetry. (adapted from the publisher’s website)

The Beauty

c40acdf870759a9677a188530c89a478-w2041xby Jane Hirshfield
Knopf, 2015

Hirshfield opens her beautiful eighth book of poems describing the copper bowls of a scale in perfect balance: on one end of the scales a woman in a wheelchair sings a traditional Portuguese fado, on the other end everyone else present hangs in attention. This moment, one that expresses the internal vastness of the individual, bleeds into the rest of the collection as Hirshfield seeks the idea of balance. In a collection where “an hour can be dropped like a glass,” the pieces are seen by the reader as a new whole. “The ideas of poets turn into only themselves,” she notes, and those ideas are both the most important and the least. She uses the quotidian to peer into the life cycle. When she writes, “Now I too am sixty. / There was no other life,” it is as if the whole world had reached that milestone before her and she is somehow the last to see it through. The book pleads with itself to remember the past; the moments where days drifted by and doors could open or close. It pleads not to be forgotten. — Publisher’s Weekly

Jane Hirshfield is the author of seven previous collections of poetry, two books of essays, and four books collecting and co-translating the work of poets from the past. A current chancellor of the Academy of American Poets, Hirshfield has received many prizes and awards including fellowships from the Guggenheim and Rockefeller foundations and the National Endowment for the Arts.

Troubling Borders: An Anthology of Art and Literature by Southeast Asian Women in the Diaspora

2Q==edited by Isabelle Thuy Pelaud, Lan Duong, Mariam B. Lam, and Kathy L. Nguyen
University of Washington Press, 2014

Pairing image and text, Troubling Borders showcases creative writing and visual artworks by sixty-one women of Vietnamese, Cambodian, Lao, Thai, and Filipino ancestry. The collection features compelling storytelling that troubles the borders of categorization and reflects the multilayered experience of Southeast Asian women.

The diverse voices featured here have been shaped by colonization, wars, globalization, and militarization. For some of these women on the margins of the margin, crafting and showing their work is a bold act in itself. Their provocative and accessible creations tell unique stories, provide a sharp contrast to familiar stereotypes – Southeast Asian women as exotic sex symbols, dragon ladies, prostitutes, and “bar girls”-and serve as entry points for broader discussions on questions of history, memory, and identity. (Publisher’s website)

Isabelle Thuy Pelaud is associate professor of Asian American studies at San Francisco State University; Lan Duong is associate professor of media and cultural studies at the University of California, Riverside; Mariam B. Lam is associate professor of comparative literature, media and cultural studies, and director of Southeast Asian studies, at the University of California, Riverside; and Kathy L. Nguyen is a writer and editor in San Francisco.