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)

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The Beauty

c40acdf870759a9677a188530c89a478-w2041xby Jane Hirshfield
Knopf, 2015

Hirshfield opens her 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.

My Funeral Gondola

my_funeral_gondola_fullby Fiona Sze-Lorrain
Mānoa Books and El León Literary Arts, 2013

Melissa Kwasny writes that the poems in Fiona Sze-Lorrain’s second collection of poetry, My Funeral Gondola, “navigate the swells of loss…I recognize this speech, haunting and strange, the speech of true poets.”

In My Funeral Gondola, Sze-Lorrain takes on departures and rifts in a lyrical voice that reclaims the personal and the universal. As if to subvert expectations in narrative, memory and experience, these poems speak through their restraint to the meditations, bittersweet struggles, and inner intensities of an existence that trusts the music, the distance, and the timeless.

Sze-Lorrain’s debut collection of poetry, Water the Moon, was published in 2010. In addition to her books of translation of Chinese poets from Zephyr Press, she has translated several contemporary French and American authors and co-edited the Mãnoa/University of Hawai’i Press anthologies Sky Lanterns (summer 2012) and On Freedom (winter 2012). An editor at Cerise Press and Vif éditions, she is also a zheng harpist and orchid healer.