After the Myanmar coup last year, the country saw increasing rates of both censorship and persecution of dissidents. The relative access to and freedom of the Internet went into reverse. Born out of a desire to preserve the online voices of outrage, grief and dissent, editors Ko Ko Thett and Brian Haman assembled Picking Off New Shoots Will Not Stop the Spring, an anthology of poems and essays— both in English and translated from the original Burmese—that bear witness to the seismic changes in Burma/Myanmar’s politics.
Part protest against reality, part metaphysical reckoning, part internationale for the world-historical surrealist insurgency, and part arte povera for the wretched of the earth, Lynn Xu’s book-length poem, And Those Ashen Heaps That Cantilevered Vase of Moonlight, holds fast to our fragile utopias.
Over several decades, Shirley Geok-lin Lim has cemented her position as one of the Chinese diaspora’s foremost anglophone poets. Originally from Malacca, she has lived abroad since 1969, mostly in California, where she taught in the English department at the University of California in Santa Barbara University. In this, her 11th poetry collection, among her best to date, Lim has shaken off a long preoccupation with place and displacement to write striking poems on the natural world.
Surrealism is usually connected with the visual arts: Salvador Dali’s limp watches or René Magritte’s rainstorm of bowler-hatted businessmen. Whilst surrealist writing is perhaps not as well-known, French poet André Breton declared in his 1924 Surrealist Manifestos that in surrealism “the agonizing question of possibility does not arise,” and that “the man who cannot visualize a horse galloping on a tomato is an idiot.” Carl Jung once said, “it’s not the world as we know it that speaks out of [a person’s] unconscious, but the unknown world of the psyche.”
Observations of life, from East to West: the transformation of Hong Kong over the years; the beauties and troubles of Asia and of other countries; the re-visitation of Italy, her homeland, after many years of living abroad. Also vivid descriptions of the many facets of everyday life, including love, friendship, motherhood, and writing.
Chifa. The word may not immediately register with visitors, but once said out loud, the origins of the term for the ubiquitous Chinese restaurants in Peru are obvious to anyone with even a smattering of Cantonese. Arroz chaufa soon becomes recognizable (if somewhat redundant) as fried rice. Once the surprise wears off, it is of course entirely natural. There is a large Chinese diaspora in Latin America for much same reason as there is in the US, UK and Australia.
Fiona Sze-Lorrain, a distinguished poet herself, is also a busy and prolific translator of Chinese poetry, which is very fortunate both for the poets themselves, who get exposure to a readership outside China, and for readers, whose literary horizons are expanded thanks to her sensitive and careful work. Here are two volumes of poetry written by people whose backgrounds and experiences are completely different; Yu Xiuhua (b 1976) is a single mother with cerebral palsy, and Yin Lichuan (b 1973) a Beijing-based multi-disciplinary artist and founder-member of what Chinese critics call the Lower Body Movement of poetry, of which more later.