Active in the 13th century, poet Matsuo Basho has been a cornerstone of literature globally since the late 19th century when the word haiku was used to cover traditional “haikai” and “hokku” (more about which further down). Largely due to 19th-century Realism, Western onlookers and practitioners have made much of direct personal experience in haiku; DT Suzuki, Alan Watts and the Beat poets in turn exaggerated the influence of Zen on haiku, lauding their depth of truth and presence. Haiku has since become the world’s most prevalent poetic form, with Basho the standard bearer.
A new anthology of Indian authors writing in, and translating into, English, Future Library: Contemporary Indian Writing creates a new sense of contemporariness on the Indian literary scene. This arrangement distinguishes the book from other anthologies of Indian literature which are for the most part organized around a linguistic binary: they are collections either of Indian writing in English or of Indian writing in regional languages English translation, while the project of anthologizing as a whole also seems to be restricted to English for it is difficult to recall any anthologies putting together regional literatures in a single volume.
The fluid variety of this professional linguist’s range emerges from the very first phrase of this, her third collection, in a poem entitled “Wanderlust Ghazal”: “My language is a Bedouin thief, delighting in foreign sands.” For this traveller poet, being transnational seems to form a sort of dialect in itself, a language even.
Sati Mookherjee’s grandfather was arrested 17 years before India gained independence and went into exile in the UK. He returned to India in 1939 when England entered World War II. Mookherjee’s debut, Eye, based on her grandfather’s memoirs, is not a traditional collection of poetry, but rather a series of just three poems that give a vivid sense of his experiences during this historic era.
Zheng Xiaoqiong has come to be known as a “migrant worker poet”, accurate in the sense she is, or has been, both, and that a great deal of her work is informed by the life and hardships endured by Chinese migrant factory workers.
“To satisfy Divine Justice, perfect victims were necessary, but the Law of Love has succeeded to the law of fear, and Love has chosen me as a holocaust, me, a weak and imperfect creature” wrote Korean-American artist Theresa Hak Kyung Cha in her 1982 debut novel Dictee. Only two months after its publication, Cha was raped and murdered on her way to meet her husband and friends for dinner in New York City. She was 31 years old. Cha’s novel is haunting, tragic, and defiant. Written in multiple languages and in a style both enigmatic and experimental, its accessibility is comparable to James Joyce’s Finnegans Wake. Dictee is widely recognized today as a critically important text of postmodern, postcolonial, Asian-American literature and has enthralled scholars of Asian American literature since its publication. Forty years later, University of California Press has produced a restored version of Dictee. With the original cover and high-quality interior layout as Cha had designed them, this book is the most aesthetically appealing edition of the five that have been produced.
Hong Kong figures both as an early childhood memory and sometimes as a what-if question in Dorothy Chan’s latest poetry collection Babe. What if Chan’s parents had stayed and didn’t take the family to the United States, where Chan was born? What if Chan could grow up with a grandmother who was always around rather than someone she saw just on visits across the ocean?