Monday, October 26, 2015

Poetry Monday: Ouyang Yu’s Fainting with Freedom

One of the things I like to do when I get a new book is to get the measure of the thing.  I like to look the whole book over, skim through the pages, get a feel for its girth, its style, its feel.  This is particularly the case with poetry.  I like to orient myself to the book and have a few tasters before I go in again more slowly, taking each poem in turn.  That’s what Poetry Monday is all about: the initial reading before the reading.  I also like to think of it as my little own version of “gathering paradise”, to steal a phrase from my favourite poetry site PoemTalk, where it was nicked, of course, from Emily Dickinson’s “I dwell in Possibility”.  It’s a little bit of poetry paradise into which I’m about to immerse myself.

As the author of some 75 (!) books of poetry, fiction, nonfiction, translation and criticism (the number continues to grow), Ouyang Yu’s literary influence is undisputed.

interviewed Ouyang Yu back in 2007, after he published his book On the Smell of an Oily Rag.  During that time, he told me that the wasn’t in  the habit of putting himself into pigeon holes: "I might as well call myself a poetnovelisttranslatoressayistcritic". I think that label, if one were required (of course it isn’t), could be applied to his new book Fainting with Freedom.  Many of the poems read like little stories or narratives, full of (often subversive) fun, dismay, intensity, longing, and Ouyang Yu’s characteristic word play that always breaks linguistic boundaries.

Here’s a very brief sample:
Hills flow in wavelets, brown-green, yellow-red, pink-dark.  Empty sticks of trees, through which glimpses of clouds topping the hills.  One lone tree, another, another, a shadow stretching across the tableland, darkening the feeding sheep.  Dots of grey.  Sudden water sky. (“Biography”)
Full review, as always, to follow.

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