YU BRINGS A REFRESHING ODDNESS TO AUSTRALIAN POETRY
English language comes flooding in/ I’ve lost my memory/ The 5000-year-old structure collapses overnight/ As my tongue straightens like a penis’’. The poem also points to the relation of language to memory: ‘‘ Pretty soon, I’ll forget my parents/ And brothers altogether’’.
Yu brings a refreshing oddness to the oddness of Australian poetry with lines such as: ‘‘ i take you/ in my arms/ as a mother/ caressing her baby/ a mature baby’’ ( Untitled). Another poem aligns the phrases ‘‘ some become lines of poetry’’ with ‘‘ fish enter the arts’’.
The book ends with three visually exciting poems that combine Chinese and English, self and self. The Double translates line by line; it plays thematically with alternation, with black and whiteness. My Sadness begins with a quote from a letter by WB Yeats to JM Synge that Yu has translated, followed by the English original; the poem translates from an Irish and French context to Yu’s Chinese Australian.
The final poem returns to the double bilingual mode, except both sides include Chinese and English, alternating. The poem is a meditation on Robert Frost’s The Road Not Taken, which encourages the monolingual reader to take both roads (poems) by reading the Chinese or the English back and forth from left to right pages. The last stanza in both poems is in both languages, with the word ‘‘ taken’’ taken from English and replaced by Chinese, and placed in the Chinese text on the left. Finally the poem ends with an extra line in English in the left, mainly Chinese, stanza: ‘‘ There’s nothing you can’t do that you do.’’ The blank that corresponds on the right is our yet-to-be translated future.