The Weekend Australian - Review - - Books - Michael Far­rell’s

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.

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