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Monday January 23, 2012 in Books
Drawing on more than two thousand years of ancient Chinese tradition that present diverse philosophical modes of being, whether it be the spiritual teachings of Kong Zi or Lao Tzu, the military dicta of Sun Tzu or the complex sensibilities expressed by poets such as Ssu-ma Hsiang-ju, Li Bai, Du Fu and Wang Wei in the wake of a tumultuous imperial government, Weyman Chan restates these concerns of the past while addressing other “first world problems” in our own contemporary era.
In Chinese Blue, the poet “character” sifts through the earth’s long history of geological layering and forgetting, grappling with the perpetual fragmentation of identity. The poet struggles with the prospect of any inky blots that suggest the finished work of a creator, subject to expediencies—ambition, romance, betrayal—that leave us flawed and human, taking the reader on a spiritual quest burdened by an endless sea of flotsam.
In a stoic attempt to reconcile biological drives with a stance of non-presence and to find a place beyond “perpetual worry” where he can accept ancestral mistakes while tentatively channelling the voices of advertising that condition our vernacular and massage our minds—offering a cliché happy ending to what remains of our physical existence—the poet finds himself wading through jazzily visionary delineations of the modern city, numbed and soundly crushed between “the word and the thing.”
Here is Weyman Chan at his most fiercely ironic, tracing a lineage he interprets subconsciously and through the intricacies of its raw genetic material, with keenly biting language that echoes the rhythms of Qu Yuan in contemplation of his own mortality beside the flowing waters of impermanence:
I would prefer to jump into the river and be entombed in the stomachs of fishes than to bow while purity is defiled by vulgar pestilence.
ISBN 13: 9780889226814 | ISBN 10: 889226814
6 W x 9 H inches | 128 pages
16.95 CAN / 16.95 US
Backlist | Poetry | Bisac: POE000000
QUOTES OF NOTE
“Chan continues to write some of the edgiest lyrics in Canadian poetry, lyrics filled with science and music.”
“Interwoven like richly suggestive translucent overlays of nerves, muscles, and bones, Chinese Blue illuminates the forces of fathering, masculinity, Chinese heritage, and global commerce scripting a body struggling to resist and redefine its source codes. The text hovers between the seen and the imagined, interrogating both, as it runs a tight line from the jazz of a blue toy piano to the blues of life in oil-greedy Alberta to a Guangdong blue-jeans factory to Dad’s blue cocoon. This poetry vividly sounds the cross-currencies and necessary entanglements of the lyric in times of famine, polar meltdown, carbon credits and the massive production of media trivia.”
“There are many things in the world to love. Weyman Chan’s poetry is one. Chinese Blue is a virtuoso performance by a poet who looks deep inside himself, others, and the distant rumblings of the world. He pronounces disquiet over their wordings—Lady Gaga, Arab Spring, G.I. Joe, Kurt Cobain, Two Small Men With Big Hearts and all the other brandings we are forced to carry in our hearts. Chan paints with the eyes of classical Chinese painter, whose brush strokes carry many meanings.”
“These poems are marvels of the gone but ever-sighted, every moment in/out simultaneous. Read Chinese Blue in your hover-alls. Peel the world true-gappy.”
“Jackson Pollock, mahjong groceries, Patty Hearst, Joplin and Monk, Wang Wei (albeit as insect), Robert Kroetsch and NHLer Dion Phaneuf (as a Flame)—populate this poet’s wide world that starts from his Calgary home. A kind of collage familiar to my own hyphenated-Canadian’s tale. Decades of cultural markers come in lush poems back-lit with shimmery quiet that can veritably glow in his respect towards Chinese immigrant parents. With textured, varied diction, Chan tracks imagination’s lyrical moments and its vivid disjunctive trajectories. His fluid, orally driven abandon and heartbeat rambling lines form linear narratives that, while reassuring, can abruptly shift gears at unusual challenging perceptions. Equally, Chan’s gentle lyrical pulse propels energetic shifts that capture and confer due attention to the discontinuous story that forms our quotidian. This is art as hopeful act with a big heart—exemplified in poems about the father, free of self-flexing sentimentality.”
About the ContributorsWeyman Chan
Weyman Chan was born in Calgary, Alberta, in 1963, to immigrant parents from China. Chan wrote his first poem when he was thirteen years old. He has published poems and short stories in a wide variety of literary journals and anthologies. He won the 2002 National Magazine Awards silver prize for his poem “At work,” and the 2003 Alberta Book Award for his first book of poetry, Before a Blue Sky Moon. His second book, Noise From the Laundry, was a finalist for the 2008 Governor General’s Award for Poetry and the 2009 Acorn-Plantos Award for People’s Poetry.
We gratefully acknowledge the financial support of the Canada Council for the Arts; the Government of Canada through the Canada Book Fund (CBF); and the Province of British Columbia through the British Columbia Arts Council for our publishing activities.