Tuesday, November 19, 2013

Cool Announcement: A Freebie at Scribd.com

Title: Broken/Breaking English: Selected Short Poems, 2013 Edition
Author: Chen-ou Liu 
Publisher: A Room of My Own Press, ON, Canada
ISBN: 978-0-9868947-1-8
E-chapbook  for free in PDF; 40 pp.

My Dear Fellow Poets/Readers:

My book, Broken/Breaking English: Selected Short Poems, is now available at Scribd. This collection of 31 short free verse poems (including 3 award-winning and one Pushcart-nominated poems) is filled with themes of immigration, learning English, racialized identity, and a poet’s life struggles. My book is dedicated to Ishikawa Takuboku

My mind, which was yearning after some indescribable thing from morning to night, could find an outlet to some extent only by making poems. And I had absolutely nothing except that mind…Wrote some poems. It was not a pleasant feeling to realize that the only thing I was able to manipulate the way I wanted was a poem. -- Takuboku: Poems to Eat

Below is a relevant excerpt from  my 2010 Simply Haiku interview with Robert Wilson:

RDW:  You’re far from your homeland and culture, and have to quit school to feed and care for your family.  During this time you discover poetry, and in your words: become “the quintessential ‘struggling poet’ writing from his agitated heart.” What is the source of this agitation?

CL:  Before my emigration to Canada, I’d always been a man who used words, spoken and written, to express my thoughts in an articulate way. Since my arrival here, I am constantly stuck in the middle of finding the exact words to convey my feelings. Even in the best case scenarios, in the strain of translating a Chinese word into its English equivalent, or vice versa, the spontaneity and natural quality of my speech are lost. In this laborious process of translation, I try hard to impose my learning, will, and intellect on my spoken English in an effort to turn my speech into an oral facade of my hidden self. I know that I am failing, for I feel that I’m falling out of the tightly-knit fabric of emotional vocabulary into the weightless net of the linguistic signifiers of a foreign language.
As Chinese-American writer Ha Jin emphasized in an interview with Dave Weich, “[dealing] with the question of language is at the core of the immigrant experience: how to learn the language–or give up learning the language!–but without the absolute mastery of the language, which is impossible for an immigrant. Your life is always affected by the insufficiency.” In one of my unpublished prose poems, “Why believe you can write verse in English?,” I also wrote of struggling with my faltering confidence in writing:
Why Believe You Can Write Verse in English?

To write verse in English is not like growing ideograms inside your heart, reaping the sentences matured by the muse of desire, taking your clothes off with words, and exposing yourself in the rhythm of the stanzas so that you can hold your passport and cross the borders of linguistic solitudes, emigrating from the ideographic to the alphabetic.

English still remains an unmastered means of deciphering the musings of your heart and mind, and it is constantly intruded upon and twisted by inflections from the old language. Often, you are not able to connect emotions to words, to feel the weight of their syllables. Without emotional vocabulary, everything becomes elusion, confusion, and the fear of things you needn’t be afraid of.

Even if you can find the right words to reflect your feelings, you are not skilled at weaving these into sentences. They simply become isolated cries clinging desperately to your heart. Even if you can find a way to weave words together into an artistic whole, the poem too often fails to conform to the texture mandated by poetry editors. Why believe you can write verse in English, whose music is not natural to you?
(Note: The last sentence is taken from the last two lines of “An Exchange,” a poem written by Nan Wu, the poet who is the protagonist of A Free Life, Ha Jin’s fifth novel)

Below are my award-winning and Puchcart-nominated poems:

Two Tales of a Poem

A Taipei key opened
to Ajax twilight.
I pursued my poem
throughout the night.

Rain tapping on the window…

I gaze upon the ellipses
at the end of the poem;
they speak of falling
into spaces untold, unknown,
and strike me with their longing.

Finalist, 2011 Open Ages Poetry Contest
Anthologized in Fire and Light

A Drunken Poem

grabs me
by the balls
my mind
begins to tremble
a poem
is thrown out
of my shadow

Honorable Mention, 2013 Ultra Short Poem Competition
Included in a forthcoming anthology published by The Ontario Poetry Society

Day and Night

secrets breathed
the blackness of day

gathered in the dark
many poems on a page
made from the scalp
of a lonely night

Honorable Mention, 2013 Ultra Short Poem Competition
Included in a forthcoming anthology published by The Ontario Poetry Society

White Night

I hurl nostalgia
into a corner of my heart
feeling the weight of a night

Four and Twenty, 4:1, January 2011
Nominated for Pushcart Prize, 2011

Many thanks for your continued support of my writing


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