I Can Almost See the Clouds of Dust, by Yu Xiang

PUBLISHED : Sunday, 08 September, 2013, 12:00am
UPDATED : Sunday, 08 September, 2013, 5:47pm

I Can Almost See the Clouds of Dust
by Yu Xiang (translated by Fiona Sze-Lorrain)
Chinese University Press
3.5 stars

Keira Lu Huang

I Can Almost See the Clouds of Dust differs from other poetry anthologies due to its simplicity. However, that doesn't mean this collection is easy to understand.

Yu Xiang, a post-1970s Chinese poet, injects her feelings of fury, loss and love into her poems which, to her, are like her children. She lives the figurative interpretation of her own poems.

This poet obeys no grammar rules or rhetorical order. Freedom, voluntary imagination, and randomness are the three keywords to summarise her style.

In Street, Yu writes: "We dress simply, love simply/so simply that we fall in love/once we meet/Love someone/anyone, bring/their sorrows to the street."

This doesn't follow traditional poetic rhythms or even the cadences of normal conversations; it's like reading a woman's tangled thoughts. It's hard to understand unless you immerse yourself in it.

Most of the poems are simply derived from mundane life, usually without embellishment. But they point out details many of us ignore in our daily routines.

Not only do the poems reflect the close-to-life style of writing, but also the simple language the poet uses for her lines.

Take Distracted, for example: "I like to stare at one thing for a long time/For instance, a child blowing soap bubbles/I stare till each bubble bursts with a plop/and vanishes into thin air." This is a story told simply and directly, in spare terms - yet every word is powerful and every word matters.

It is a pleasure to see the English translation being loyal to the simple, clean language of the Chinese poems. Occasionally, Fiona Sze-Lorrain adds French to the translation, which makes the tone more stylish and diverse: "You and my house/are unrelated, you're simply/chez moi - My House".

This anthology is a refreshing breeze that highlights the little details of our daily lives.