Today's book of poetry: Sweet Devilry. Yi-Mei Tsiang. Oolichan Books. Fernie, B.C., 2011.
Yi-Mei Tsiang's debut collection of poetry had to be written by an older woman who inhabits Tsiang when she isn't looking. It is the only explanation for these fully mature poems about motherhood, death, the black heart of the inevitable and the unseen joys of being a woman. It is hard to believe that this is a first book because the poets' voice is so utterly confident and in stride.
Susan Musgrave, one of my very favourite poets, said this about Tsiang (quoted from the rear cover):
"These poems put a stake through the heart of any romantic notions we might have that motherhood and the creative process are not compatible. Witty, poignant, wise, memorable, this is a book to savour, and, oh, what the hell....I totally love this utterly great new poet and think everyone should read her book." When Susan Musgrave speaks I listen.
I lack the skill set to deconstruct poetry or to give formal analysis of structure. I started this blog to write about books of poetry that I enjoy and wanted to share. Yi-Mei Tsiang's Sweet Devilry meets all of my criteria for a good book of poetry.
Tsiang's poems are witty, they bristle with intelligence and humour. These poems are in turn haunting and hilarious, all the more so because Tsiangs' voice is one we are all comfortable with. The wise friend who calmly gives us perspective. Even though I am hearing her voice for the first time it is a voice, as a reader, that I trusted immediately.
Yi-Mei Tsiang sums it up very neatly in her poem Last Will and Testament:
"The secret that poetry is not literature
but meditation, that poetry is not art, but a way to learn
how to be in this world."
I was completely taken in by this book and enjoyed every minute of it - I don't get to say that often enough.