Wednesday, January 14, 2015

Peeling Rambutan - Gillian Sze (Gaspereau Press)

Today's book of poetry:
Peeling Rambutan.  Gillian Sze.  Gaspereau Press.  Kentville, Nova Scotia.


"sorrow becomes a friend if it hangs
around long enough"
                                --from East is the Sun Behind a Tree
                                           Gillian Sze

Back on October 14, 2014, Today's book of poetry (blog #257), I had the pleasure of writing about Gillian Sze's utterly illuminating second book, The Anatomy of Clay.  Peeling Rambutan feels and reads as though it were written by a different poet - but one of equally fascinating and obvious talent.

Whereas there was a lightness to The Anatomy of Clay, an almost casual brilliance - Peeling Rambutan has weight.  It is full of focused energy and power.  But it is never too heavy.  This balancing act takes game.

Once again, Gillian Sze is dazzling.


and show me our various forms of leaving. By boat, by foot,
by the flash of our thumbs. By storm, by nightfall, by the
infant hours. Play me the heave of a train horn pushing
through the dark. Show me how a railway crossing rises as
easily and slowly as a dancer lifting one leg. Show me the
silent lightning, as if the sky surrendered, and we're waiting
for ash. Tell me that someone has already seen this and is
still looking up. Tell me how to prepare for the weather next
Saturday. tell me how to reduce stories to their simplest
parts. Tell me again our various forms of leaving. With the
engine running. With joy, avidity, stifled regret. Tell me how
the rooms fell silent. Faces looming in the back window.
The eye falling to the fence. Tell me about two-toned living.
The incompatibility of temper. the worlds you worked to
unite. the tumbling languages that refused to stay aloft. The
ground-bound postscripts. The plummeted paper planes.


Many of the poems in this third book of poetry by Sze are prose poems - and yet they flow easily enough, slide off of your tongue as though by design.

Contemplative is a good word to describe these precise poems of captured moments.  Like you are constantly walking into rooms of new discovery.  The edges are clear, reading them is like watching one of those old Polaroid photos come into focus in front of your eyes.

Garage Band

In Wen Chong Village, beneath a small light,
a group of old men settle on their plastic chairs.
Cradling their instruments,
they smoke cigarettes
and drink kung fu tea to defeat the dark.
Inside, their women fret over what to prepare
and pack for next day's lunch.
Outside, a weathered man stands to face his players
and wavers out a Canton opera,
spitting during the interludes,
and picking up at his cues.


Once again I have to mention Gary Dunfield & Andrew Steeves.  This book continues Gaspereau's tradition of making the most beautiful books of poetry that Today's book of poetry sees.  Looks shouldn't matter to poetry - but Gaspereau gives all other poetry presses something to aspire to.

How To Kill A Cockroach

Without qualm,
she peers at the bottom of her shoe and says,
Never let a cockroach see your hand's shadow.


Peeling Rambutan is a travelogue of sorts that takes you inside the minds and language of foreign people and places that you will most likely never see - and leaves you feeling like you've been there.

That's a great trick.  Bravo Gillian.

Gillian Sze

Gillian Sze is the author of two previous collections: The Anatomy of Clay (2011) and Fish Bones (2009). Her work has appeared in a number of national and international journals, and has received awards such as the University of Winnipeg Writers’ Circle Prize and the 2011 3Macs carte blanche Prize. Originally from Winnipeg, she now resides in Montreal.

Peeling Rambutan traces a young poet's journey into the interior of China, a place where "religion is a game of telephone and illumination," where epiphany is found in ancestral kitchens. Sze shows us a luminous, lyric landscape where old village vendors ride into Shanghai singing in rhyming couplets. What a beautiful, unforgettable trip reading this book is!
—MARY DI MICHELE, author of The Flower of Youth

Gillian Sze's Peeling Rambutan is an unforgettably vivid collection, combining her characteristic intimacy with subjects and a gut-punching instinct to get it across. Richly detailed with uncommon knowledge and observance, poised in articulation and always present. Gillian Sze is one of our most enchanting poets.
—DAVID MCGIMPSEY, author of L'il Bastard

Gillian Sze's voice is so assured and so clear. She sets out to explore where she is from, where "Here can't be found on a map," and then sends the images our way. She records, and then tattles in the best of ways: with curiosity and awe and humour. I felt at times that I was reading a novelist writing brilliant poetry. That is to say, these poems are busy with story. I loved them.
—DAVID BERGEN, author of The Age of Hope

Gillian Sze's sensuous, precisely-observed poems trace her identity across cultures, eras and continents, weaving together scraps of family lore, visits to changing landscapes, the smell of Malaysian fruits and Canadian snow. Her far-flung home, often in the air, often lonely and built from memory is of a sort many of us share. The poems in Peeling Rambutan enlarge our sense of who we are.
—JOHN STEFFLER, author of Lookout

Gillian Sze reads from The Anatomy of Clay\
video from ECW Press


Poems cited here are assumed to be under copyright by the poet and/or publisher.  They are shown here for publicity and review purposes.  For any other kind of re-use of these poems, please contact the listed publishers for permission.

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