Chen-ou Liu's Translation Project: First English-Chinese Haiku and Tanka Blog

Thursday, July 5, 2012

Following the Moon to the Maple Land

Book Review by Kathy Uyen Nguyen

Here is an excerpt:

Liu's "Preface" is unlike any other prefaces I've read out there; it is a haibun that captures his sense of self-identity and reality as if they are balancing on scales. Consider the following excerpt:

My mind can't find a resting place except writing poetry - the only way I can manipulate the reality of my life in Canada.

It is evident that Liu's hometown is in Taipei, Taiwan, yet in this haibun, there is much more room for readjustment to his new life in Canada. This story is shared by many of us (including relatives and friends) who are immigrants as we know that it is a lifelong process of letting go, yet still remembering one's own motherland wherever that may be. The only thing that is constant and ironically stationary in Liu's life is his poetry writing.

Speaking of Liu's hometown, I absolutely love the diction and the continuity of the images in this following haiku:

    peeling my pear
    in a thin, unbroken spiral ...
    hometown memories

This haiku evokes nostalgia and is simply beautiful. The reader can imagine that both the peeling pear and Liu's hometown memories are all in an "unbroken spiral." I love the fusion between human nature ("memories") and nature ("pear").

Liu also demonstrates versatility and skill in one-line haiku such as the following selections:

    slowly I eat up a spring day quickly dissolving


    single married single again a rushing river

In "[slowly]," the reader can see that the speaker of the haiku is eating up "a spring day" with the first reading, but at the same time or with the second reading, it is noted as the spring day being quickly dissolved while the speaker is eating something. Either way, I love the ambiguity and gustatory experience of this one-like haiku.

In "[single]," this reminds me of tributaries that all flow and merge together to become one big river. There is irony in the human experience when it comes to relationships (e.g., divorces, breakups, marriages, etc.): we go through these changing phases of relationships as if we are small streams ourselves trying to flow into one big river in the name of love. The middle part of the haiku with "single again" works like a hinge. It could be that the speaker of this haiku is "single again" or is experiencing once "again a rushing river" as in a rush of emotions.....

Read its full text here