The First to Escape Clara Hsu

ISBN: 9780989157872

Published: June 29th 2014


140 pages


The First to Escape  by  Clara Hsu

The First to Escape by Clara Hsu
June 29th 2014 | Paperback | PDF, EPUB, FB2, DjVu, audiobook, mp3, RTF | 140 pages | ISBN: 9780989157872 | 5.41 Mb

Poetry. Asian & Asian American Studies. Though she describes herself as not ethnic enough, everything in this book bears the brand of Clara Hsus Chinese identity. A couplet like this, Where there is no beginning or end there are definitely walls wars would have a profoundly different effect if it had been written by a non Chinese person. Those troublesome rs and ls--so often mindlessly parodied by the non Chinese--inform the words walls and wars, and each of those words might suggest aspects of Chinese experience in the USA.

Clara Hsu is also a professional musician, and this book clearly makes a music--a music which extends to what I believe is the only homophonic translation of a Chinese poem that anyone has produced. As Eastern and Western modes harmonize and collide--and though there are autobiographical elements here--reading this book makes it clear that you dont have to write autobiography (grandmothers congee) in order to write ethnic poetry.

Poems like Not Ethnic Enough, Moving with Li Po, Metamorphosis of a Poem by Su Shi, and Mad House Fantasia and Fugue--to say nothing of the amazing sequence on the Tao-te Ching--reveal Hsus Chinese identity in a way that would be impossible to the autobiographically-bound construct that is the usual ethnic offering. And if she plays on walls and wars in the title poem, look at what she does to the word like in ekillike. Clara Hsu was born in Hong Kong- she came to the United States as a young girl.

How is Hong Kong like San Francisco? How is she like American women? What does she like about America? (The poem began as a response to another Chinese-American womans work--and to the womans excessive use of like--but behind it is also Gertrude Steins palindromic portrait of Lipschitz: Like and like likely and likely likely and likely like and like.) The range of the work and of the intellect in The First to Escape is extraordinary.

That the book is challenging is no doubt true. But you will find feelings and perceptions here that you will not find anywhere else. Most importantly, you will find poetry. This Hong-Kong-born, San- Francisco-residing, Chinese-English- speaking writer/performer has an exquisite ear for the structures of American verse.--Jack Foley

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