by Ralph-Michael Chiaia
Coatlism Press 2008
Though Chiaia is an experimental writer, some of the work here seems timeless, the poems about East Asia, like Lian Penang, ending with the separate observation “An old Malay, he fishes” and Kuala Lumpur with the presence of religion in the two short verses both ending “The Imam sings.” They are full of observation that lets you feel the essence of the place, and a regret too, for the violence and the decay of the ancient, the escape of traditional values “How could Malaysia let it get away?” I can read poems about the UK, where i lived the first 27 years of my life and think, “Where is this place? Who are these people?.” But in Chiaia's East Asia poems one believes one knows. The language is elegant and English but smells like Asia.
The second half, “Kitsch Nebula Ampersands and” is much weirder and heavier, it includes several conversations between a person and a mushroom about access to said person's Central Nervous System, and this is appropriate, these are hallucinatory poems but full of acerbic wit, broad humor, and a certain exile's nostalgia for the homeland that may or may not exist. There's a rude Ode to Americans, an exquisite Ode to Ampersands, and, my favorite in this second part, a brilliant two part Daiku (death haiku) that ends
butterfly slain here
beside raped caterpillar
This is a book you need, it's great poetry, it's very worth reading.
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