"The Book of Jade": Poems by Yun Wang

(Storyline Press, December 2002)
Available from amazon.com

Reviews of "The Book of Jade"

"This is an unforgettable book. Wang employs a strange and strangely disturbing, invented form, something between a psalm and a prose poem. In clipped paragraphs, she conducts us through narratives that start as stories and end in dreamlike images. This device could, in less assured hands, become dull with repetition. Instead, the poet sharpens the details in each piece to almost unbearable points. Although the autobiographical and historical facts that underpin the book are themselves striking and often tragic--Wang, born in China, saw and heard of numbing human cruelties--the overall effect is to exalt the human capacity to survive, and even to love, despite circumstances. Winner of the Nicholas Roerich poetry prize, this book and this poet deserve great attention." -- Patricia Monaghan in Booklist (Copyright American Library Association. All rights reserved)

"Yun Wang has written a wonderful, rich and exotic book that is in itself a cosmology of the human condition." -- Ai

"This is an extraordinary book, a book of breathtaking delicacy, phantasmagoric inventiveness, exquisite beauty and fragrance, physics and astrophysics, moments of eroticism, cats, fish, infants, and the tragic horrors of deliberate famine, greed, and ignorant brutality during the Cultural Revolution - all in verses as tender as petals. Yun Wang is a rising star in American poetry." -- Alicia Ostriker

"Yun Wang employs the heart of a poet and the mind of a scientist to plot the hidden meanings in experiences both personal and universal, horrifying and beautiful." -- Oklahoma Center for the Book


Sample Poems from "The Book of Jade"


The Parable of Love

A man traps a bird.
He complains of her sad, listless notes.
She wraps herself in her blue wings.

She appears dead.
He buries her in a glossy white box.

He drives a car at night
with the lights off.
He climbs into the white box
to ask her one more question.


Written in Stars

A great wall stretches
three hundred million lightyears
We are not certain of its existence

The black mirrors are embroidered
They speak to us in waves
As we breathe our thoughts are read
A cold sensation

These faint blossoms emerge
out of darkness
As we gaze they grow brighter

In the celestial ocean of dust
there are lumps that glow
there are lumps that are dark
there are voids that grow



Morning Song

You drum with your little feet
against the flesh and skin wall.

Soon, you will emerge
from the long night of waiting
into the sun:
a rush of green banners
against the azure sky,
clouds, flock of white porpoises.

Between sun and sun there will be darkness.
A mountainous cat hides the sky
with its fine, black fur.
The stars will appear to you.
A thousand thoughts will swim into you.

When it rains you will remember
sound of scarlet rivers rushing to the womb.
You will tap your little feet
watching shining rocks after rain.


The Carp

My father was the school principal. The day I was born, he caught a twenty
pound carp. He gave it to the school kitchen. All the teachers and boarding
students tasted it.

Waves of mountains surrounded us. I grew up yearning for the ocean. Smoke
arose from green mountains to form clouds each morning. My father named
me Cloud.

When a son was born to Confucius, the king of Lu sent over a carp as present.
Confucius named his son Carp.

The wise say a carp leaping over the dragon gate is a very lucky sign. My father
says he named me Cloud because I was born in the year of the dragon: there are
always clouds following a dragon. Confucius' son died an early death. My father
has only three daughters.

When I was three, I wandered all over the campus. A stray cat in a haunted town.
My mother says I passed the room where my father was imprisoned. He whispered
to me, hid a message in my little pocket. It was his will that I should grow up
a strong woman, and find justice for him.

They caught me. My father was beaten to near death. Some of them were students,
whose parents were peasants. Some of them were teachers, who used to be his best
friends. They had tasted the carp.

It has been recorded that Confucius could not tell the difference between millet
and wheat, and was thus mocked by a peasant. This peasant became a big hero,
representing the wisdom of the people, thousands of years after Confucius' death.

My father still goes fishing, the only thing that seems to calm him. The mountains
are sleeping waves. My father catches very small fish. My mother eats them. My
friends laugh at me, when I tell them that once upon a time, my father caught a
carp weighing twenty pounds.