Review of The Works of Li Qingzhao

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At Rhino.

Teaser quote: One is told a million times that traditional Chinese society was supremely sexist, and that one had better not hold one’s breath, looking for good poems in Classical Chinese written by women. Yet here is something good: Li Qingzhao.

[originally posted Wednesday 8 May 2019]

Review of Mir Taqi Mir: Selected Ghazals and Other Poems

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At Rhino.

Teaser quote: For 120 seconds, people like me were shaking with delight. Those little sky-blue babies were pouring off the presses, like it was some kind of Soviet plan to catch up with the Loebs in ten years or less…

[originally posted Wednesday 8 May 2019]


Waterman Redux

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At The Paris Review Online.

Teaser quote: There are times I am facetious in these articles. It’s not always perceived. Therefore, allow me to take a moment to mention I do not actually think Waterman was crazy, and neither do I think all, most, or even any of his limericks are gibberish. They all make sense. They’re obscure, that’s all. He was eccentric, that’s all.

[originally posted Wednesday 24 April 2019]


A Poet’s Complaints Against Fiction

At The Paris Review Online.

Teaser quote: First, a word about the traditional feud between poets and fiction writers. I wish to acknowledge, up front, that that feud does not exist. Not traditionally. Conditions in the wild are very unfavorable to it. To witness episodes of this feud, you have to visit a special kind of mismanaged zoo called an MFA program.

[originally posted Wednesday 13 March 2019]

Review of Montgomery & Sieburth’s ‘Antarah

At Rhino.

Teaser quote: There’s a batch of between seven and ten very old poems that, I’m told, every educated Arabic-speaker knows. All introductions to all translations of these poems say this. Unfortunately, these pieces are notoriously untranslatable—which is not to say they can’t be Englished and explained. You can do that; the thing you can’t do is make the result graceful.

[originally posted Wednesday 6 March 2019]

Meet Your New Favorite Poet

At The Paris Review Online.

Teaser quote: And why can’t beginners have this pleasure? That’s easy. ’Cuz they cannot bring themselves to read material that’s “not gonna be on the test.” And even if they do somehow read such material, they do not love it. They are beginners; they love each other. Everything else is homework.

[originally posted Wednesday 20 February 2019]

I'm reading this right now.

It's a satirical novel about H.D.; came out, 1926. The novelist is one of the many men whom she drove absolutely crazy all through her twenties and thirties. It made them SO MAD that her self-involvement simply and harmlessly left no room in the picture for them.

Review of Ha Jin’s Li Bai

At Rhino.

Teaser quote: Almost all we have are lists of dates and names of places. In such-and-such year the genius went to such-and-such place. Now, if one collated such chronologies, and set ’em up the way it’s done in the backs of Library of America editions, you’d be looking at two, maybe three, pages of material. And it wouldn’t tell you jack. There’s almost nothing personal there. So how are you gonna get 300 pages out of it? Basically: hook a bicycle pump to those names and dates and fsssht-fsssht-fsssht ’til you hit 300….

[originally posted Friday 8 February 2019]

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Review of Melissa McCormick, The Tale of Genji: A Visual Companion

At Rhino.

Teaser quote: Suppose you don’t honestly want to read Tale of Genji, but you want to want to read it. The Tale of Genji: A Visual Companion could help with this. Because! When you look at a picture, say, of some random-to-you dude (with an attendant) peeping through a fence at a busy scene with women chasing a sparrow, you just naturally want to know what’s up. Who are these people. Why is he peeping. Why are they chasing. You imagine the better and more cultured version of yourself who might spot this image in a museum and turn to whomever-you’re-with and go: “Oh!! I know what this is! This is the scene from Tale of Genji where [blah blah blah]…!” That would be a tasty moment, you must admit.

[originally posted Wednesday 9 January 2019]