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Tuesday October 17, 2017
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Timothy Liu

 

continued

I get a very clear sense of loss or absence in this poem. I imagine the speaker has had a quarrel with his lover and already regrets it, yet is not willing to return, just as the lover is not yet willing to follow. It is a signal of Liu's abilities that I get this whole narrative and a very real and understandable emotional state out of only six lines.

On the other hand, Liu can sometimes be wildly extravagant. The same book that offers the vivid and delicate little poem above also includes "Many Mansions," a verbal free-for-all stuffed with all kinds of Latinate words that spill down the page in a complicated syntax. Here's the beginning:

Lacking gravitas, disillusioned yuppies
congregate
in a faux-Etruscan theater, acting out our
appetite
for concatenating tactics intended to shock
a brazenly chic high-styled public. . . .


I can imagine the poet enjoying himself quite a bit when he was getting those words down on paper.

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