by Ye Chun
“It is not often that a poet possesses the gift of rendering the missed moments of world visible, and who finds a language for deeply meditative attention, but such is the accomplishment of Ye Chun. A beautiful work.” — Carolyn Forché
* Winner of the Berkshire Prize for First or Second Book, chosen by D. A. Powell
Entranced by time and location and the body’s longings, this is a book of self-translation. Each poem has gone through a transmigration process, as the poet negotiates between her native Chinese and her adopted English, attempting to condense, distill, and expand seeing and understanding.
“Ye Chun’s poetry is remarkably gorgeous, courageous, astute, and inspiring. A ‘space dark enough for a peach tree to bloom.’ These poems are solidly anchored in both the world and the imagination — in fact, they use one in order to make the other possible.”
— D. A. Powell
“The intricate lyrics of Ye Chun’s Lantern Puzzle shimmer liminally, like the many windows, spiders, moons, lanterns, and reflected faces that hover between heaven and earth throughout the collection. These talismanic portals suggest that the realms of the soma and geography are blurred and permeable, turning and returning into one another in revelatory epiphanies, allowing the past and present, and the lost, longed for, and the realized to exist at once. The poems draw on Ye Chun’s Chinese childhood, Zen practice, and the crucible of exile to ask what—perhaps language?—is home, and also “How long does it take to rise / from the mat woven / with long roads and hunger // to travel the length of / understand understand // And the harbor comes tiding / from heart to toe-tips.” In prismatic, palimpsestic, chromatic tiers, these poems offer multivalent iterations of experience in which the speaker’s “window sits, a clear heart, / exchanging frost for frost, promise for promise / with what’s cooling, blooming in wind: // Once I held a map which was empty. / Only at night the roads emerged. // Destinations tingling: dew on a leaf.”
— Lisa Russ Spaar
“Lantern Puzzle opens with an earthquake and ends on a breath, and from tremor to murmur, a lyric history unfolds, following a map/ of cherries and water paths, as mildew turns back into rain and food into fire, in a twirl of air once a village/ with salt and piglets. By turns we are in China, in childhood, in America, and in a world wholly the poet’s own, suspended in time. Chun’s is a rain-lit, gestural world, where bicycles are ridden through smoke and a stupa of pear blossoms covers a sheep’s shorn body. We move between the stillness of aftermath, and the inexorable workings of history. It is not often that a poet possesses the gift of rendering the missed moments of world visible, and who finds a language for deeply meditative attention, but such is the accomplishment of Ye Chun. A beautiful work.”
— Carolyn Forché
Excerpt: Three Moons Make a Season
I used to stand before lantern puzzles.
Now my window is too low for the moon,
my window with the sound of trains.
Cinnamon grove pressed on mooncakes
and pomelo cut in twelve
are for people in the yellow space.
In my stomach
migrant workers hammer and saw;
the houses they build remain empty.
Ye Chun (叶春) is the author of a book of poetry, Travel Over Water (The Bitter Oleander, 2005), and a 2011 novel in Chinese, Peach Tree In The Sea (《海上的桃树》). She holds an MFA from the University of Virginia and is completing a doctorate at the University of Missouri.
“Personal, familial, and public histories are all interlinked. It’s impossible to look deeply into one without seeing implications of the others. One image bleeds into another, lets surface a third, fourth. They coexist and collage into something new. For me, that may be the ultimate pleasure of writing poetry, or writing in general—it invites me to tune in and see the connections between seemingly disparate things.” — Ye Chun in conversation with Christopher Nelson of Green Linden Press
‘As she moves from her native Chinese to English (she’s published one novel in Chinese and the poetry collection Travel Over Water), Ye Chun moves from one world to another, from dragon boats, amulets, and “white flowers [hung] on bones/ rustling” to migrant workers and the Pacific Ocean, which “shovels coals in the distance.” She blends them elegantly, creating a voice all her own, visually vibrant yet cleanly, perfectly sifted. Winner of the Tupelo Press First/Second Book Award.’
— Barbara Hoffert, Library Journal, “Top Spring Indie Poetry”
‘Cultural and personal histories, cosmologies, mythologies, rituals, places real and imagined — all turn into one another everywhere. The poems are full of hungry ghosts; they are themselves hungry, and their very particular beauty derives from this answerless desire. The poems are “lantern puzzles” — hearts, webs, paper orbs, language acts that are at once ephemeral and tensile, lit from within, bodily and mysterious[.]’
— Lisa Russ Spaar, Los Angeles Review of Books