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Tuesday, October 20, 2009
Sandy Tseng, Sediment
Sandy Tseng's debut collection Sediment is reviewed by Publishers Weekly.
This vivid and clean-lined debut weaves strands of personal and family narrative into short poems with wider symbolic force; the best of them contemplate both autobiography and ecocatastrophe. Tseng's free verse creates strong moods: “Apple season, the dog eats his fill and falls asleep beside the space heater./ I thought the world was going to end years ago.” Questions of East Asian immigration and assimilation dominate some early poems before giving way to more abstract spiritual dilemmas: “if our books burn up,/ we will suffer loss and still be saved,/ as those escaping through the flames.” Tseng is equally at home depicting modern cityscapes and presenting far-flung rural locales. In both, she seeks sublimity while restricting herself to familiar words; in both she is able to see impending doom, as when the title poem presents the Indonesian tsunami and Hurricane Katrina in two haunting pages (“The last thing we see is a wall of white crashing... Oil rig evacuations. Cars and cars against the sea wall”). In Tseng's strongest work, everything takes on a surprising, religious dimension as the book drives to a close: “The voice of the Lord is upon the water,” she warns: “he intends to strip the forests bare.” (Nov.)