There are one hundred kinds of Chinese silence: the silence of unknown grandfathers; the silence of borrowed Buddha and rebranded Confucius; the silence of alluring stereotypes and exotic reticence. These poems make those silences heard. Writing back to an orientalist tradition that has defined modern American poetry, these 100 Chinese silences unmask the imagined Asias of American literature, revealing the spectral Asian presence that haunts our most eloquent lyrics and self-satisfied wisdom. Rewriting poets from Ezra Pound and Marianne Moore to Gary Snyder and Billy Collins, this book is a sharply critical and wickedly humorous travesty of the modern canon, excavating the Asian (American) bones buried in our poetic language.
Timothy Yu’s first book of poems, 100 Chinese Silences, brims with sharp, angry, sarcastic and tender poems. He delivers dazzling lines with the deadpan wit and precise timing of Buster Keaton, the stone-faced master of silence. In fact, I had not realized until now—and I mean NOW—that Keaton is really the Timothy Yu of silent films, while Yu is Yu, a slayer of dragons, who knows the millions of sinister and inscrutable ways the Chinese have been silenced in blockbuster films, best-selling novels, Broadway musicals and award-winning poems read on NPR, and closely scrutinized in graduate classes and parking lots of Asian fusion take-out joints with funny names. Not only does Yu make Ezra Pound and Gary Snyder stand on their pointy heads in ways that are illuminating and funny, but he also skewers Jeb Bush, Billy Collins, Mary Oliver, Marianne Moore, and Eliot Weinberger right through their bright yellow Chinese hearts. You got to love a poet who can do that and never miss his mark. I present you with Timothy Yu, noble Chinese archer and master poet.