Nancy Chen Long (Poetry) | Bloomington, IN
- Clouds as Inkblots for the War Prone (Red Bird Chapbooks, 2013). Poetry.
Blurbs, Press & Reviews
Light into Bodies
The poems in Light into Bodies amaze me with their verbal precision and richness. Revealing a tonal range that bridges scientific specificity and dream-like spontaneity, Nancy Chen Long makes good on her ambition to explore necessary questions about family, race, history, and spirituality. She answers not with pat conclusions, but an illuminating openness, a quickened vulnerability from which her poems derive their lasting strength. Her emotional power and formal mastery are cause for gratitude.
These are my favorite kind of poems: stories swept clean with the parsimonious bristle-switch of language even as pockets of narrative remain fluid, aviary, free. The achievement of Light into Bodies is both its momentum and its still moments, “grains of rice, marking a trail back home,” a pacing black puma, sassafras and nettles, a constellation of scars, poem after poem a perfect hymn for those of us “who sing with rage in our throats.”
Readers will indeed feel they have entered through the “good luck door,” after opening Nancy Chen Long’s Light into Bodies. This is a gorgeous debut, filled with glorious language that tenaciously explores the mysteries of many worlds that in the end make one life.
“I recreated a world/—so real looking—/out of spit and dust,” writes Nancy Chen Long in her powerful debut, Light into Bodies. And she does just that, while bringing light into the human and animal bodies of the universe, as she chronicles the rhythms of her Taiwanese origins and a childhood journey from Okinawa to the United States and into a generative, complex womanhood. Both the fullness and absence of family guide the speaker of these poems into an illumination of voice, all the more courageous in that it inhabits the knife-edge of liminal space. Nancy Chen Long’s poems sing with rage and rage with tenderness, as they lovingly—and deftly—seek the solace of identity.
Nancy Chen Long’s poems are lush, meditative, and quietly urgent. With lines that are lyrically charged and haunted by the past, these poems long to be heard and carried in the ear. Here are poems that are not afraid of beauty, or silence, or to know, “Dust is never an option. I have no need to hide.”
Much is at stake in Nancy Chen Long’s beautiful book. She attempts the impossible—to construct identity in a country where children are told “to color-/in Caucasoid.” Her poems possess an emotional potency translated through the “lexicon of water” and the “vernacular of tumbleweed.” Light into Bodies reminds us of the startling paradox—there is no hope without insatiable hunger. We end where we begin.
—Nancy K. Pearson
Clouds as Inkblots for the War Prone
“Nancy Chen Long creates a tantalizing poem collage in Clouds as Inkblots for the War Prone. When Chen Long mixes her 21st-century perceptions and depth of compassion with the vocabulary from a Pulitzer Prize-winning twentieth-century war novel, Guard of Honor by James Gould Cozzens, an imaginary longitude line appears. Across this line connections and sympathies meet, while disconnections and antipathies spar. From her remix the poet makes a seriously playful, playfully serious collage.”