6 x 9 inches
Equivalence is the first major collection
from poet Shin Yu Pai. Drawing its name from photographer Alfred Stieglitzs
series of cloud images, the poems in this collection explore connections
and correspondences between poetry and the visual arts, Eastern and
Western cultures, tradition and modernity, perpetual migration and the
sense of home. In the course of this exploration, the poet is inspired
by modern and contemporary artists such as Wolfgang Laib, Piet Mondrian,
Joseph Cornell, Yoko Ono, and Felix-Gonzales-Torres.
Shin Yu Pais imagination is like a
fine pottery bowl, delicately shaped but capable of holding many things:
playfulness, candor, descriptive elegance. She is working out her own
welcome blend of cultures, Eastern and Western, and Equivalence is the
lovely and often challenging result.
Shin Yu Pai matches a painters grasp
of the materiality of things with the poets trick of arranging
words for maximum musical effect. She knows that in poetry it is the
music that keeps in the mind what is seen. Her poems honor their imagist
heritage by making it new.
Shin Yu Pais voice is equal parts
exciting, exuberant and elegant. Equivalence serves as a profound dual
act of grace and wisdom. This poet has carved out a bold, wondrous space
on our mountain, complete with unspeakable vistas that stretch clear
toward the earths edge.
What fascinates me most about Shin Yu Pais
work is the sense that, while it is informed by various genres and various
histories, what we encounter here is new, even tentative
in the very old sense: that is, in the sense of being an attempt,
but also tempting. There is an element of the daring in
this work which gives a paradoxical authority to its language: a combination
of humility, subtlety, and risk.
As a poet, Shin Yu Pai shows exquisite skill
in taking cues from artistic movements as diverse as Abstract Expressionism
and paper making along the ancient Silk Road, performance arts as varied
as those of Fluxus and the Japanese tea ceremony, spiritual traditions
as diverse as those originating in centers stretching from Southern
India to Japan. She delights not only in the creative and comic potential
of anachronism but also the spatial counterpart of chronological disjunction.
There are other poets in our milieu who can bring new art out of this
kind of diversity, but few beside Ms. Pai can do so without being overwhelmed
or conned or goaded into hyperbole. In her first book, she emerges as
a poet highly skilled in the delicate adjustments of experience required
by a chaotic world. In her view, a slap-stick play can emerge from the
oddities of a Chinese-English phrase book as surely as the optimism
of spilt milk can depend on the serenity that radiated from the Buddha
as he raised his finger in a crowd. Shin Yu Pais sense of humor
can appeal to many people - with luck, this will help elucidate her
ability to measure a line of verse, and to find a sensitivity in life
equal to her sensitivity to language.
Equivalence is the recipient of a 2003 grant from
the Cambridge Arts Council and the Massachusetts Cultural Council, a
Shin Yu Pai is a Taiwanese-American poet and photographer.
A special edition letter-pressed, hand-bound chapbook, Paper Poems
(working title), is forthcoming in Fall 2003 from Convivio Bookworks.
A chapbook of her translations from ancient Chinese poetry, Ten Thousand
Miles of Mountains and Rivers, was published in 1998 by Third Ear
Books. Her work has appeared in literary and on-line journals including
580 Split, Spinning Jenny, Mungo vs Ranger, eye-rhyme, and can
we have our ball back?. As a visual artist, her work has appeared
in galleries throughout the Mid-West including Gallery 2 and The Three
Arts Club of Chicago. A portfolio of her photography can be viewed at
www.zonezero.com She has been awarded grants from the Cambridge Arts
Council, the Union League Civic and Arts Foundation and the Puffin Foundation,
in addition to residencies from The MacDowell Colony, The Ragdale Foundation,
and the Provincetown Fine Arts Work Center. Her one-act play Concave
is the Opposite of Convex was given a staged reading at NYs
Theater 22 and the Park Theater in Union City, NJ, by The Hudson Exploited
Theater Companys Where Theater Starts Reading Series in 2001.
Ms. Pai has taught creative writing for the Dallas Museum of Art, The
Poetry Center of Chicago, Sojourner Feminist Institute, and Grub Street,
Inc. She was a former poetry reviewer for ChicagoPoetry.com and
has contributed literary criticism to Rain Taxi Review of Books
and Persimmon: A Journal of Asian Arts and Culture. She studied
at The Naropa Institute and Boston University and received her MFA from
the School of the Art Institute of Chicago. She lives outside of Boston,