NONFICTION

The Ruined Elegance

Princeton Univ. 2015. 72p. ISBN 9780691167503. $35. pap. ISBN 9780691167695. $14.95; ebk. ISBN 9781400873432. POETRY
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A translator and zheng harpist as well as a poet (Water the Moon), Sze-Lorrain aims to "honor the invisible," whether it's the lost past, the "ruined elegance" of emperors and buried books and disfigured chapels, or something to hold in a contemporary world that assaults our senses, sometimes literally: readers here visit labor camps and scenes of rape and massacre even as they climb the moon's ladder. That ladder is missing steps, stars flame out and reemerge "in astonishment/ and for no reason," and the spill of seemingly disjointed images finally lead us to some sense of what we can know of the world: "I'll use the fog to see white peaches."
VERDICT Not an easy poet but worth every bit of the struggle.

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