From Publishers Weekly
Starred Review. This ambitious yet accessible gathering of hundreds of poets from various parts of Asia, the Middle East, Africa, Europe, America and elsewhere is likely to excite poetry fans as well as those new to poetry. Seeking a response to 9/11, the three editors, who are poets and teachers of Asian-American descent, hoped to share an alternate vision of the new century in which words, not weapons, could define our civilization. Divided into nine idiosyncratic sections—with titles like Bowl of Air and Shivers that cover topics including Eros and the meeting of the political and the personal—the book is more an esoteric journey than a systematic reference. Readers may recognize the names of major international figures (Nazim Hikmet, Taha Muhammad Ali) and famous American writers (Michael Ondaatje, Li-Young Lee), who may draw attention to many writers unknown in the U.S., such as Hsien Min Toh of Singapore, who, upon seeing sport hunters shooting crows, awakens to an all-too-familiar ambivalence about my unkind nation, in whose name only I will be/ able to walk up the lane with lowered head. While the book's sheer size can be overwhelming, it is packed with treasures. (Apr.)
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This monumental thematic anthology is like a crowded party of exceptionally brilliant people. At the end, you are dazed and dazzled, and everyone seems to run together in memory: the Chinese man who writes in his native ethnic tongue, the exiled Tibetan who lives in San Francisco, the persecuted Bangladeshi feminist, the emigrant from Turkmenistan who is now a prominent Swedish poet. Even a diligent reader of contemporary poetry will leave this gathering feeling humbled by ignorance of the immense poetic energy of what used to be called the East. The breadth of its sweep is both the anthology’s strength and its weakness, for hundreds of poets are represented by single poems. What the poems share is an almost aggressive modernity, for the poets are as easy in airports as in souks, as familiar with the Internet as with ancient myths, as conversant with subaltern theory as with the smell of mangoes in a bazaar. They share, too, a political consciousness and conscience, making this as impressive a collection of poets of witness as has ever been assembled. --Patricia Monaghan
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