A Distant Center
Copper Canyon Press
In the bold tradition of the "Misty Poets," Ha Jin confronts China's fraught political history while paying tribute to its rich culture and landscape. The poems of A Distant Center speak in a voice that is steady and direct, balancing contemplative longing with sober warnings from a writer who has confronted the traumas of censorship and state violence. With unadorned language and epigrammatic wit, Jin conjures scenes that encompass the personal, historical, romantic, and environmental, interrogating conceptions of foreignness and national identity as they appear and seep into everyday interactions and being. These are poems that offer solace in times of political reaction and uncertainty. Jin's voice is wise, comforting, and imploring; his words are necessary and his lessons are invaluable. Question your place in the world-do not be complacent-look for strength and hope in every nook: "Keep in mind the meaning of / your existence: wherever you land, / your footprints will become milestones."