"Timothy Yu's first book of poems, 100 CHINESE SILENCES, brims with sharp, angry, sarcastic and tender poems. He delivers dazzling lines with the deadpan wit and precise timing of Buster Keaton, the stone-faced master of silence. In fact, I had not realized until now and I mean NOW that Keaton is really the Timothy Yu of silent films, while Yu is Yu, a slayer of dragons, who knows the millions of sinister and inscrutable ways the Chinese have been silenced in blockbuster films, best-selling novels, Broadway musicals and award-winning poems read on NPR, and closely scrutinized in graduate classes and parking lots of Asian fusion take-out joints with funny names. Not only does Yu make Ezra Pound and Gary Snyder stand on their pointy heads in ways that are illuminating and funny, but he also skewers Jeb Bush, Billy Collins, Mary Oliver, Marianne Moore, and Eliot Weinberger right through their bright yellow Chinese hearts. You got to love a poet who can do that and never miss his mark. I present you with Timothy Yu, noble Chinese archer and master poet." John Yau
"In Timothy Yu's hall of 100 "Chinese" poetic mirrors, puppies, blossoms, and hobbled feet clatter against the American grain, leaving wet prints as frowning emoji ciphers to rise up with a mighty bitch slap for Asian/American difference. These poems burn with gloriously wry disdain at the abundance of chinoiserie tinging modernist lineages of geopolitically "western" poetic traditions. By striking out at un-self-conscious performances of western cultural sophistication, Yu exposes these voices' indebtedness to emptied "Chinese" images. I pleasure in his poetry's mythic "10th century crystal penis," how it penetrates western imaginative impotencies to see otherwise. He's sharp, incisive, potty- mouthed, unapologetic, slippery, angry, urbane... His silences are fearsome and knowing. Fuck that yellow-faced hologram of Confucius I want to hear what Timothy Yu has to say " Sueyeun Juliette Lee
"I can't remember when I last read a book as necessary, and as wickedly fun, as Timothy Yu's 100 CHINESE SILENCES. Yu responds to, rewrites, and reforms a whole poetic tradition of Western representations of China and the Chinese, from Ezra Pound to Gary Snyder to Billy Collins. Yu wears his learning lightly, and his various parodies, pastiches, and campy retakes on the poetic tradition balance a love of the poetry he's spent a career studying with a necessary critical edge. Our age demands a re- assessment of old representations of the "mysterious east," and Timothy Yu has come through with exactly what we need. 100 CHINESE SILENCES has "breakthrough book" written all over it." Robert Archambeau"
Publishers Weekly® Reviews
- Reviewed in: Publishers Weekly, page .
- Review Date: 2016-06-20
- Reviewer: Staff
Yu (Race and the Avant-Garde: Experimental and Asian American Poetry since 1965) combines his academic background in Asian American studies with his talent for verse in a witty and illuminating collection that unmasks cultural appropriation in American literature. Most of the 100 poems draw inspiration from source poems, but that source material becomes the target of intense and deserved criticism, not idolatry. Yu eviscerates his array of predecessors—including Ezra Pound, Mary Oliver, Billy Collins, and Tony Hoagland—for their generally ignorant use of Asian stereotypes and their reductive approaches to Chinese culture. He sums up such reductionism in a line about Pound: “He tried to embrace an empire/ In an ideogram.” Yu goes far beyond such cringe-worthy titles as “I Think Again of Those Ancient Chinese Poets” and rewrites the poems, emphasizing the clichés and deep-rooted insensitivities. In doing so, he breaks the silence of the appropriated and subverts a homogenized history. The poems ask when, if ever, cultural appropriation is acceptable, or respectable. Yu’s poems often slip into anger over the accumulation of cultural insults: “We’re not asking for a goddamn prize./ We just want to be appropriated/ with a little fucking consideration.” Through deep insight and creative repurposing, Yu makes a place for himself within an evolving, and more inclusive, narrative of American poetry. (June)