Book review – Flash Cards (Spoiler Free)

“To compare spring to a temple    to say a tree is a god
both are illegitimate metaphors
but metaphors is all I have”

  • Title: Flash Cards: Selected Poems from Yu Jian’s Anthology of Notes
  • Author: Yu Jian
  • Translators: Ron Padgett, Wang Ping
  • Genre: Poetry
  • Pages: 144 pages
  • Publication date: September 28, 2010
  • Publisher: Zephyr Press

Lately, I’ve been looking more into translation. I speak (and am still learning) four languages. I like the way some things just can’t be translated directly.

While I walked around the AWP book fair, I found a table filled with translation books. They didn’t have a book in a foreign language I knew though. But I had read interesting Chinese plays in college, so I decided to pick up Flash Cards.

Of course, a Chinese poetry collection is different than an English one. There was no obvious central theme to it. It did repeat some themes of autumn and wolves, but I’m not quite sure why since I don’t know Chinese culture well. It did give me a little insight into Chinese culture; I could tell by what the poet chose to emphasize and what he kept to himself.

The poet also decided not to disclose parts of himself. For instance, in most poetry books I’ve read so far, I get a general sense of who the poet is after reading the book. But after reading this book, I can follow the poets thoughts, but I don’t quite feel like I know him.

Some poems stuck out to me, and I would have to read them again. But some felt a little underwhelming while surrounded by more developed poems. I tended to like the longer ones that took half a page or more rather than the ones that are a few lines. Those did not pack as much of a punch.

But does every poem need a punch?

Overall, I enjoyed reading this poetry collection. It’s something unique and different than what I’m used to. I would pick up another book from this poet again if I could. Also, it is a quick and easy read. I’d recommend it if you’re interested in reading poetry about a different life.

Score: 8.7/10
Average rating on Goodreads: 4.35/5

2 thoughts on “Book review – Flash Cards (Spoiler Free)

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