With the exciting release of DB 22, our 21st issues joins its previous siblings that make up the amazing archives of Drunken Boat, which means we can now shine the spotlight on its glorious contents via our weekly vintage post. This week’s selection comes from one of DB 21’s special themed folios, “Hong Kong.” Centered around the uprisings that took place during the 2014 Hong Kong protests, a.k.a. the Umbrella Revolution, the pieces of this folio each process and portray the events through their own unique perspectives. One such piece is Chow Yiu Fai’s “I promise you an umbrella,” which offers a deeply moving, musical take on the individuals involved in Hong Kong’s rebellions. Please take moment today to appreciate the beautiful compilation of photographs in this music video with lyrics provided in English and Chinese.
“Raindrops may fall, the sky may threaten, but you promise me an umbrella.
While every yearning is evaporating,
the world goes up in smoke.“
After spending 20+ years living and working in the Netherlands, Chow Yiu Fai is an Assistant Professor at the Department of Humanities and Creative Writing of Hong Kong Baptist University. Next to his academic pursuits, Chow is also an award-winning lyric writer, with some 1,000 lyrical works under his name for a diversity of pop artists. Lately, Chow has been increasingly involved in prose writing, multi-media and visual art projects. For more about his work, visit his page at the HKBU website.
Lately I have been drawn to fabulist fiction that, I’m noticing, has been written by males who are either dead or not white or not American or some combination thereof. Like 1Q84 by Haruki Murakami, and before that I’m Not Sidney Poitier by Percival Everett, which had me, just, chortling in the laundromat. The last two books I grabbed while bookstore browsing were Dark Back of Time by Javier Marías, and Monsieur Pain by Roberto Bolaño. I periodically treat myself to an essay from The Importance of Being Iceland by Eileen Myles. And I just got Between the World and Me by Ta-Nehisi Coates because I’m about to go on a trip and there is nothing more fun than reading about race on airplanes.
Pulled from one of the smaller categories of Drunken Boat submissions, this week’s vintage feature is a poetically-written nonfiction piece which appeared recently in DB 19. Valerie Arvidson’s “Fragmentary Blue” is a beautiful exploration of what the relationship between her great-grandfather and his brother-in-law was, or could have been like in the early 1900s. Based on an old black and white photograph included with it, and above, this composition gracefully depicts many vivid images you won’t soon forget.
“It’s an icy midsummer, and the brothers-in-law groom each other with spit and whiskey. Waves of goose bumps rise on their necks. They pull off hangnails and comb their eyebrows, like cats.”
Valerie Arvidson is a writer of fiction, creative non-fiction, and blurred genres. She is also a print-maker, artist, and teacher. She holds a B.A. from Dartmouth College in Creative Writing and an MFA in Creative Writing from the University of Washington. Her writing has appeared in Hunger Mountain (winner of the 2009 creative non-fiction contest), Apt (Aforementioned Productions), PenTales, The Seattle Review, and Blunderbuss magazine. She is currently teaching writing in Seattle and working on a book of hybrid-prose featuring images, stories, and archives from her Scandinavian ancestors.
My ‘to read’ list constantly evolves to ‘do’ — where I gravitate towards mainstays peppered with currency, helping me move through a summer without cash or obstacles. Some books here that stagger my preconceptions of language, from both book shelf and night table, revolve around the concept of wonder. “Ommateum, with Doxology” by A.R. Ammons, the title and content somehow remind me of the composer Arvo Part’s “Tabula Rasa.” It’s the first book by Ammons and I love the sort of gauntlet thrown to wonder, which first books tend to have but don’t always follow through on. And his line breaks, at once natural and unexpected, like breath taken. Then there’s a book of sketches by the Japanese woodprint artist Hokusai, entitled “The Hokusai Sketch-Books, Selections From Manga” edited by James Michener. The Manga is a ‘crowded’ fifteen volume collection containing tons of sketches from everyday life circa 1814-1878. It was subversive to have these sketch books showing the commoner’s lives available to the general public at the time, which along with the artistic mastery that Hokusai brought to his life’s mission, creates a work teeming with narrative, abstraction, and wonder. I look at books like this, which bring the artist’s voice unfiltered, to a story not of their choosing…that is, a story created by the viewer, page turn by page turn…and see how poetry can travel along similar paths. How the moment’s experience, word by word, can be shaped by the breath and its falling line by line. And the essay writing by Michener accompanies the visuals beautifully, you feel you’re there in the act of creation…from grotesque mythology to fauna to civilians to household details. Traveling to a history that easily bends to now. And the last book I’ll mention is a treasure uncovered just a few months ago, written in 1976, which I can’t believe I never knew about previously, “Mary Stuart’s Ravishment Descending Time'” by Georgiana Peacher. Through too many pathways to describe I came across this author and her book. Will Alexander has a fantastic review of it here. I will only add to his words that this book is a mind-blower shaped by shapelessness, purely organic in its rule-following syntax exploding trance-inducing language invention. A rare reminder of what it is to walk inside caves of wonder. Yes, I will be that corny and claim wonder as a need for feeling in poetry. Can we have books that travel down the brain into the heart and smatter over the rest of our hungry eyes? I guess that’s what a good read should do, right? Happy summer!