The poems in Wendy Xu's third collection, The Past, fantasize uneasily about becoming a palatable lyric record of their namesake, while ultimately working to disrupt this Westernized desire. Born in Shandong, China, in 1987, Wendy Xu immigrated to the United States in 1989, three days ahead of the events of Tian'anmen Square. The Past probes the multi-generational binds of family, displacement, and immigration as an ongoing psychic experience without end. Moving spontaneously between lyric, fragment, prose, and subversions in "traditional" Chinese forms, the book culminates in a centerpiece series of "Tian'anmen Square sonnets" (and their subsequent erasures), to conjure up the irrepressible past, and ultimately imagine a new kind of poem: at once code and confession.
"Xu's lyricism and near-painterly control of the line are breathtaking. The Past shows us how the natural world tells of a shared history and language long after the traumas of revolution and immigration. These poems push outward at all of the seams."―Wendy S. Walters, author of Multiply/Divide: On the American Real and Surreal