poems by Deborah Jang
A flow of pieces that carry story and emotion via reflections on an immigrant family history, metaphysical musings, and earthly perplexities—with occasional outbursts of ecstatic appreciation of nature. The unsegmented order of pieces is intended to create a loose narrative "swirl" that ushers the reader through layers of reflection and memory into a moving experience of language, discovery, and insight.
POETRY / General
ISBN: 978-1-951651-16-9 (print; softcover; perfect bound)
Released March 2020
Deborah Jang is a poet and visual artist living and working in Denver, Colorado, and Oceanside, California. In Float True, she reflects on a long, quiet life full of curiosities, perplexities, and good fortune. A third-generation Asian American woman from the West coast, she honors her ancestors and descendants in their unique, yet universal stories of persistence. She embraces all peoples’ respective struggles for freedom and justice, now and for generations beyond. She offers her first book of poetry into an aching world as an act of courage, compassion, and celebration.
“In a first book by Deborah Jang, she creates a form of her own, beginning with rich, abundant language that threads love and anger, violence and rich peace through story and memory, familial history, race, and resistance. This is a book that comes to clarity and like the title, floats true and centered.”
“Here is a debut that is at once assured and vulnerable. Deborah Jang’s poetry sings with the wisdom of elder and innocence of infant and as such reads as timeless: ‘The peace of spirit that you seek encompasses all in-betweens, measures life in graces.’”
“From the nuanced and tender to the mundane and sublime, Deborah Jang’s introspective poetry recalls the metered lyrics of the early Romantics — but with an acute awareness that springs from her identity as a modern Chinese American woman straddling the contradictions of a racialized world in crisis. ‘Will hate extinguish every star? Can we rewrite the skies?’ she asks. Are these questions or manifesto?”
“Deborah Jang writes rich, dense, and moving poems. Every word adds to the weight and momentum of this collection. Float True reads like we are sitting at the poet's feet while she lets us remember with her, drawing connections between ancestry, water, and lived experience, both hers and ours.” — Suzi Q. Smith, poet
“There are poems here about human skin, racist epithets, fish spotting with her son, her Chinese ancestry, an extravagant mom, and the joy of counting grandson toes. All are heartfelt and tender. Deborah Jang’s poems touch my senses and speak to my soul.”
“In the midst of turmoil, chaos and ‘bomb talk,’ ‘Why not then a poem? Why not then most of all a poem? Why not now a poem?’ she asks. But, by the time that Deborah Jang has offered up this proposition she has already taken us far along her epic, poetic watercourse, Float(ing) True.
“On this voyage, ‘Water is the middle way, neither Earth, nor Heaven,’ but it is the substance and solvent of birth, life and death—‘then leave me to the mystery, gold dust dancing to the fishes.’ The verses are laid out like sutras—terse, biting, centripetal—listening closely, peering deep beneath the surface, you’ll find ‘enlightenment in the river’s song.’ Water is the correlative force which carries her passion along this journey through tides, storms, and harbors, moments of epiphanies and apocryphal revelations. We travel in ‘The wooden junk, the slave ship, a deep water canoe, a whaler, and a steamer,’ through spaces where ‘Sky is fluent in possibility . . . Promise is fluent in lies . . . Promise is fluent in hope.’ More than metaphor, water is the transporter of inheritances and intense emotions, from beginning—‘keeping time to the heart’s own beatin,’ to mid-course—‘At Standing Rock, deep in winter, warmed by song and sacred fire armed with prayer, each for the other, water is the way,’ to the end—‘Poised just at the ocean side for redemption’s twilight ride.’
“Lao Tzu, the Old One, wise to the ways of water, and of the feminine, would recognize her—this daughter, mother, feminine,—cognizant of the power of the weak over the strong, the power of endurance, the power of good over evil, the power of love. The soul and naked affection of her poetry floats to the top in ‘Where Do The Good, Kindhearted Go?’ ‘Gliding long as fingertips that tucked me into cool crisp sheets in days when sleep was easy, a keeper of shy adorations nestled in young motherlove.’ The precision of her perception of the liminal; ‘Hope hijacks falling stars caught out the corner of your eye. Quick, look, there’ // ‘Water circles widened, darting flecks skimmed your eye,’ is a gift from GuanYin—‘the One who sees the Sound,’ the Goddess of compassion and kindness, to whom she dedicates half of the poem Guanyin to Lady Liberty, no less.
“And prophetic she is too, ‘The birds all knew to fly away. The fish went way below. I hurt I hurt I lay down this mother’s heart out poured. The haunted cry of mourning dove returns me to the shredded nest, branch bearing. Shelter here in place.’”
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