Saying Your Name Three Times Underwater by Sam Roxas-Chua. Lithic Press. 85 pages.
Poet Joseph Stroud says these poems “will take you on a journey to where you have never been before.” This is true and it’s miraculous, for all of us to have the same words in English — yet a poet can, by virtue of his fantastic vision, combine them magically. Roxas-Chua is dreamlike, mythic, imagistic, bringing forth spirits from his ancestral China and the Philippines. All poetry is made of mystery but this poet transports us to a realm that is both primitive and exalted. There’s a ritual of the mind, as well as a boy inside a man, who speaks a vivid language in After His Great Fires: “…Death’s gift/is in the lifting/of limbs, of forearms, /strong like the breast/of a horse carrying/a boy on its back —/its muscles and chambers/moving the clack/of his skeleton, echoing in/the interior of a boy whose/mind like a carousel spins/against a reflection/of mad ghosts in odd/shaped mirrors.”
The father figure features predominantly in his work as a source of energy and the inequities of childhood — not forgiveness and reconciliation but something more like longing and remorse. There’s a beautiful haunting we’ve not seen exactly like this before and may not until he writes again. I wish to focus on this. The same poem (“After His Great Fires”) begins, “When my father turns his wrists/to unbutton his flannel sleeves, /I pull half the world like a mule/and sing diphthongs/ to a somnambulist God/who failed my father, /my drum, my bakunawa, /neighing — tied against/the great catalpa/where he left me his shirt, /his flannel shirt/that I inhale to believe that I am a boy:/ a bastard a bastinado, a dab/ of blood in his compass…”
And in “The Adoration & Mystery of The Fifth Thorn,” he writes: “The sound of early footsteps/presses against the wood, it is my father, //light in his substance now — little tides/under his translucent feet. An inch//is all I saw of his levitation/to the kitchen, to the back door, //to the flat chest of the yard/where I once hug on to him, //cheek on the back of his neck —/my first nosebleed//coating the white cotton of his starched collar.…”
See the poem “After the Carnival”: “I carry you, /my Strongest Man in the World, //your bloated stomach on my back —/our beard songs so beautiful//tonight — I walk home. /Father, I didn’t mind the mud//or the breaking of illuminated creatures/under my boots.… I never did close your eyes//when I sold you to the seas. Never did I take a sea palm// …/Tonight, // our fealty belongs to the sirens, /their long hair — our beds, //Their hands of soft ambulances/stitching the silver lines//back into your graying eyes.”
Roxas-Chua is also a visual artist and I believe this with all my heart.
Last night I watched my mother
milk a memory into a letter.
The fading days are here,
fiddleheads are falling
from her silver hair,
umber stems are crawling out
of her mouth as she coughs
into a pillow.
Her bed, a brittle star.
Her hands, light —
the paltry soul of paper.
Her eyes are vellum coffins
dimming in the whirl
of a lifeline.
She sleeps with folded hands —
Our dancing days are over,
my hands are ledges,
my fingers drink from a bleed
in the oyster.
Saying Your Name Three Times Underwater is a collection of translucent, often narrative poems that float on the page and roll downstream, tumble ashore, look about, understand a bit, hop back onto the page. An old soul comes of age, in time and space these poems occur in the real place of dreams, where they yearn, and exhale.
Reposting due to a server error:Ashes and the Last Strawberry • a poem for Anna
Posted by Sam Roxas-Chua on Monday, January 22, 2018
Echolalia in Script gorgeously collects Sam Roxas-Chua’s asemic writings in a gallery of images contextualized by the title poem. The stunning examples of open form writing in this book are “flawed disiderata,” failed cartographies, “troubled cantatas,” “true languages born of beak & exhale.” As Roxas-Chua notes in the introduction, his interest in wordless open semantic forms of writing parallels his work as a poet and stems, in part, from his personal history: “born to Filipino parents, adopted into a Chinese family, and then later immigrating to America resulted in a number of displacements that prevented me from taking claim to country or language.” Echolalia in Script is a book of elemental, angelic, visionary beauty rendered in the illimitable shorthand of the divine, an austere infinite tracery, a singing Forever composed of untranslatable Nows.
| POETRY NEWS | A book launch invitation in Eugene, OR, a poem, and news from the beautiful state of North Carolina!EUGENE • BOOK LAUNCH READING • OAK STREET VINTAGE • FRIDAY, JANUARY 19, 2018 • Friends, I hope to see you at book launch celebration for Echolalia in Script (Lithic Press) and Saying Your Name Three Times Underwater (Orison Books) this coming Friday, 7PM at Oak Street Vintage – 500 Olive Street – facebook.com/events/141778776482186/ASHEVILLE, NC • POETRY READING • MALAPROP'S BOOKSTORE • TUESDAY, JANUARY 30, 2018 • I'll be reading with Jessie van Eerden Malaprop's Bookstore – 55 Haywood St – facebook.com/events/1526018514179071/RALEIGH, NC • POETRY READING • SO & SO BOOKSTORE • WEDNESDAY, JANUARY 31, • Thanks to Dorianne, Joe, and Chris for the invitation to read. So & So Bookstore – 704 N Person St – https://www.facebook.com/soandsobooks/More info: samroxaschua.com
Posted by Sam Roxas-Chua on Sunday, January 14, 2018
EUGENE • BOOK LAUNCH READING • OAK STREET VINTAGE • FRIDAY, JANUARY 19, 2018 • Friends, I hope to see you at book launch celebration for Echolalia in Script (Lithic Press) and Saying Your Name Three Times Underwater (Orison Books) this coming Friday, 7PM at Oak Street Vintage – 500 Olive Street – facebook.com/events/141778776482186/
ASHEVILLE, NC • POETRY READING • MALAPROP’S BOOKSTORE • TUESDAY, JANUARY 30, 2018 • I’ll be reading with Jessie van Eerden Malaprop’s Bookstore – 55 Haywood St – facebook.com/events/1526018514179071/
RALEIGH, NC • POETRY READING • SO & SO BOOKSTORE • WEDNESDAY, JANUARY 31, • Thanks to Dorianne, Joe, and Chris for the invitation to read. So & So Bookstore – 704 N Person St – https://www.facebook.com/soandsobooks/
Friends, I'll be reading at the Pendleton Center for the Arts this Thursday. Hope to see you there! Yours, Sam
Posted by Sam Roxas-Chua on Monday, December 18, 2017
Here is the book trailer for Saying Your Name Three Times Underwater. Thank you so much to poet, musician, and good friend Max Heinegg for the accompanying music, I feel it truly captures the essence of the book. Special thanks to Danny Rosen, Kyle Harvey, and the Lithic Press team for making my dream come true for a second poetry collection!
Friends, I’m scheduling reading dates for 2018 for the two books (Saying Your Name Three Times Underwater and Echolalia in Script) and if you’d like to invite me to read at your class, library, bookstore or reading event, please let me know. I’d like to make it work and visit you.
Also, if you would like to review any of the books, please let me know too.
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Local: J. Michaels Books, Black Sun Books, and Barnes&Noble
The Requatorist -squareup.com/store/therequatorist
Lithic Press – lithicpress.com/index.php/our-catalog/82-saying-your-name-three-times-underwater
A poem read in four tongues. For Betty, my beloved.
Posted by Sam Roxas-Chua on Saturday, November 18, 2017
Local: J. Michaels Books and Black Sun Books
• • •
he wanted to plant it on the ground
and wish for a boy with a beak
this time—like Jesus whose father
was a dove, with a crown
illuming a whitish-gold light,
la luz. The light of Christ, kandila,
sounds like Candle, dila, tongue—
my tongue is borrowed
I’ve been seething decades
of my name minus
from my father’s mouth.
• • •
from “Saying Your Name Three Times Underwater” (Lithic Press)