CBC BOOKS CANADIAN POETRY COLLECTIONS TO WATCH FOR IN SPRING 2023
Backward and forward: a double book of mirrored poems about identity in all its forms.
This is a book of slow hours, days, and years—how they can collapse into one another, how it can feel like we are living one day repeating itself. From within this collapse, the speaker seeks connection everywhere. They visit their father’s birthplace, Jogjakarta; they listen to a stranger’s phone call at the Motel 6 in Alberta; they linger in the so-called ethnic aisle of the grocery store. From all of these places the speaker is discouraged but tries to imagine a future joyously incomprehensible to the present.
Slows: Twice is a collection of revisions and repetitions. Every poem in one half of the book has an alternate version, or a mirror poem, in the other half. Lines, words, images, and forms are reused and reflected in a kind of palindrome, so the book can be read from front cover to back cover, or vice versa. In this way, Liem considers how language shapes identity over time and how the speaker’s position in relation to language might be revised. The poems are tied to themes of work and labor, consumption and waste, family and home, as other shapers of identity and relationships. The act of revising and repeating – slowly – is meant to be a resistance to efficiency, a resistance to being an always-productive body under capitalism.
"The poems of Slows: Twice collect in resonance, contemplate the construction of selves, with modes of repetition, sequencing, and mirroring, the way language assembles an identity or points to itself as it points away. 'The clouds // disappear the sky sometimes; or they become it.' Storied and cubistic, palindromic and cleaved, Liem’s poems reveal relationships to time, noise, and duration, and the possibility of joy given painful pasts." – Hoa Nguyen, author of A Thousand Times You Lose Your Treasure
"T. Liem is one of my favorite poets working in Canada. I welcomed this book into my life like sudden sunlight. Slows: Twice is a book about how urgently we need to read differently. I loved its mischievous relation to form and expectation as well as its burning intelligence. I once described T. as an inheritor of the tradition of language poetry, but what Slows: Twice proves is that T. is less an inheritor and more so an innovator, an inventor in their own right. I read it in one frenzied sitting." – Billy-Ray Belcourt, author of A Minor Chorus
"It’s breathtaking to watch words drip from a page into a silver river cutting through a canyon of time. T. Liem sculpts poetry with steady, curious fingers, pushing against the filaments we think hold us together that have been quietly collecting cracks, from buried violence and whispered histories to the fragile connections tying us together. Obits. captured my heart; Slows: Twice now affirms it." – Teta, founder of diasporic Indonesian publication Buah zine
"'For everything I was, I am now something else.' Revision of self and world are core to this innovative, unruly book that manages somehow to be at once formally wacky and emotionally clear. These poems seem to ask: if language is a box heavy with histories and inadequacies and which we nevertheless must carry, can language also carry us somewhere, elsewhere, strangely? Rarely have I encountered a book so at home in the unresolved, in the tension between a longing for declaration and a commitment to questions. T. Liem’s work conjures the figure of Janus: god of duality and gates, one face facing an end, the other looking through a new door, right in the eye of a dream." – Chen Chen, author of Your Emergency Contact Has Experienced an Emergency
"T. Liem's Slows: Twice is a fascinating exercise in revision and remaking, each repetition of its text accomplishing the arduous task of stretching time and geopolitical fixity. 'asking and repeating/ we are made' declares Liem, and that utterance produces the book's essential maxim, 'language is change/ changed by prosody.' In between these cracks of time, language becomes a miracle suture for love and connection where the hard reality of one's circumstances may produce infinite ruptures. This is a book that peers into the fissure, holding these moments of fracture as still and clearly as possible--a future of proximates." – Muriel Leung, author of Imagine Us, the Swarm