on 11 September 2015
I'm just discovering Jane Yeh after years of knowing about her but not really thinking I'd like her. This book is ten years old now and I came to it via The Ninjas, her most recent collection, which I'm sure will remain a favourite of mine for a very long time.
Unlike a lot of contemporary poetry collections there is nothing easy about Jane Yeh's work. It is accessible in terms of its modern sensibilities, but can simultaneously feel dense and impenetrable. Marabou is the more difficult of the two volumes - though only slightly - and there are many poems that completely locked me out at first reading but by so doing made me more determined to get under their skin. Each is a kind of narrative snap-shot, full of minute detail and peculiar incident and often disorientating in terms of location, period and wider context. Sometimes the title gives a clue, and sometimes there is an accompanying note, but generally you have to read and re-read her words to get closer to what might be going on.The weave of her language, always playful and boldly inventive, creates hard packed nests of stinging image and sharp, air-scoured phrase. You can take any couple of lines at random and find these things. Effort is always rewarded.
Maybe ten years ago I was a lazy reader and wanted verse to go straight to my head, to coax me with its clever fabric of documentary truth, and that's how I came to miss out on Jane Yeh. But now her poems are well and truly in my head, waking me up at night and causing me to daydream at my work desk. I'm sure I'll get over it, but it's taking me longer than usual and I see that as a good thing.
on 7 April 2008
A vivid and remarkable mimic with lyrical skills to match, I highly rate Jane Yeh's first book of poems 'Marabou'.Split into three sections the poems have a unique ability to inhabit- infact 'become'- different characters and real people in history and time; as well as possesing a wonderful witty anthromorphism which includes an owl and a Cumbrian sheep!
What is striking in Yeh is her empathy with people and places that official history ignores.For example the opening poem "Correspondence" is about unrequited love and sets the tone for a beautiful encapsulation of human fraility .This is brilliantly done by using a variety of literary and artistic devices: tableaux's, friezes, Self portaits( Vermeer, Watteau) and film 'frames' poignantly reflect the temporaneous nature of our existence(s).She records the history of human consciousness, not just the big events.For instance reportage by someone on the moments before Mount Vesuvius erupts or imagining Mao Tse-Tung in Paris as a young man.All in all a superb debut.