Anna and Anna by Wawa
Anna and Anna, a title with but a single vowel, the “a” singing the names and the connection between the names. The poem begins with two brushstrokes: “afterimage an island,” whose chords (yes, a multiple art astonishes us here) also chime with the initial “a.” We are met with a collage that combines open field composition (top of the page) with symmetrical shaping (bottom of the page), both rich in color and image, and in a mindfulness that values the asking of questions, like “Can you peel the skin off / these colored marbles?” because it wants to find, not answers, but further thought in the “wakeful dream” in which we live. There are echoes here of Zen poems by wandering monks (“You gazed at yourself / I swatted a fly”) set amid a world of hexagrammatic color formulas that are very much of our contemporary digital moment. The two worlds (when eyes are open, when sleep comes) are where we live, and we are always translating our worlds, for ourselves and for connection with others, with a chance in translation of a “better place.” The reader finds herself included, and translated, here in this exceedingly beautiful landscape of language “between the sky and the ocean” and “between the ocean and the lava.” Anna and Anna reaches an intense shore fully awakened — an immense accomplishment!
–Charles Alexander, Director, Chax Press
Mediation as clarity: Wawa sees the world through a window while drawing it on the pane, offering her reader the numbers of her hex colors as she does. A poet of Hong Kong, here she writes New Englandly (as E. Dickinson put it) in beautiful second language English, translating herself into translated spaces (Vermont, the Big Island of Hawai’i). Each poem appears on the windowed page with its double: the first half consists of an objective rendering of the actual world through a drawing on the window that separates the observer from what it clarifies. That we see these drawings as words and not images further complicates, and so cracks open, our perception. The second half offers us the interior of the room’s sole occupant, thus mediating the outside’s open/closed field with an interior one. And yet the movement from exterior to interior is not so simple: both halves testify to the governing eye/I of the poet. “I thought I was born again / wondered where to start looking,” she writes, and we best start with her.
–Susan M. Schultz
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Anna and Anna
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Wawa is a Hong Kong poet. She received her degrees in Philosophy in Hong Kong and the Netherlands. She has been a soprano, a philosophical counselling assistant, and a cowherd. Some of her work can be found in Cha: An Asian Literary Journal, Guernica Daily, The Margins, Hawai’i Review, Apogee Journal, and the anthology Hong Kong 20/20: Reflections on a Borrowed Place. Wawa is the author of Pei Pei the Monkey King (Tinfish Press, 2016). She is currently farming with her husband on the island of Keawe.