By Ken Norris
Asian Skies is the final book of Ken Norris’s travel trilogy. With Dante as his guide, he has previously left behind the predominantly European terrain of the first book, Limbo Road, only to find himself in the terra incognita of the new world of the second, Dominican Moon ... Read more
Asian Skies is the final book of Ken Norris’s travel trilogy. With Dante as his guide, he has previously left behind the predominantly European terrain of the first book, Limbo Road, only to find himself in the terra incognita of the new world of the second, Dominican Moon.
Now guideless, Norris continues his search for the metaphorical shortcut, the “inside passage” of the age of discovery; the easy transcendence of “a passage to India” from the post-industrial world, and sets out for that most foreign of shores to the Western mind: Asia—a world of glittering wealth, precious spice, exotic religiosity, tyrannical rule, mysterious ritual and deadly storm.
Composed like a dark novel-in-verse, this is the unsettling story of the deficiencies of love that have produced our commodified and globalized world—a perhaps not-so-divine comedy of those who don’t love enough—steeped in a clash of cultures wherein the third world seems willingly, even perversely, to offer itself up as a simulacrum of the first, while its otherness remains hidden, inaccessible.
As he transits the beaches of Phuket to the island of Bali, the flood plains of Bangladesh to the sublime heights of the Himalaya, Norris ultimately understands it is the absence of a beloved that turns the world upside down: where what was loved is hated, what was benign is threatening, what was dangerous is embraced, what was worshipped is murdered, what was past is future.
Part travel journal, part meditation on the rudderless denizens of the global village of which he is merely one, Asian Skies chronicles a search for the beloved, one that will lead to “the City of God. ” That she appears only in glimpses is a credit to Ken Norris’s adept reading of the 21st century and his disciplined mapping of its increasingly unknown territories.
Ken Norris is a poet living in Toronto and teaching in Maine. He is the author of dozens of books of poems and the seminal thesis on the little magazine in Canada. His most recent books are Hotel Montreal (Talon Books, 2002) and The Way Life Should Be (Wolsak and Wynn, 2003). He teaches Canadian Literature at the University of Maine.
“The poems in Asian Skies also offer themes that have appeared frequently in Asian cinema over the past few decades, namely the “anomie,” the universal loneliness, alienation and isolation we can experience as individuals due to the uncontrollable expanse of technological, economic, and globalized entities, where the nightmare is merely our own embracing of such a spiritually hollow materialistic world. ” —Garry Thomas Morse
“Norris’s Asian Skies does not offer a vision of this neo-romantic world—a world without commodification, capitalist exploitation—but he leads western readers to question our political and emotional relationship to the East. Most importantly the book encourages us to raise the possibility of re-imagining the West’s conception of the East, to undo the mythology, and challenge notions of difference on personal and collective levels. ”
—The Bull Calf