A much-anticipated debut collection from one of Canada’s most promising emerging poets
Pebble Swing earns its title from the image of stones skipping their way across a body of water, or, in the author’s case, syllables and traces of her mother tongue bouncing back at her from the water’s reflective surface. This collection is about language and family histories. It is the author’s attempt to piece together the resonant aftermath of the Chinese Cultural Revolution, which stole the life of her paternal grandmother. As an immigrant whose grasp of Mandarin is fading, Wang explores absences in her caesuras and fragmentation—that which is unspoken, but endures.
The poems in this collection also trace the experiences of a young poet who left home at seventeen to pursue writing; the result is a series of city poetry infused with memory, the small joys of Vancouver’s everyday, environmental politics, grief and notions of home. While the poetics of response are abundant in the collection—with poems written to Natalie Lim and Ashley Hynd—the last section of the book, "Thirteen Ghazals and Anti-Ghazals after Phyllis Webb," forges a continued response to Phyllis Webb on Salt Spring Island, and innovates within the possibilities of the experimental ghazal form.
Isabella Wang is the author of the chapbook On Forgetting a Language (Baseline Press, 2019). She has been shortlisted for The Malahat Review’s Far Horizons Award for Poetry, Minola Review’s Poetry Contest, and was the youngest writer to be shortlisted twice for The New Quarterly’s Edna Staebler Personal Essay Contest. Wang’s poetry and prose have appeared in over thirty literary journals and three anthologies, including Watch Your Head: Writers and Artists Respond to the Climate Crisis (Coach House Books, 2020) and They Rise Like A Wave: An Anthology of Asian American Women Poets (Blue Oak Press, 2021). She studies English and world literature at Simon Fraser University and is an editor at Room magazine. Pebble Swing is her debut full-length poetry collection. She lives in Port Moody, BC.
"The poems in Isabella Wang’s Pebble Swing move like fireflies. Shying away from big revelations they offer brief, brilliant illuminations that last long after one has laid the book down. To enter these poems is to mull over history and place and to understand that the poet for whom “there was no place for my language in this new country” has made of language itself a home—for herself and for her readers. "
"Pebble Swing is a nuanced collection of poetry that is refreshingly, devastatingly new. Isabella, with her direct and clear-eyed poetic voice, takes on the markers of Canadian poetry—landscape, identity and place—but makes them entirely her own. It is remarkable that a young Chinese Canadian poet can engage so precisely with the canonized literary past, while making sure her own linguistic fingerprint remains distinct, heartbreaking and real. Pebble Swing is one of the most exciting debut books, in any genre, that I have ever read. "
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