Today, in the PEN Poetry Series, guest editor C.D. Wright features work by Wong May. About May’s work, Wright says: “I began a low-key search for Wong May after reading Zachary Schomburg’s retrieval of her first title, The Bad Girl’s Book of Animals (Harcourt, Brace & Jovanovich, 1969 ) published online in Octopus. Her next book, Reports, was published by Harcourt in 1972. In 1978 she published Superstitions. When Octopus began to publish print books as well as continuing its e-mag, I thought of her again. A new title by Wong May, Picasso’s Tears, will be out from them this year. I include but a brief sample of this distinctive poet—quirky, in the best sense of the word (whose friendship with the late Hilda Morley implies common ground), unaffectedly well-informed, capacious, and unpredictable in her concerns and procedures. Wong May was born in Mainland China and raised in Singapore, where she obtained an English degree from the University of Singapore before attending the Writers’ Workshop at the University of Iowa.”

On Crossing the Centuries

2 maidens:  Kyoto saved because of her “remarkable beauty”,
                To quote the then “joint chief of staff”,
Hiroshima chosen
               For she is “just another city”.
The choice is Poetry
                                   &  Poetry’s

The   Terror

                      of   that   Voice

We who have no country but our century.


Today again
The Pastoral
        sounds like a funeral march
         : the  dream  of
                    a statesman
          waking up in heaven
Bearing with him the death of a nation
        & why not
                   the death of all nations

The nation mourns
                                         :  a procession

In heaven 
           where the death
Of all nations is celebrated  &  Beethoven
                   like a  grand  cru   is required,
—& he doesn’t  mind.
                    For so much of Ludwig
Is stately
               &  despairing,
A funeral march in earnest
When the nightmare will still fit
                                            the coffin

Under the horizon  —(at intervals
                                 all     joy
We say, that too is fine with us. 

Teaching Simone Weil to Eat Pineapple


Eating a pineapple
             a pineapple whole
Taking a knife to it
A knife to a pineapple
            a whole pineapple
Like eating a peacock
            a peacock
With its ten thousand eyes



            When in Spring
            The trees
                         grow vague
            With blossoms

                    the    vague     pink

            I don’t seek
            To Know
            What trees
            They are


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