Today in the PEN Poetry Series, guest editor C.D. Wright features seven poems by Valerie Hsiung. About Hsiung’s work, Wright says: “Valerie Hsiung is a very prolific writer whose poems have great tonal, mood, vocal scale—that lower limit speech / upper limit music of which Zukofsky spoke. She can also express exasperation and alacrity in the space of a single short poem. The words seem simple, but their moment of appearance is rarely expected. Too wise to be innocent and too fresh to be gnarly, she eases you into her bold stances. She is one of those poets you wish were more populous for they pull you up by the hair roots and remind you living is serious business, and the whole world is in our dirty little hands. Every morning requires finding the key to our handcuffs, a splash of cold water, and a dash to insure the morning’s feasibility.”


the radical       basin soul

 that sort of inspiration really isn’t logical but why would you want it to be

 even the crazy becomes logical when the time calls for it

who knew the crazy could be so full of light and while it isn’t exactly reason it is the logic
 of light yes light is logic

 Hence light is logic

 as much as we cannot admit
 needing each other we are needy
 we are powerless in each other’s
 light we are powerless in the light
 of another      and now do not need
                     logic and now do not
                     need logic do not

the radical       not for nothing

A yellow flower a yellow flower
and a grey one too
a blessed weather a blessed weather
and a damning one too
Why keep up fragile one be fragile
in the sun beguile
ache baby ache it will do you good
aching ‘cause the flow of blood
is flaming red now
wake up with your nerves awakened out
of shape wake up with your nerves
in a loop
settle into a nexus the nexus while taking a few
hours off         it is sweet but far from

give money to a rich
give money to a poor
pee on a rock
sell my kidney to a bug

the radical       now hymnal birdhood

what is noble is not always helpful
what is noble is not always bitter enough to help
sometimes noble does not do what supposed to
sometimes bitter only does what supposed to
geologically a child

awake and for now may it be that
devotion to our own devotion is awful
and for now may it be that
consideration of our own devotion only
human but devotion to it would
keep us from our wild love

there is no way to ignore everything
anymore and yet we would ignore it
if we were to dwell
if we were to dwell        unless we had
been plugged now we have had to have
been plugged out our views are
plugged into an emblem         an emblem
with joy with imaginary offspring
with flowers and the fluids of life
adorning the sleepiness of life

beyond comparison

As you’d expect…

In the trailer park garden tomatoes
in the kitchen tomato stickers

(I am withholding something
frightening, holy, foolhardy, strange,
loving, excruciating, vital, unknown,
rejuvenating, transient, natural, old)

like a free will
like nowhere to go

As tumor
across seafaults you done growing
so many frescoes.

paradiso poem

The keeper of the sidereal.

Could be salt, is salt.

Look at you.

There is            elegance in a dime, a dollar
            of iodine.

I shall observe them.  I could never pass

It is not coming this afternoon.

The keeper of the sidereal.

There is            elegance in a dime, a dollar
            of iodine.

The whole city is blocked       off by some distinguished

Who visits handcuffed.

morning poem

condescend yourself and the devil
will tempt you
the act of coming to life is not becoming
             we have been structured so far
             far for eternal
becoming be deadening

now was the lion with you or with us now

we have already scared them off

once again after eternity consumed

by the fire of love—


is that flower or magnifying glass

heathen ode

The universalisms I could name
were shattered,
           wet paper will never dry again.

And they say mama who was
once the strongest and the worldliest
is now a bald weakling.

There was alas no one left to blame.
           In a harmonious
we looked into each other
and did nothing else.
Except yell—

                       there were no neighbors
                       to complain, good and evil was an old game
                       we played—
           and early, early,
the light would
           enter and leave through a hole
the sky had perforated for
a biological reason once again,
once again.


Once a week, the PEN Poetry Series publishes work by emerging and established writers from coast to coast. Subscribe to the Poetry Series mailing list and have poems delivered to your e-mail as soon as they are published (no spam, no news, just poems).