Hey, Marfa Poems

Jeffrey Yang

Book - 2018

Situated in the outreaches of southwest Texas, the town of Marfa has long been an oasis for artists, immigrants looking for work, and ranchers, while the ghosts of the indigenous and the borders between languages and nations are apparent everywhere. The poet and translator Jeffrey Yang experienced the vastness of desert, township, sky, and time itself as a profound clash of dislocation and familiarity. What does it mean to survive in a physical and metaphorical desert? How does a habitat long as...sociated with wilderness and death become a center for nourishment and art? Out of those experiences and questions, Yang has fashioned a fascinating, multifaceted work--an anti-travel guide, an anti-Western, a book of last words--that is a lyrical, anthropological investigation into history, culture, and extremity of place. Paintings and drawings of Marfa's landscapes and substations by the artist Rackstraw Downes intertwine with Yang's texts as mutual nodes and lines of energy. Hey, Marfa is a desert diary scaled to music that aspires to emit particles of light.

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Subjects
Published
Minneapolis, Minnesota : Graywolf Press [2018]
Language
English
Item Description
Subtitle from cover.
Physical Description
151 pages : illustrations (chiefly color) ; 23 cm
Bibliography
Includes bibliographical references and index.
ISBN
9781555978198
1555978193
Main Author
Jeffrey Yang (author)
Other Authors
Rackstraw Downes (illustrator)
Review by Booklist Reviews

Yang is the translator of Nobel Peace Prize recipient Liu Xiaobo's June Fourth Elegies (2012), and in this collection of his own poems, he uses his skills to express the dynamic collision and collusion of history and art and to capture the spirit of the iconic West Texas town and creative center of Marfa. Yang, recipient of a PEN/Joyce Osterweil Award, has constructed an Escher-like collage by weaving together musings on Southwest America's past and accounts of current art movements. Illustrated with the sublime paintings and drawings of British artist Rackstraw Downes, Hey, Marfa is itself an art object as much as a book of exacting poetry. There are lyric gems here, such as "Thirteen Stations," in which Yang manages to make an electric power transformer not only interesting but also beautiful: "Pencil's lightness to fingers, paper's / lightness to pencil, finger's lightness / to mind, mind's lightness to heart / air's lightness to paper." A collection to read in wonder and then reread, discovering something new. Copyright 2018 Booklist Reviews.

Review by Library Journal Reviews

"?Marfa is no arid La Jolla, no Palm Springs decoy,…[but] an art-/ island that depends on poor locals and neighboring islands/ to keep costs down.'?" So says modern-day gunslinger Stra of the celebrated Texas town at the heart of this heady new book by PEN/Joyce Osterweil Award winner Yang (An Aquarium). Yang doesn't dwell on the town's reputation as a modern-day arts center, instead investigating the history and gorgeously desolate terrain of the surrounding area. "And the blood of the defeated runs/ fast through the earth's veins," says the poem "Conquistadores," and Yang also features Chinese laborers and others eaten up as the land was settled ("no fortress but bodies/ offered to the mines"). He also effectively captures the desert in its grand eternity ("A mirage of sameness/ dispelled, each sand-/ grain a snowflake"), but the proximity of Juárez evokes contemporary issues. Then there are the many power substations pockmarking the landscape, featured in Rackstraw Downes's stark paintings and drawings. VERDICT Remarkably blended, with references from Bach to Hollywood showing how Marfa fired Yang's imagination, just as he will fire yours. Copyright 2018 Library Journal.

Review by Publisher Summary 1

Situated in the outreaches of southwest Texas, the town of Marfa has long been an oasis for artists, immigrants looking for work, and ranchers, while the ghosts of the indigenous and the borders between languages and nations are apparent everywhere. The poet and translator Jeffrey Yang experienced the vastness of desert, township, sky, and time itself as a profound clash of dislocation and familiarity. What does it mean to survive in a physical and metaphorical desert? How does a habitat long associated with wilderness and death become a center for nourishment and art? Out of those experiences and questions, Yang has fashioned a fascinating, multifaceted work--an anti-travel guide, an anti-Western, a book of last words--that is a lyrical, anthropologicalinvestigation into history, culture, and extremity of place. Paintings and drawings of Marfa's landscapes and substations by the artist Rackstraw Downes intertwine with Yang's texts as mutual nodes and lines of energy. Hey, Marfa is a desert diary scaledto music that aspires to emit particles of light.

Review by Publisher Summary 2

An extraordinary lyric and visual meditation on place, nature, and art rippling out from Marfa, TexasSituated in the outreaches of southwest Texas, the town of Marfa has long been an oasis for artists, immigrants looking for work, and ranchers, while the ghosts of the indigenous and the borders between languages and nations are apparent everywhere. The poet and translator Jeffrey Yang experienced the vastness of desert, township, sky, and time itself as a profound clash of dislocation and familiarity. What does it mean to survive in a physical and metaphorical desert? How does a habitat long associated with wilderness and death become a center for nourishment and art?Out of those experiences and questions, Yang has fashioned a fascinating, multifaceted work—an anti-travel guide, an anti-Western, a book of last words—that is a lyrical, anthropological investigation into history, culture, and extremity of place. Paintings and drawings of Marfa’s landscapes and substations by the artist Rackstraw Downes intertwine with Yang’s texts as mutual nodes and lines of energy. Hey, Marfa is a desert diary scaled to music that aspires to emit particles of light.