Lantern Review reviews CHA: AN ASIAN LITERARY JOURNAL, ISSUE 12

Henry W. Leung, reviewer for Lantern Review, has written an extensive review of the current edition of Cha (Issue #12); the review is now available on the LR blog.

Henry emphasises, among other things, the Asian-themed poetry (‘Most of the poems in this issue fit the “Asian” label easily enough[.]’) and the translations (‘I laud Cha for being international and diglossic, because the presence—or shadow—of other languages encourages us to confront our own more objectively.’) in the issue as well as our critique column, A Cup of Fine Tea:

If you followed the links to these poems, you’ll know that many are paired with commentary or reviews in the correlating blog, A Cup of Fine Tea, emphasizing the dialogue that small-press literary journals are intended to be.

In the review, works by Annie Zaidi, Clara Hsu, Eddie Tay, Fiona Sze-Lorrain, Helle Annette Slutz, Kim-An Lieberman, Marco Yan, Inara Cedrins and Peters Bruveris, Phill Provance, Steven Schroeder and W.F. Lantry are discussed, some very favourably. 

Henry also poses an important question to Cha editors in his review: as an Asian journal, should we be more aware of publishing pieces that fit the “Asian” label? Of course, “Asian” can be roughly interpreted at least two ways: 1) Asian-themed works and 2) works by Asian writers/artists. However, in his discussion, Henry suggests that content comes before authors’ racial make up or current location, as he points out that Annie’s and Marco’s poems, “Diaphragm” and “Remembrance” respectively, ‘don’t immediately fit any distinct cultural categories’, despite the fact that Annie is from Mumbai and Marco lives in Hong Kong. Henry reminds us, then, that a piece of work by an Asian-born or Asian-based writer does not by default make it “Asian”. I agree there is a distinction.

The discussion of “Asian-ness” reminded me of Jeff‘s editorial written for the second anniversary issue of Cha (Issue #9), in which he contemplates on the notion of “Asian writing community” in today’s globalised world:

I also had no sense of the diversity of the Asian writing community. When we began, I assumed that Asian writers were those found on the continent, locals, maybe a handful of expats. I have come to realise that this definition was far too narrow—that in a globalised world the idea of Asian writing must be more inclusive and fluid, must encompass the perspectives of writers from the diasporas, travellers to the region, even people with an interest in the continent. Asia it turns out is everywhere. All you have to do is open your doors. How else can one run a Hong-Kong based journal from a house in London?

Admittedly, the passage above does not cover works by ‘foreigners’ that are not in any way thematically relevant to Asia — a concern raised by Henry in his review of Cha. Looking through the journal’s archive, I can say that the prose pieces are all Asian-related while in other categories we have not been as strict. For example, in our selection of poetry, “Asian” is far from the first criteria that we use to judge a piece. Why is that? Henry has drawn our attention to a point that we will certainly be thinking some more. What are people’s thoughts on this?

Thank you, Henry and Lantern Review, for reading Cha so attentively and sharing your thoughts with us!

Also read “Cha A Literary Review Debate”

Meet Helle Annette Slutz

Helle Annette Slutz’s poem “Another City Which You Leave” was the first poem accepted for publication in the September 2010 issue of Cha. It begins with a quote from Italo Calvino’s Invisible Cities:

For those who pass it without entering, the city is one thing; it is another for those who are trapped by it and never leave. There is a city where you arrive for the first time; and there is another city which you leave never to return. Each deserves a different name…

The poem goes on to present poignant and beautifully-crafted snapshots of three Chinese cities: Turfan, Beijing and Shanghai. Pointing her delicate camera at unique aspects of these locales, Helle has made the cities, to which she may or may not return, her own. And we are very grateful for the opportunity to experience these places through her writing.

Bio: Helle Annette Slutz was born and raised in the United States and has lived in Cincinnati, Columbus, and Gambier Ohio; Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania; Bloomington, Indiana; Chicago, Illinois; and Cork, Ireland, and she currently lives in Washington, D.C. She graduated from Kenyon College in Gambier, Ohio in 2009, with high honors in English and an emphasis on creative writing. Slutz loves to travel, meet people from around the world, and share languages, cultures, and food. She has published poems in Persimmons, a Kenyon College literary magazine, as well as in Sweet: a Literary Confection.