In a daring first book that challenges contemporary poetic practice and pieties, Anita Feng speaks in a voice completely different from her own, submerging her gender, race, and nationality in these powerful and sensitive poems. In Internal Strategies, she tells the story of her husband, Xiao Ge Feng, who was born at the outset of communist rule in China and who grew up on succeeding waves of patriotic fervor, disillusionment, disaster, and inner strength. These poems, in Ms. Feng’s convincing rendering of Xiao Ge’s voice, follow the course of his life from severe childhood illness to forced labor in Manchuria, through factory work and his efforts to educate himself, to his immigration to the United States for study at a university where he met and married the author. Against the backdrop of China’s ancient customs and political history, Ms. Feng poses such essential questions as “what are the perimeters of experience” and “to whom does history belong,” even as they brilliantly transcend the topical events out of which they arise, combining fact and lyric imagery to animate a single life and an entire world.
Anita Feng imposes her own voice as an overlay, but not until she has made for her husband this gift of immersion. And not until she has made for us a first book so exciting we can only look to it as portent.
—The Georgia Review
This is the poetry of necessity, drawn from a searing yet gentle vision of human tragedy and nobility. Anita Feng’s poems articulate quiet courage, humility, subtlety and authentic grace in a seamless book, the voice calm and wise as the proverbial ch’an master who, nose-to-nose with the tiger, does not blink. I shall cherish her gift for many years.