Monday, June 15, 2009

Shadows and Light by Catherine Wang Hsu

Shadows and Light (2007, by Catherine Wang Hsu

Review by Barbara Bialick

“Shadows and Light”, by Catherine Wang Hsu, a chapbook published by, flows well in a philosophical yin/yang, dark/light voice that suits her background as a Boston-area business woman, Chinese immigrant, “daughter, wife, and mother” and “liberated woman.”

The main theme is that the pain of grief and change can be transformed into freedom. This path led her into poetry, meditation, yoga, and kabbala, although these topics as well as who she is specifically grieving for, are addressed indirectly or not at all.

I assume she’s speaking of her late husband in “Labor of Love”: “It took all his love/…to say good-bye to himself/…to embrace God in His delight.” But then she asks “Is there a God?” She writes “I can’t understand God, through Jesus I can.” And to “Please shut-up!: If (the Lord) is so glorious, why am I so furious?”In “My Independence Day”, Hsu concludes: “I cannot rely on my family anymore/Therefore I learn to rely on myself…I am talking to the moon and stars…”

Then she makes a big step, “The Leap of a Lifetime,” when she learns to use a “trapeze at age 65”… With “dead parents and spouse/gone are my children, my house…” she could now “shake off misery in a magnificent swing.”

Consequently in “Liberated Woman”, she declares “I do not wear my mandarin collar…I would rather wear pants and free my legs!” She further explains her growing philosophy of “Change and Transformation…which might not always happen./It is our innermost work.”

But in “Thanksgiving,” she concludes “Everything leads us to the right passage/The wrong one/brings us to a good ending/the right one/brings us to good work./I cannot wait to continue my journey/while life is such a discovery.”

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