May 7, 2023

PARIS (Oct. 4, 2020) — “Rain in Plural” (Princeton University Press 2016), the fourth collection of poetry from celebrated Fiona Sze-Lorrain, is the much-anticipated follow-up to “The Ruined Elegance,” the critically acclaimed work that was a finalist for the Los Angeles Times Book Prize.

“Rain in Plural,” the fourth collection of poems from Fiona Sze-Lorrain. (Princeton University Press, 2020)

This fourth collection of poetry by Fiona Sze-Lorrain was praised by The Rumpus as “a master of musicality and enlightening allusions.” In the wholly original world of these new poems, Sze-Lorrain addresses both private narratives and the overexposed discourse of the polis, using silence and montage, lyric and antilyric, to envision what she calls “creating between liberties.” 

“Rain in Plural, available at Barnes and Noble and, are poems that travel from Shanghai, Singapore, Kyoto, Taipei and Sumatra to New York and the American West to Milan and back to Paris, according to the publisher’s notes. With a moral precision that embraces us without eschewing I, she rethinks questions of citizenship, the selections of sensory memory, and, by extension, the tether of word and image to the actual.

Sze-Lorrain writes, “I accept the truth in newspapers / by holding the murder of my friends against my chest. // To each weather forecast I give thanks: / merci for every outdated // dusk/dawn.” Agrippina the Younger, Franz Kafka, Bob Dylan, a butoh performance, an unnamed Raku tea bowl — each has a place here. Made whole by time and its alteration in timelessness, synchrony, coincidences, and accidents, Rain in Plural beautifully reveals an elegiac yet ever-evolving inner life.

In an elegy to her grandmother, Sze-Lorrain observes, “Now I touch its skin, the cream of being alive,” distancing herself with that pronoun while asking what we are: body, memory, relationships? She then proceeds to arc astonishingly through human experience. 

Fiona Sze-Lorrain
(Photo by
Dominique Nabokov, 2015, Paris)

Part 1 is personal, revealing that in our containedness, we still live richly if we learn to look outward and live in “used spaces.” A speaker standing near-naked in a barn registers anxiety, desire, and above all watchfulness, key to our capacity to frame and reframe the world not through bludgeoning but re-seeing (and thence language, “pushy as ever,” with ­”strangers in the midst of longing and speech.”) For though “goats do not prepare/ for rain or transition,” we do; a monk asked to “reclock the emptiness./ …showed me how/ to leave each window outside.” 

The remaining sections open up to the world, with Part 2 acknowledging our “grueling times/ grueling politics”; Part 3, how we knock up against “time and the body, a diurnal tyranny,” experience ever mediated; Part 4, the importance of place; and Part 5, everyday frustrations small and large.

“Rain in Plural” has been highlighted as one of the “nine major poetry collections by writers veteran and new” in Library Journal. A splendid follow-up to the LJ best-booked “The Ruined Elegance” with broader appeal.

Fiona Sze-Lorrain is a poet, translator, editor, and zheng harpist. She has also translated more than a dozen books of contemporary Chinese, French, and American poetry. Her latest translation is contemporary Chinese poet, fiction writer, and filmmaker Yin Lichuan’s Karma (Tolsun Books, 2020). She lives in Paris.

Sze-Lorrain’s debut collection of poetry was “Water the Moon” (Marick 2010). Her second book of poetry, “My Funeral Gondola” (Mãnoa Books 2013). Sze-Lorrain writes about “rifts and departures, memory and experience. With lyricism and restraint, her poems meditate on the bittersweet struggles and inner intensities of a solitary life.” Her third book of poetry, “The Ruined Elegance” (Princeton University Press 2016), was a finalist for the Los Angeles Times Book Prize.

She has also published poetry in several anthologies and more recently published “Not Meant as Poems” (The Green Violin 2018), a limited edition handmade chapbook pamphlet by Fiona Sze-Lorrain with illustrations by Rem Stahl.

Her special projects include “A Blue Dark,” the ink paintings of Fritz Horstman with the poems and translations by Fiona Sze-Lorrain (Vif Éditions 2019).

As a translator of Chinese to English and French, Fiona Sze-Lorrain’s most recent contributions include “Karma by Yin Lichuan” (Tolsun Books 2020); “My Mountain Country by Ye Lijun” (World Poetry Books 2019); “Trace by Yu Xiang” (Ji’nan 2017), a limited edition handmade chapbook; and “Sea Summit” by Yi Lu (Milkweed Editions 2016).

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