Dis Press, 2007 - $3.50
Beijing Background is a beautiful pamphlet to hold and read. The cover is a striking image of skyscrapers in construction. Inside, the paper is cream and crisp; and, nestled in the front and back covers, are genuine pieces of a Chinese newspaper, an evocative reminder that this was written amidst another language and culture
The poems? There are eight, three of which follow clear patterns (one is even a sestina) and five of which are sprawling and free. These latter, often catching the city in motion, are an excellent marriage of form and content, with words hurriedly rushing to and fro, like busy people in crowded streets:
of people of their ideas and art
architecture of shapes and those places
people occupy noise and nuance
of living colour of course off course
off centre often
brought into conflict of ideals
dreams and disease dimensions
dead-ends of convention
It is an evocative way to dramatise a heaving metropolis, where not only people and vehicles are moving, but ideas. Times are changing, and this is a key theme to these poems. My favourite, ‘Chinese Sestina’, uses the form’s shifting repetition to map the continual restructuring of Beijing’s identity.
These are the poems of an EFL teacher: Marcacci obviously takes pleasure in the bizarre patterns of the English language. One, ‘seeing red’, playfully ties together many phrases, distinct in sense, that feature this colour; significant, of course, for its national significance. Some choices are odd. For example, the poem, ‘I Titled This Poem’, is seventy-two lines beginning, “I titled this poem…” and ending in something rude or unexpected or funny. I thought this would be fine in a larger collection but overbalanced an eight-poem pamphlet. Overall, however, a greatly enjoyable read—I recommend it wholeheartedly.
The pamphlet is available direct from the poet at http://marcacci.blogspot.com
The Common Reader says of Beijing Background:
I found this chapbook interesting and although the poems have separate titles I read them as if it was a continuous story about what it’s like to live in Beijing.
Some of the poems proved too difficult for me and the layout didn’t help. For example, I could make no sense of ‘For Bai Wei’. and the poem titled ‘I Titled This Poem’ drove me nuts, mostly due to the length of it with every line repeating the same pattern.
I did like the ‘Chinese Sestina’ which made perfect sense. The end of the poem has a sense of gloom to come :
There will be more of Beijing, more English,
more months and years, and more teachers.
Will there be any more red lanterns? Any more Chinese?