A profound literary debut that recounts a child's singular story
Since I made you, you may
imagine I set myself on fire—
or better, say: you lit the funeral pyre
from ten thousand days away.
A young woman in Paris encounters an uncanny presence on a tour of a small museum. A study by Rodin of the dancer Little Hanako—titled Head of Sorrow—triggers in the young woman recognition of her mother, a mother erased from her life since childhood.
Thus begins Eleanor Chai's Standing Water, one of the most remarkable first books of poetry in recent years. It is a journey into the past as well as the present—into the narrative hidden from the poet since birth, as well as the strategies that she has adopted to survive. It is a journey about how we learn to cope with, to perceive and describe, the world. It is a story about savage privilege and deprivation.
Haunting the whole is the figure of the real Little Hanako—Rodin's model, a Japanese artist displaced in Europe, the medium through which other artists dream and discover the world.