Peeling Rambutan by Gillian Sze
Finalist for The A.M. Klein Prize for Poetry in 2014
A poetic travelogue, Gillian Sze’s Peeling Rambutan meditates upon the rifts between immigrant parents and their Canadian-born children and the struggle of overlapping values which sometimes arises when we view the complexity of our heritage through the lens of the present. Rooted in Sze’s first experience of Asia, these poems mingle the familiar spaces of her childhood home in Winnipeg with impressions of the distant villages of her parents’ origins. The result is a complex exploration of the relationship between identity, place, and history. Landscape and language prove unstable, inhabited by ghosts and other echoes of passing time which leave indelible impressions on the poet: A market in Hong Kong seems reminiscent of Montreal; the spirit of her great-grandmother shows up on a commercial street in China, then in Queen Elizabeth Park in Vancouver. The mundane–a bite of fruit, a boy selling raisins, the floured hands of a baker–takes on a contemplative cast. In such a world, a traveller is never wholly certain whether she is discovering an unexplored world or descending into memory, but Sze’s lyrically-driven poems navigate confidently, mapping new terrain while remaining sensitive to the claims of the past.
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