Four Way Books
by Sandy Tseng

A Stahlecker Series Selection
ISBN: 978-1-884800-93-1
paper, 84 pages, $15.95

“This vivid and clean-lined debut weaves strands of personal and family narrative into short poems with wider symbolic force; the best of them contemplate both autobiography and ecocatastrophe. Tseng's free verse creates strong moods: “Apple season, the dog eats his fill and falls asleep beside the space heater./ I thought the world was going to end years ago.” Questions of East Asian immigration and assimilation dominate some early poems before giving way to more abstract spiritual dilemmas: “if our books burn up,/ we will suffer loss and still be saved,/ as those escaping through the flames.” Tseng is equally at home depicting modern cityscapes and presenting far-flung rural locales. In both, she seeks sublimity while restricting herself to familiar words; in both she is able to see impending doom, as when the title poem presents the Indonesian tsunami and Hurricane Katrina in two haunting pages (“The last thing we see is a wall of white crashing... Oil rig evacuations. Cars and cars against the sea wall”). In Tseng's strongest work, everything takes on a surprising, religious dimension as the book drives to a close: “The voice of the Lord is upon the water,” she warns: “he intends to strip the forests bare.”

Publisher's Weekly (Nov.)

“Tired of a world of short attention spans and frenetic entertainment, I was pleased to totally immerse myself into these quiet, patient, well-crafted poems. It’s been a long time since I have encountered a work of art that has so viscerally invoked my own painful memories of separation, abandonment and exile. This is a wonderful, compelling first book.”

—Marilyn Chin

“Reading Sandy Tseng’s beautiful and grave first book Sediment is like walking into the invisible force of a great wind. You cannot see the force although you feel its effect everywhere. Only what is absolutely necessary survives in these poems. Images are not ornaments but glimpses, stilled as though by a strobe, in the rush of confusion and darkness of the world. ‘On your white coat, the blood / of a stranger,’ Tseng writes. This is an austere and powerful work.”

—Lynn Emanuel

“The poems of Sediment—as remarkable for their resonant clarity as for their carefully distilled imagery—are everywhere haunted by cities: cities of memory, ancestry, displacement, cities of to abandon and to be abandoned. Tseng asks us to consider the differences between belonging and being claimed, to embrace equally the fact of longing and the fact that ‘some things / we were never meant to keep.’ A strong debut, indeed.”

—Carl Phillips