Virga, much like its namesake, evokes gentle gasps and realizations. Transforming Wordsworth’s “poetry is the reflection of spontaneous emotion recollected in tranquility,” Shin Yu Pai creates contemplation from strife.
Her mastery is found with her careful placement of words and lines within stanzas, indicative of her experience having ten books published prior to Virga. Much like a wizened master, Pai opens with the poem “Empty Zendo” with its ending lines being: “more than ever I will practice / for as long as I am able.”
This book is further enriched with knowledge in Buddhism, should readers seek more context with poems like “Being Avalokiteshvara.” However, the essence of each poem echoes these teachings. Even the word, virga, can be considered out of the layperson’s vocabulary, a word referring to the mass streaks of rain that appear to hang beneath a cloud before reaching the ground.
Pai is in tune not only with nature but of her fellow living beings, speaking through them, with them, and for them. With a lineage thriving and persisting despite white supremacist structures that eager to silence those who would defy it, Pai, with the same careful precision, wields her language as an ode, representation, and an echo for Asian American women.
Trigger warning mention of death; imagery of death; sexual imagery.
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