In Jeffrey Yang’s vision for this brilliant new collection, the essence of poetry can be broken down into line and light. Dispersed across these poems are luminous centers, points of a constellation tracing lines of energy through art, myth, and history. These interconnections create vast and dynamic reverberations. As Yang asks in one poem, “What vitality binds a universe?”
One long series explores through shadow and play the ancient Malay kingdom of Langkasuka, a legendary nexus of creativity, commerce, and spiritual life, threatened over time by violence, climate, and environmental degradation. The title poem is a study of time, night turning to dawn, revealing the lines and lights of an art installation on an island in the Hudson River, flowing into another poem about Grand Central Terminal’s atrium of stars, flowing upriver into a poem that describes a cemetery for a state prison. Another extended sequence is a collaboration investigating memory and loss, composed of Yang’s poems, Japanese translations by Hiroaki Sato, and drawings made with ink derived from tea leaves by the artist Kazumi Tanaka. The collection ends with moving elegies for poets, translators, and artists whose works have informed this one. Altogether, Line and Light illuminates the ways that ancestry holds and makes possible the act of making art.