Ching-In Chen’s The Heart’s Traffic (and Quantum Physics as explained on YouTube): A Review by Nicelle Davis[Roxane Gay / February 18th, 2010 / Reviews ]
In The Heart’s Traffic, Ching-In Chen writes, “I wish this to be easy, at the same time, I wish this to be difficult.”Â The plot of her novel in verse is fairly simple. The poems tells the story of Xiaomei, an emigrant girl, who is haunted by the ghost of her childhood friend. But like all matters of the heart, the poems are complicated. Chen’s work is literary cubism, with a multitude of voices speaking at the same time. Her book is the Quantum Physics of poetry. Because of the limitation of WordPress formatting, I’m unable to give many examples of Chen’s gorgeous use of space. In an attempt to shadow Chen’s ability to create conversations out of found texts, I’ve invited the Quantum Physics expert Robert Anton Wilson to interrupt / inform / complicate my findings in The Hearts Traffic.
YouTube: Robert Anton Wilson explains Quantum Physics (a story)
TRANSCRIPT: When I moved from Los Angeles I moved into what I thought was Santa Cruz THEN we had something stolen from our car and we called the police AND it turned out we didn’t live in Santa Cruse we live in a town called Capitola (the post office thought we lived in Santa Cruz but the police thought we lived in Capitola) I stated investigating this AND a reporter on the local newspaper told me we didn’t live in EITHER Santa Cruz or Capitola we lived in an unincorporated area called Live Oak NOW Quantum Mechanics is just like that EXCEPT that (in the case of Santa Cruse Capitola and Live Oak) we don’t get too confused because we remember WE invented the lines on the map BUT Quantum Physics seems confusing because a lot of people think we didn’t invent the lines SO it seem hard to understand how a particle can be in THREE places at the same time without being anywhere at all BUT when you remember that WE INVENTED ALL the BOUNDARIES BOARDERS and LINES just like the Berlin Wall THEN Quantum Physics is no more mysterious as understand that I live in three different places at the same time.
In many ways, Xiamomei’s story follows the classic coming of age narrative. But Chin’s poetry complicates this journey by suggesting that there are several layers to a person. With poems that run in columns down the page, Xiamomei’s voice blends into the voice of her best friend Sparrow. This sense of “soul blending”Â only intensifies when Sparrow drowns. In the poem “Some Say”Â Xiamomei cries,
Some say the lake digests all her daughters and births fireflies.
No one say, I will miss her my whole-long life.
I will carve a door in my dream, an entrance that belongs only to her so I can tell her again and again how I wish we never fought over the stars the night she fell out of my life.
Xiamomei’s intense longing does “carve a door”Â for the ghost of Sparrow to live in her heart. The “heart’s traffic”Â begins to show itself as a constant stream of voices informing Xiamomei of who she is.
Robert Anton Wilson makes a declarative statement about Quantum Physics
No Chinese raised on I Ching has ever found Quantum Mechanics puzzling. It is only puzzling to people raise on Aristotelian logic that thinks only A or not A. The I Ching thinks A and not A at the same time.
Xiamomei’s identity molds itself to several others—and not always because of love. The voice of a missing father, controlling mother, school bully, a choir of Coolies, a lover before / after a sex change, and dozens of poetic forms from all over the word make up the character of Xiamomei. This book is a circuit board of connections with poems written after author interviews with Arthur Golden and poems by Terrance Hayes, Joy Harjo, Sarah Gambito, Eric Gamalinda, Harryette Mullen, Li-Young Lee and many others. This choir of voices investigates several issues including: gender, race, and sexual identity. Anything that might travel through the human heart is incorporated into this book.
Robert Anton Wilson: “Nothing of any importance can be taught. It can only be learned, and with blood and sweat.”Â
Chen’s book is constructed smartly, like a perfectly thought-out equation. However, The Hearts Traffics intellectual quality never overpowers the book’s raw emotional pulse. Like the theory of Quantum Physics, Chen’s poetry is a work of endless possibility.