Asian Skies is the final book of Ken Norris’s travel trilogy. With Dante as his guide, he has previously left behind the predominantly European terrain of the first book, Limbo Road, only to find himself in the terra incognita of the new world of the second, Dominican Moon.
Now guideless, Norris continues his search for the metaphorical shortcut, the “inside passage” of the age of discovery; the easy transcendence of “a passage to India” from the post-industrial world, and sets out for that most foreign of shores to the Western mind: Asia?a world of glittering wealth, precious spice, exotic religiosity, tyrannical rule, mysterious ritual and deadly storm.
Composed like a dark novel-in-verse, this is the unsettling story of the deficiencies of love that have produced our commodified and globalized world?a perhaps not-so-divine comedy of those who don’t love enough'steeped in a clash of cultures wherein the third world seems willingly, even perversely, to offer itself up as a simulacrum of the first, while its otherness remains hidden, inaccessible.
As he transits the beaches of Phuket to the island of Bali, the flood plains of Bangladesh to the sublime heights of the Himalaya, Norris ultimately understands it is the absence of a beloved that turns the world upside down: where what was loved is hated, what was benign is threatening, what was dangerous is embraced, what was worshipped is murdered, what was past is future.
Part travel journal, part meditation on the rudderless denizens of the global village of which he is merely one, Asian Skies chronicles a search for the beloved, one that will lead to “the City of God.” That she appears only in glimpses is a credit to Ken Norris’s adept reading of the 21st century and his disciplined mapping of its increasingly unknown territories.
About the author
Ken Norris was born in New York City in 1951. He emigrated to Canada in the early seventies, where he quickly became one of the infamous Vehicule Poets, essential in helping to develop and maintain a particular style of Anglo-poetry in Montreal.
One of Canada’s most prolific poets, Ken Norris has always given his readers subtly capricious and edgy poetry that reveals unanticipated possibilities and explores new horizons. He is the author of two dozen books and chapbooks of poetry, and is the editor of eight anthologies of poetry and poetics. His work has been widely anthologized in Canada and throughout the English-speaking world, as well as published in translation in France, Belgium, Israel and China. Quebec poet Pierre Des Ruisseaux has translated two of his books into French, La route des limbes (Limbo Road, Écrits des Forges) and Hotel Montréal (Éditions du Noroît).
Norris teaches Canadian literature and creative writing at the University of Maine. He divides his time between Canada, the United States and Asia.
“Norris’s Asian Skies does not offer a vision of this neo-romantic world—a world without commodification, capitalist exploitation—but he leads western readers to question our political and emotional relationship to the East. Most importantly the book encourages us to raise the possibility of re-imagining the West’s conception of the East, to undo the mythology, and challenge notions of difference on personal and collective levels.”
—The Bull Calf
“The poems in Asian Skies also offer themes that have appeared frequently in Asian cinema over the past few decades, namely the “anomie,” the universal loneliness, alienation and isolation we can experience as individuals due to the uncontrollable expanse of technological, economic, and globalized entities, where the nightmare is merely our own embracing of such a spiritually hollow materialistic world.” —Garry Thomas Morse