Weyman Chan’s fifth collection takes poetry to the laboratory, splicing a layered, tactile network that is Human Tissue.
Short lyric poems navigate personal experience and memory, then weave into serial poems such as “Parables for Frankenstein,” diving into the material conditions of hybridity to construct the symbiotic self of a prototype misfit. “Panic Room,” another serial poem probes the loner whose isolation at a house party takes a sinister turn, and “Unboxing the Clone” explores the causality of creation, where “trace beings” are felt in flesh and voiced in colloquial speech.
Human Tissue creates a language that is intimate while acknowledging relations to the social environment. Accompanied by the tones of an erhu, archaic Anglo-Saxon language jostles with Chinese, and self-censure meets Faust and Judith Butler to ask the vital questions of origin. Chan shows us how we come to settle with histories of uncertain origin, the presence of science and technology in the mediated body, and how we forge “not-knowing” as a vibrant way of being.
Weyman Chan was born in Calgary in 1963, to immigrant parents from China. He has published poems and short stories in a wide variety of literary journals and anthologies. He won the 2002 National Magazine Awards silver prize for his poem “At Work,” and the 2003 Alberta Book Award for his first book of poetry, Before a Blue Sky Moon. His second book, Noise from the Laundry, was a finalist for the 2008 Governor General’s Award for Poetry and the 2009 Acorn-Plantos Award for People’s Poetry.
“[Chan] explores a vision of humanity in a technologically charged world … Human Tissue exudes a sense of immediacy and simultaneously displays a modernist influence … Technological terms, academic topics, and scientific language blend with an arsenal of colloquial terms … This clash of tradition and the contemporary, of the informal and the technical, contributes to the sense of anxiety in Chan’s poetry … [The combined effect is] a carefully crafted expression of being flesh in a partly robotic world.”—Canadian Literature