The poem In Lieu of Autobiography (p42) told me all and nothing about this poet. The piece is structured as an interview of the king I recognise from experience: silly answers to silly questions, but that is only a topical view! Unfamiliar with Ouyang Yu's work and looking for the hidden person, I had gone straight to this poem in the middle of the book to find myself listening to a voice: existential, abstract, punk, avant guard, surreal and cynical. The interviewer in this poem puts the typical, the poet, it seems, gives nothing (of himself), but I saw myself, intolerant of stupidity or naivety, and I was angry.
Anger and sadness are thematic in this poetry collection: homesickness, the stolid attitude of ...sleeping souls who couldn't care less (p10 Title poem), of lethargic Australians who don't and maybe cannot appreciate ...the nights that are so displaced here (p10). The poem
the moon is made for love
as love is made for moon
when he and she go there
into their dreamed reality:
made in love (p.11)
gives small mention of romantic symbolism, but I did see the tempering of anger in this book by an obvious subtle sadness, and I was jolted by the poem 'The day nothing happened in Melbourne.'
Another aspect of this blatant writing is the writer's specific, not always flattering perspective of Australia. A personal scrutinising of an Australian apathy, naivety, lazy nonchalance regarding world-genocide, and a constant refusal to break out of a nationalistic, blase, ignorant art/life-experience as being a matter of urgency and understanding, and I admire that scrutiny and critical feedback from Yu.
Readers of this collection of poetry might miss its whole point, probably annoyed by what could be seen as an arrogant assessment of Australia(ns)!
Yu's voice changes often and seems to have been severely criticised particularly for its use of 'colourful' language. Why? All languages have a colloquial content, and Australia, too, has a conservative element which sees no reason for usage of perceived, so-called low-class/gutter/pub or uncouth expression of emotion.
Writers unite in freedom of speech. Australia, at least, is known for its unpretentiousness which sometimes is labelled 'being uncultured or crude'.
Well, what is culture' Part of it is freedom of thought in speech and writing, art and theatre, and those who would delete the expletives are denying themselves a level of expression, and that of the writer, publishers, artists/agents/galleries and theatre directors/producers/film directors.
The Australian voice is sometimes racist and discriminating, and Ouyang Yu displays an excellent 'you should be in my shoes' attitude.
This poet's use of sexual references as metaphor has also been criticised. Well! From what century and which writer came the quote 'every orgasm is a small death'
Moon over Melbourne and other Poems is a great, brave and excellent work. Thanks and congratulations to both writer and publisher. If this book is not read again, and again much of its intrinsic value will be missed.