WIDER THAN THE SKY by Nancy Chen Long
About the Collection
In her second book Wider Than the Sky, Nancy Chen Long grapples with the porous and slippery nature of memory and mind. Through form and content, the poems in the book mimic memory, its recursive and sometimes surreal qualities—how recalling one memory resurrects a different memory, which then jumps to another memory, and then another, each memory connected by the thinnest of wisps—as well as memory’s mutability—conflicting memories among family members, changes in the collective memory of a society, a buried memory that is resurrected when one catches the scent of a forgotten perfume. Wider Than the Sky explores the role of memory in identity, how the physical aspects of the brain impact who we are, and how who we are—both individually and as a society—is, in one sense, a narrative. These poems delve into the mind’s need for narrative in order to make sense of the world and how a society uses stories and myth to help its members remember a lesson, a preferred behavior, or their position in the social scale.
Reading Wider than the Sky is to encounter a world and a sensibility. With each poem firing as precisely as a synapse, interwoven into one shimmering neural net, Nancy Chen Long’s collection is a richly varied, acutely embodied exploration of how “our life is what our thoughts make it.” Eidetic moments, as vivid as the “star-nosed mole, / its many-fingered nose –a fan of proboscises” ground these poems where a child, finding a perfume bottle that once belonged to her grandmother, is “Suddenly…eating fruit in my memory, faint yellow slivers of stars, / juice running through my fingers.” The universality and specificity of human experience is profoundly felt in these metaphysical poems, interrogating and celebrating how being persists, “forever/home, forever foreign,” despite subjective and collective erasure –its aberrations, its genetic inheritances, its “scorched language,”— “creating/ourselves as we go.”
—Rebecca Seiferle, author of Wild Tongue and Bitters
Empathic polymath Nancy Chen Long considers wide-ranging topics—from neurology to Emily Dickinson, from the big bang to Bible stories—as she interrogates the role of memory in the formation of our narratives and of our selves. Long portrays fleeting scenes from childhood onward—scenes which momentarily shine a flickering light on life’s big topics: the links between story and belief, forgiveness and biology, society and violence, language and loss. The reader experiences this unforgettable book in the same way a memory is experienced—as incomplete images infused with emotional wholeness, images that swell and recede and leave us changed for having been momentarily immersed in the intimacy between past and present that we call memory.
—Jessica Goodfellow, author of Whiteout and Mendeleev’s Mandala
About the Author
Nancy Chen Long is the author of Light into Bodies (University of Tampa Press, 2017), winner of the Tampa Review Prize for Poetry, as well as the chapbook Clouds as Inkblots for the War Prone (Red Bird Chapbooks, 2013). She is the recipient of a National Endowment of the Arts Creative Writing Fellowship. Her work was selected as the winner of the 2019 Poetry Society of America Robert H. Winner Award and featured in Poetry Daily, Verse Daily, and Indiana Humanities. She works at Indiana University in the Research Technologies division. nancychenlong.com
Further Reading from Wider than the Sky
- "Dulce Domum," The Indianapolis Review | Fall 2019
- "Memory Reel," (audio recording) The Southern Review | Winter 2018
- "Umbra," Valparaiso Review | Spring/Summer 2018
- "Reverberation," The Cincinnati Review | 16.2
- "Under the Influence," Found Poetry Review | Vol 9, Winter 2016
- "Cataract," Third Coast Magazine | Issue 46
- "The Myth of Work," Cimarron Review | Issue 202/Winter 2018
- "Why There is No Interest in Singing," The Adroit Journal | Issue 25
- "Wordlust" and "Learning to Barter with God the Way My Mother Barters with the Fishmonger Over Yesterday's Spoils," Smartish Pace | Issue 26
- "Return to Terra Firma," Menacing Hedge | Fall 2019
- "First-Time Defendant at Nineteen" and "Altered State at the Grocery Store," Tar River Poetry | Fall 2019
- "Why We Like It: “Reverberation” by Nancy Chen Long." Taylor Byas. The Cincinnati Review. 9 January 2020.
Awards & Honors
Finalist for the 2020 Lawrence J. Epstein Award sponsored by the Suffolk County Community College (SCCC) Creative Writing Festival