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As Slow As Possible

by Kit Fan

Kit Fan's As Slow As Possible is a book of changes, of unlikely bridges between far-flung places and times, a collection of shape-shifting, trans-migrant poems that travel across geographies and time zones. There are poems about the slow life of trees which establish links across time and space, about environmental catastrophe, art in war zones, artworks that travel across time, all of them reflecting on mortality and survival. Divided into three parts, the book weaves back and forwards between East and West, past and present, art and memory, pivoting around a central sequence called 'Genesis', an uncanny re-telling of Chinese creation myths in the language of the Authorised Version. The first part of the book is a brilliantly chromatic travelogue, while the collection ends with a more grounded sequence, 'Twelve Months', focusing on a kind of diurnal poetic house-keeping, based on the poet's migrant life in Yorkshire.

If there is something of Marianne Moore's eccentric edginess in the formal accomplishment of these poems, there is also an elegant surrealism wholly Kit Fan's own. His is an intensely visual imagination, generous and capacious of eye, but joining its manifold optical stimuli to a corresponding tenderness and complexity of emotional response. 'How should we unimagine a thing once it's been imagined?' asks one poem, and the collection as a whole concerns itself with reversals, metaphysical shifts in gear permitting us a glimpse of origins, of possibilities as yet untouched by the immutable laws of cause and effect. Fan's is in this sense a recuperative vision, at the same time too fiercely intelligent to be anything other than disabused. The resulting poems hum with intellectual tension like high-voltage wires. As Slow as Possible deserves to be read in the way its title suggests: this is a collection that will lavishly reward careful and attentive reading.

Caitríona O'Reilly

Utterly straightforward and lucid, with an oblique dream-like undertow, Fan's remarkable poems — that seem wholly original, even in their echoes of the various traditions that inform them — intrigue us with their haunting and haunted observations and atmospheres. The assurance of the voice in As Slow As Possible is often startling, partly because of the precision of its vulnerability, and partly because Fan seems to sense something in the language that gives his poems an uncanny momentum and coherence. There is wisdom encoded in these poems that is at once fleeting and revelatory. It is an extraordinary book.

Adam Phillips

Paperback 9781911469438
Hardback 9781911469445
82 pages
Published September 2018

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