Poetry. Asian & Asian American Studies. "Though she describes herself as 'not ethnic enough,' everything in this book bears the brand of Clara Hsu's Chinese identity. A couplet like this, 'Where there is no beginning or end there are definitely walls "wars"' would have a profoundly different effect if it had been written by a non Chinese person. Those troublesome r's and l's—so often mindlessly parodied by the non Chinese—inform the words 'walls' and 'wars,' and each of those words might suggest aspects of Chinese experience in the USA. Clara Hsu is also a professional musician, and this book clearly makes a music—a music which extends to what I believe is the only homophonic translation of a Chinese poem that anyone has produced. As Eastern and Western modes harmonize and collide—and though there are autobiographical elements here—reading this book makes it clear that you don't have to write autobiography (grandmother's congee) in order to write 'ethnic' poetry. Poems like 'Not Ethnic Enough,' 'Moving with Li Po,' 'Metamorphosis of a Poem by Su Shi,' and 'Mad House Fantasia and Fugue'—to say nothing of the amazing sequence on the Tao-te Ching—reveal Hsu's Chinese identity in a way that would be impossible to the autobiographically-bound construct that is the usual 'ethnic' offering. And if she plays on 'walls' and 'wars' in the title poem, look at what she does to the word 'like' in 'ekillike.' Clara Hsu was born in Hong Kong; she came to the United States as a young girl. How is Hong Kong like San Francisco? How is she like American women? What does she like about America? (The poem began as a response to another Chinese-American woman's work—and to the woman's excessive use of 'like'—but behind it is also Gertrude Stein's palindromic portrait of Lipschitz: 'Like and like likely and likely likely and likely like and like.') The range of the work and of the intellect in The First to Escape is extraordinary. That the book is 'challenging' is no doubt true. But you will find feelings and perceptions here that you will not find anywhere else. Most importantly, you will find poetry. This Hong-Kong-born, San-Francisco-residing, Chinese-English-speaking writer/performer has an exquisite ear for the structures of American verse."—Jack Foley
Clara Hsu practices the art of multi-dimensional being: mother, musician, purveyor of Clarion Music Center (1982- 2005), traveler, translator and poet. A nominee for the Pushcart Prize in poetry (2001), Clara's first book of poems, MYSTIQUE (Beatitude Press, 2007), received honorable mention at the 2010 San Francisco Book Festival. A book of short stories, BABOUCHE IMPROMPTU AND OTHER MOROCCAN SKETCHES was completed in 2008 and published by Poetry Hotel Press. Most recently she is the author of a collection of poems, THE FIRST TO ESCAPE (Poetry Hotel Press, 2014). Her work can be found in New Millennium Writings (2012), Hafenklänge, Havenklanken-Sounds of Harbor (translations of her work into Dutch and German), The Haight- Ashbury Literary Journal, and the internet journals Cha, The Other Voices International Project, and the Tower Journal. She was the featured poet in the 33rd issue of the British poetry journal, erbacce. Clara gives featured readings at various Bay Area venues and benefit events, often in collaboration with others such as Bill Mercer and Jack and Adelle Foley. Her activities include her unusual performance ensemble "Lunation," which combines Chinese and original poetry with Asian traditional instruments. For seven years she hosted the Poetry Hotel Salon in San Francisco and with John Rhodes she co-hosts the San Francisco Open Mic Poetry Podcast TV Show. With Jack Foley she co-edits Poetry Hotel Press.
Author City: SAN FRANCISCO, CA USA