Poems | Nicholas Gulig | April 2018
* Winner of the 2017 CSU Poetry Center Open Book Competition, Selected by Rebecca Gayle Howell, Lo Kwa Mei-en, & Lee Upton *
“In these poems, Gulig asks: how can we live in a world filled with war and empire—including language as empire? And can poetry—as an attempt at language—do anything? Moreover, as a Thai American poet, what does it mean to trace one’s own relation to empire—here in the West and the East?”
—Jane Wong, Poetry Northwest
Praise for Orient
"With the ethical reach of George Oppen or Etel Adnan, but with a scope and feel all his own—and now, because he gave it to us, ours too—Nicholas Gulig takes stock of our world of war and forced migration, our world of wanderers we only know of and feel nonetheless. 'So what to do about it?' he asks. 'It's beginning to feel a lot like I'm at fault for something far away.' Yes. It's been feeling that way since we first woke up and found ourselves no longer children, because the war began, or the towers fell, or because we speak a language and are an empire. How, then, to find our way into and remain in love with those who are near and those who are not, and remain there, unflinching, awake? Poetry is a way, poetry like this—quiet and sudden and forgiving and strong. Read not for solace, but for love."
"In Orient, we are immersed, immediately, in the way these poems both quietly astound and articulate the 'vital emptiness' of what disturbs and is absorbed in hint and hue through transcription, collage, and other practices of memory's recollection and erasure, admiring along the way the speaker's effort to illustrate how a field between polarities 'begins to open outward.' In doing so, Nicholas Gulig delves into the ways we must consistently try and fail to orient ourselves to the junctures between the ancient and the present conditions of our time—and all that fails our speech and yet endures in language and our listening attentively to its noises. Throughout the work, we have poems that are both a reckoning and a recording, which, as Gulig writes, are also forms of 'wandering.' Ultimately, Orient arrives at its poignant 'narrative and nationality, a state of pure emergency,' made possible by Gulig's singular sense of presence, of speaking directly to what signals 'empire' for the poet who lives within it. This is an astounding collection."
"Nicholas Gulig's riveting new collection Orient considers what it means to be a global citizen in the information age. These urgent, exciting poems ask us how we mediate the distance between the person at a computer watching the war on the news and the person who is in a war zone. How do we mediate language when one is writing about war that happens elsewhere but is intimately felt? The muscular sound and syntax of these poems jostle and pull us uneasily into its fragmented, tension-filled world. 'Language is a residue. / I cling,' states the speaker, and the words 'residue' and 'cling' are at once tender, hopeful, and tenuous. Orient is challenging, breathless, innovative, and stunning. This is a necessary work in a difficult time."
Nicholas Gulig is a Thai-American poet from Wisconsin, educated in Montana (BA), Iowa (MFA), and Colorado (PHD). From 2011-2012 he was a Fulbright Fellow to Bangkok, Thailand. He currently lives in Fort Atkinson, WI and teaches at the University of Wisconsin-Whitewater. He is the author of Orient (CSU Poetry Center, 2018) and North of Order (YesYes Books, 2015).