Shaped around moments of puncture and release, The Rupture Tense registers what leaks across the breached borders between past and future, background and foreground, silence and utterance. In polyphonic and formally restless sequences, Jenny Xie cracks open reverberant, vexed experiences of diasporic homecoming, intergenerational memory transfer, state-enforced amnesia, public secrecies, and the psychic fallout of the Chinese Cultural Revolution.
Xie ingeniously leverages Western prosody to expose the fracture between the 'Asian' and 'American' aspects of Asian American identity ... The sonic passage from 'native' to 'naïve' to 'knavery' reverberates with an amplifying sense of fraudulence that assimilated Asian Americans (including middle-aged South Asian book reviewers) sometimes feel on their itineraries of self-discovery ... It may very well be that the constant rebuilding we call identity depends on a kind of forgetting. The most resonant irony of “The Rupture Tense” is that its author’s first language, Mandarin, makes no use of verb tenses at all. There are other, maybe countless, ways of giving shape to time.
Xie’s obliquity about other matters of personal experience, like love and work, may arise from a universalizing impulse, which ruptures the expectation of confessional autobiography through stylistic choices like the impersonal first-person-plural. Aphoristic and elegant, The Rupture Tense articulates a lucid but challenging wisdom from the interstices of our inner lives.
Xie’s detached and precise language in the earlier poems echoes the oppressive climate of the Revolution and makes the more emotionally charged poems hit harder. This is a devastating master class in subtlety.