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Red Earth


Poems by Esther Vincent Xueming Publication Date: September 16, 2021  ISBN: 9781736820902 Pages: 98 Red Earth is an ecofeminist poetry collection offering meditations on place and the making of home amid the ever-increasing racket of society. It embodies a new planetary politics of making kin with plants, animals, the elements, and landscapes to find hope…

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About the Author

Esther Vincent Xueming is the editor-in-chief and founder of The Tiger Moth Review, an independent eco journal of art and literature based in Singapore. She is co-editor of two poetry anthologies, Poetry Moves (Ethos Books, 2020) and Little Things (Ethos Books, 2013), and Making Kin, an ecofeminist anthology of personal essays by women writers in Singapore (Ethos Books). A literature educator by profession, she is passionate about the relationships between art, literature and the environment. Follow her on Twitter @EstherVincentXM.

The cover art for Red Earth was created by Shu Yin. Learn more about Shu Yin and her art, here.

Praise for Red Earth

Red Earth, as the title as vividly suggests, is rooted in the body of the world we inhabit, and is underpinned by an ecopoetics that grounds the human in the earthy. It is beautifully attentive to the breath and movement of the human body across different landscapes, alive to the intimations of each special place, and alert to the promptings of experience and memory. It is an assured, mature debut, real poems that renew your faith in the lyric, in the embrace of the human and the natural.” — Boey Kim Cheng, author of Somewhere-bound, Another Place and Days of No Name

Red Earth lures readers into lyrical and hypnotic dream landscapes, then transports us to the quiet yet grounded textures of her tender relationships with loved ones. The earth and ocean, nonhuman creatures, stones and fossils are alive and dynamic forces in her inner psyche. Land, inheritance, migration are themes engaged through an intimate yet questing voice. The soft and precious are witnessed alongside the horrific and profane, with the unwavering gaze of a pilgrim who asks us not only to imagine what had been; but also, what could be possible.” — Lydia Kwa, author of Oracle Bone and The Walking Boy

Red Earth is a miracle mirror house of contrasts, one that only superb writing can build. Using the common genre of the coming of age story, Esther has written a book as idiomatic and fluid as a sea wave. Touching on the themes of nature, she has created work that possesses some of the most sophisticated ecological poetics I have ever read. Using the wide syntactic fields of blank verse, she has shaped a concise, unique, organic style. She draws on her history and the complex history of her present, finding complex narrative about capitalism, feminism, and her own personal cultural history in her turbulent vision of nature. She creates tremendous power from a style that avoids the grand poetic gesture, has roots in the masters of her free form, and is burgeoned by a gift of metaphor that does more in a few stanzas than a book’s worth of rhetoric. Red Earth is a book that makes the world big and small in all the sublime ways.” — Robert Lashley, author of Green River Valley

“Esther Vincent Xueming is a poet who feels a deep kinship and compassion with all sentient beings and the ‘red earth, vast and unknowable.’ Through this book, she invites us on a pilgrimage across the diverse ecologies of islands and cities, family trees and migrations, memories and dreams, language and silence. Ultimately, these poems teach us how to listen humbly to the undercurrents of every ‘delicate moment’.” — Craig Santos Perez, co-founder of Ala Press and author of From Unincorporated Territory [guma’]

Red Earth is a monsoon that lingers
on the evening air and sinks
deep into the mother soil.”
— Conner Bouchard-Roberts, publisher of Winter texts and author of Pocket Guide to Wandering

‘How do you reclaim a capsized past?’ In Red Earth, Esther Vincent Xueming embarks on a journey through dreams, myths, fragments of family history and far-flung wanderings in search of ways to anchor ‘the tap root of my being.’ Her poems are a layered discovery of connections beyond family. Migratory birds following ancient flyways must adapt to disrupted habitat to survive. Similarly, our own disrupted lives will be rooted and nourished when we relearn to attend to what the natural world offers.” — Gina Hietpas, author of Terrain

“Esther Vincent Xueming’s Red Earth is a visceral communication with the universe. Her poems are healing odes to our trembling environment. They stem from a great reverence for everything that inhabits the planet — living or non-living — rock, stone, root, sap or the flesh and psyche of human beings. She is emotionally sutured to the preservation of the intrinsic energy of life: ‘With each breath, I reverse/every tectonic tremor, reshaping/land, returning to the beginning’. Even her dreams are invested in restoring a sense of balance to all that has suffered the consequences of an excessive, exploitative lifestyle. Her verses resonate with a powerful ecofeminist sincerity to combat the onslaught of modern and postmodern industrialization. Esther is an awakened soul and her work reflects immense dignity, justice and ‘love [for]/the taste/of careless freedom/the sweet hollow/of buoyant ribs that carry/us/along/unchartered coasts/our endless home’. This book is for those who want to fight for the very breath they inhale and for those who revere the primordial urge to keep sacrosanct our earth and its ecology.” — Vinita Agrawal, author of Two Full Moons and editor of Open Your Eyes

“Esther Vincent Xueming is a seeker, both epistemologically and emotionally. In her oceanic imagination, she dives, zooms in, swoops, turns over stones. One can’t help but be swept along by her peripatetic hunger through space and time, as if discovering Earth for the very first time: fresh, unencumbered, porous. Her sensual verse encompasses multitudes, from Inuit and Hindu mythologies to island sojourns to astronomy and finally, to unknowable depths of familial topography. From awe to experience, the best poems here thrive in their tactile relish of intertextuality and nature — the ‘brush of grey cloud’ under the ‘Egg Moon’, or the tattoo artist’s ‘hum/and whirr of metal on wet flesh’. Evolving, becoming, filled ‘with patchwork and guessing’, her palpable longing (for communion, for clarity) seeps from these pages into the tap root of every reader.” — Yeow Kai Chai, author of One to the Dark Tower Comes

“I am struck by how deftly Esther weaves together ideas about memory, dreamscapes, family history, travel and the natural environment. Her voice is clear though never didactic and her vision unwaveringly sharp as she urges the reader to gaze with new lenses at this one earth we inhabit alongside other creatures we have destroyed or ignored for too long in the anthropocene. With sensitivity and grace, Esther distils a range of emotions from experiences and encounters with significant others and with nature that vibrate and resonate powerfully with the reader. The earth emerges in all its raw beauty and fragile glory from her poetry. Red Earth is an excellent debut from an up-and-coming poet.” — Angelia Poon, author of Enacting Englishness in the Victorian Period: Colonialism and the Politics of Performance

“These poems blur, distance, vibrate, drift, refuse to come into focus, because in the phantasmagoria of the world they find wonder and consolation. Their spiritual companions are bold silhouettes, mythical creatures, and imaginary friends, not just the recurring butterflies, moths, and birds, but also the poet’s dog, Ealga, who is seen as ‘a kite in the wind’ lovingly and surprisingly.” — Jee Leong Koh, author of Snow at 5 PM: Translations of an insignificant Japanese poet

Red Earth is a highly distinctive achievement, a debut collection of poetry that attests to Esther Vincent’s keen intelligence, painstaking craft, and searching imagination. The subjects of the poems are on one level personal, revisiting as they do family stories, memories, observations of the natural world, the privacy of dreams, and her work as a poet. In their movement, however, they surprise constantly with their reach and scope, so that to visit an out-of-the-way tourist site in Singapore or a small neighboring island is to come unexpectedly into touch with ancient landscapes and deep layers of time, to reflect upon her forebears is to be drawn into lost and recovered histories of migration, and to note in passing tiger moths on a twig, finger, and wall is to apprehend for a rare instant the extraordinary coincidence of ‘wings that beat time/to a child’s ragged breath’. Invigorating Vincent’s poetry contrapuntally is an avid attempt to take hold of the earth she inhabits (trees and their roots are recurring motifs) and, at the same time, a quiet yearning (in images of dreams and the sea) for what lies beyond her grasp, even the need itself ‘to forget my need/for words and language’ – a poetics in other words that holds promise for other interesting work to follow.” — Shirley Chew, editor of Moving Worlds: A Journal of Transcultural Writings