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Peeling Rambutan

9781554471331 | Poetry
Published by Gaspereau Press, April 2014

A poetic travelogue, Gillian Sze's Peeling Rambutan meditates upon the rifts between immigrant parents and their Canadian-born children and the struggle of overlapping values which sometimes arises when we view the complexity of our heritage through the lens of the present. Rooted in Sze's first experience of Asia, these poems mingle the familiar spaces of her childhood home in Winnipeg with impressions of the distant villages of her parents' origins. The result is a complex exploration of the relationship between identity, place, and history. Landscape and language prove unstable, inhabited by ghosts and other echoes of passing time which leave indelible impressions on the poet. In such a world, a traveller is never wholly certain whether she is discovering an unexplored world or descending into memory, but Sze's lyrically-driven poems navigate confidently, mapping new terrain while remaining sensitive to the claims of the past.

⌘ Finalist for the 2014 Quebec Writers' Federation A. M. Klein Prize for Poetry

Read the first poem in the book in 37 tweets.
Check out the idea board for Peeling Rambutan.

Available for purchase here on the Gaspereau Press website.

Some kind words:

Gillian Sze has a way of making her poems feel like an entire storm and yet feel intimate as if the narrator is there with you. The poems are clean and very well crafted, as if each one were an ornate art piece. A rich and satisfying read.


Succulent in its excellence, Sze's poetry insists that cultural "difference" is what can make a beautiful difference in our apprehension of the "beautiful."


It's always a kind of love letter, Gillian Sze reminds us in her third collection of poems, folding personal narratives, both first-hand and handed down, into blood mythologies. The misleading slightness of her striking metaphors reveal a new mastery, but Sze's bite is still there. Fleet of tongue, layered, and winking, Peeling Rambutan will make your mouth water.


What a wonderful thing it is to open a book and delight in every page — this writing is sensuous and crystalline, nourishing to both imagination and intellect. Peeling Rambutan is a city wrapped in rice-paper — ephemeral moments delicately preserved on the page. Sze says [w]e follow stories that are half-wonder, half true, all spindrift. Prepare to be splashed with wonder, the juice of a rambutan, the grit of history. I ate this book. And when I reached the end, I ate it again.


We are fortunate to be gifted with Gillian Sze who witnesses on our behalf the drift of time both between and over us all, documenting it with a careful arrangement of the silk-tied words of lovers and the dusted meanings of ancestors that fall, in turn, somewhere between koans and playground songs and which linger with the understated insistence of a finely sifted language.


In "North Point, Hong Kong," Gillian Sze writes of glimpsing her parents in strangers - her mother on a street in Montreal, her father as an old man at a market in Hong Kong and as a boy there waiting for a tram. Her sensuous, precisely-observed poems trace her identity across cultures, eras and continents, weaving together scraps of family lore, visits to changing landscapes, the smell of Malaysian fruits and Canadian snow. Her far-flung home, often in the air, often lonely and built from memory is of a sort many of us share. The poems in Peeling Rambutan enlarge our sense of who we are.


Gillian Sze's voice is so assured and so clear. She sets out to explore where she is from, where "Here can't be found on a map," and then sends the images our way. She records, and then tattles in the best of ways: with curiosity and awe and humour. I felt at times that I was reading a novelist writing brilliant poetry. That is to say, these poems are busy with story. I loved them.