A Review: Feng Zhou’s “Love Poems: Rivers That Ignite the Skin”

Rivers That Ignite the SkinAs in his previous books of poetry, Feng Zhou describes himself as a visual poet, and as such he assuredly possesses a rich vocabulary as his paint, his creative genius as the brush, and the blank page as his canvas.  I have previously described Zhou’s poems as passionate, and in Love Poems: Rivers That Ignite the Skin, Zhou has kicked that passion into overdrive.

Drawing on more than just visual imagery, the multi-sensory language of his latest book of poetry invites the reader to forbidden places and entraps the casual reader in the position of a compromised voyeur, standing on a ladder outside the bedroom window, a peeping-tom peering through the flawlessly clean glass of Zhou’s explicit prose.  Frozen in place by Zhou’s carefully crafted scenes of erotic intimacy, voyeuristic patrons of poetic passion will find little abatement of intensity in these pages.

And yet Zhou’s philosophical side finds time to explore the abstract questioning of the soul while exploring the concrete desires of the flesh.  A personal favorite, “Prismatic Shells,” finds Zhou, like the Renaissance poet Sir Edmund Spenser, contemplating the fleeting nature life and love in terms of the ever-changing seashore.  Spenser writes, “one day I wrote her name upon the strand, / but came the waves and washed it away.”  Likewise, Zhou similarly contemplates life and love in terms of sand and sea: “Reefs have no memory / sands can’t be carved / How many love stories / like sea stars buried at the bottom of the ocean?”

The intensity of Zhou’s poetic style is augmented in part by his demonstration that, like a rose’s beauty, the moments of youth’s passion are fleeting.  With his literary paint, his brush, and this newest canvas, as Spenser said so can Zhou do, “where whenas death shall all the world subdue, / our love shall live, and later life renew.”

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