Thousand-Cricket Song is a compelling collection of poetry. My copy is smudged with fingerprints, creases, and other signs of wear from the use I've given it in only one month. I often read one poem at a time, and found myself needing time to consider new ideas or read up on history. The subject matter is heavy; poet Catherine Strisik spent time in Cambodia. She wrote her poetry based on her observations there.
Usually, her writing style is simple, straight-forward, and speaks for itself. These are the poems I love the most. At other times, she gets a bit too enthusiastic for details, offering long, sometimes muddled, prose. I say this with some restriction, though. It's difficult to blame someone for needing to paint a perfect picture from memory.
There's so much good in this book, that I need to restrict myself from naming too many titles. "The Woman At Pol Pot's Grave" is possibly the best of the best. "The New Holy Medicine" is so perfect that I want to hear it spoken over a musical background. Her poems concerning genocide, suicide, miscarriage, prostitution, and rape make me want to heal the entire human race. I was often surprised by and unprepared for these details. Words hit us hardest when they are based on truth.
Though Catherine covers the trauma and tragedy of Cambodia's history, she also embraces its beauty and relationships. Women, children, residents, and friends are sometimes weaved into parties and temples. Her poem "Seeing Hands," written about her intimate experience with a blind masseuse, is now counted with some of my most favorite poems of all time. Most importantly, she openly admits to being a complete outsider and awkward observer in "In The Nail Salon, Siem Reap." The author is obviously humbled in the company of genocide survivors.
Pick up a copy of this collection if you want to learn, grieve, and be blown away.