Longing For The Mother Tongue. March Street Press. ISBN
1-59661-148-0. 31 pages /$ 9.
Longing for the Mother Tongue was first published in the
July / August 2009, Vol. 4, No. 4 issue of Sketchbook.
About Joseph Farley
Joseph Farley received a B.A. from St. Joseph's University and
an M.A. from Temple University. He edited The Axe Factory
Review for 24 years. He is the author of a short story
collection, For the Birds. His poetry books include
Suckers and The True Color of You.
If language is a
common bond between diverse peoples, conversely, language can
also be a gulf separating men from themselves. In his new book,
Joseph Farley explores the
great divide between two vastly different cultures: the American
and the Chinese. The poems adroitly examine the isolation a
foreigner feels in a largely, alien land. His
poignant "Eye of the Beholder" contrasts the native denial with
regard to the brutality of Tiananmen Square with his American
sensibility of outrage and horror. And yet, despite
all our innate separateness, somehow, we manage to come
together, longing for the native tongue.
Say one day you wake to find yourself a stranger in a strange
land, a curiosity, golden haired, among a sea of black hair,
stripped of all comfort, alone with a language no one else
understands. Joseph Farley has long been at ease gallivanting
through the margins, but this suite of poems takes him more than
a few lengthy strides across the border and into a land of
beauty and uncertainty—much to our delight.
Joseph Farley in Longing for the Mother Tongue transports
us to the Jiangxi Province in China, where he spent an extensive
sojourn and where not much more than the sun setting, the feel
of wind, and comfort of clouds were familiar. In sparse words,
haiku-like images, and sharp insight, he shares with us the joys
and challenges of the Chinese landscape and people and of being
an American in a non-English–speaking culture. Readers who have
traveled to such places will say, "Yes, this is exactly how it
is," and those who haven't will feel as though they have after
reading this fine and thought-provoking collection.