To love an artist (Essay Press, 2022) 

To love an artist

To love an artist is a book of literary non-fiction and prose poetry by artist Valerie Hsiung.

Date: July 2022
Publisher: Essay Press
Format: Print
Genre: Essay, Poetry
Order from AsterismBookshop, McNally Jackson, Brazos Books & Essay Press 

Winner of the 2022 Big Other Book Award 
Review in Full Stop Magazine
Review in Cleveland Review of Books
Review in Tupelo Quarterly 
Interview in Matter Monthly
Interview in Tupelo Quarterly
Excerpts in Verse 
Excerpt in Chicago Review

“Valerie Hsiung’s To love an artist is a work composed of dislocations--or rather, durations, expanses of dislocated voices, bodies, and narratives. It is a series of studies on ductility and leaching--what we are at our base and what we become when brought, whether violently or voluntarily, in proximity to others, other species of being, other modes of existing, other methods of naming: the lines we cross, “Language from bronze infects language from copper.” When the poet writes, “Today, I speak a language of brutes,” I read the enfoldment of the cruelty our collective and respective histories into the languages of our subjectivity. Any expression of self or free-ness or united-ness is laden with material and intentions that do not belong to us. We have been mixed forever, we have been poured and burned through borders always, and are ourselves burned and poured through. And that is why it is useful to invent forms for the expression of our alloyed selves, to be non-knowing. To love an artist presents a despondent, broken, scattered form. Yet, it pulses with nuance and engagement. It’s beautiful, irreverent, and dangerously incoherent. It stays with you when you’ve stopped reading it and puts your seeing in disarray. It nourishes and it fails and it teaches. This is a book of refusal. It is a cosmography written as metallurgy; it wants to be the dust and it wants to be the friction.”
           - Renee Gladman

“Mutual assured destruction, the cold war, the narrative strategies of the bible, war and translation and the translation of war, childbirth, copper mining, disease and the history of medicine, climate change, plague, how we know things, how we know that we know things, how we think and how we produce knowledge, how we understand our bodies in relation to the collective bodies and how our bodies absorb and resist and persist and absorb. We might say, correctly, that Valerie Hsiung’s To Love an Artist is about these things, but really these things are the vehicle through which the book meditates, in a form that’s vivid and hypnotic, about the violence and vehemence of language, voice, memory, composition and the various tools of love and art and their intricate and unruly intermeshings. This is a book of sustenance, danger, and generosity.
          - Daniel Borzutsky

“We begin at the beginning of written language. Or we begin in mineral. Or we begin in the body where minerals are stored along with breath and utterance. Buoyed by all of the elegant thinking (elegant like a molecule) that Valerie Hsiung offers us in these poems, we traverse narratives of inflections and infections, plagues and poets, vectors and trade routes. And yet there are no binaries here (“After we were split in two, everything became two, and everything wanted closure at a seam down the middle.”) but webs of urgent inquiry. In To Love An Artist, Hsiung has created a catalogue of queries as well as a history both expansive and particular, unfurling a lyric of oracular knowledges and disasters. We begin at the beginning of written language and end in litany. I am awed, and I am grateful for this journey.”
            - Susan Briante
To love an artist is to be drawn into her world so that you become a co-creator with her; To love an artist is to enter both a bestiary and topiary of language where the latter contorts and morphs through strange yet recognizable beauty; To love an artist is to enter the worlds of philosophy, history, politics, and most importantly the quotidian—passing seamlessly from poetry, to the essay, to reflection, to observation while remaining always within the landscape of poetry, as you navigate its repetitions and obsessions and become cocreator; it is to witness the play inherent in language as it meanders “the abyss between literacy and what (the poet) meant to say.”  To love an artist is to indulge in a form of disquisitionary poetics with a sometimes wry humour, sardonic tone and all the while looking at the world aslant.  It is astonishingly original work—To love an artist.”
            - M. NourbeSe Philip

"Este es un libro escrito desde uno de tantos mundos desapercibidos, desde una raza que se amplifica y globaliza para establecerse en el mismo cuerpo que habitamos: un cuerpo que nació arropado por los pesticidas, al que no hemos dejado un sólo centímetro sin explotar: desde los minerales, hasta la nociva narrativa europea del amor.“    
           - Dolores Dorantes

“Almost classical in the forward motion of its language, To love an artist proposes a parallel path alongside what once might have been a novella but is now this. The quality of words and syntax bond us in narrative trust even as the narrator/s hold their cards close, divulging only so much. The rigor of Valerie Hsiung’s intent grips us in a journey that remains intimate even though its motive force derives from an unflinching consciousness of our tortured world.”
            - Ammiel Alcalay

"To Love an Artist teleports the reader between worlds: from Bronze Age proto-language to cosmic dust; from the blinking sonar of collapsing global missile systems to the light of the Etsy lamp at the corner of the bed; from 16th century missionaries to 20th century Red Guards to Earthstrike operatives; from an American woman who dies of drinking too much water to a Chinese woman who has no potable water. Hsiung’s long poem provides mind-bending transportation across a flattened globe where timelines melt into simultaneous layers. Now that you can see all of it at once, what will you do? Reading this book is to feel airborne, yet accountable. A multidimensional ride.“
          - Jena Osman

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