Other Side of Sea

Cover Art. Other Side of Sea. Mountains and Forests in a watercolor style.

Other Side of Sea
Xiaoqiu Qiu 

Etchings Press at University of Indianapolis
ISBN 978-1955521314
64 pages
Bookshop.org or Amazon

Poetry, as an artform, is meant to be a reflection of humanity. The simple, challenging, nuanced, and even the unifying. When people read a collection of poems, it goes without saying that they want to see themselves reflected in it. 

Through his poetry collection Other Side of Sea, Xiaoqiu Qiu proves himself to be a poet whose talent is no exception to those provisions. The poems in this collection display such a deep understanding of the human condition, that it’s impossible to not be impressed by its sheer depth, honesty, and compassion. 

Poems like “First Date” details the tender desire for a romantic connection between two people. Whereas “Birthday Alone” talks about the existential unease people feel in regards to aging and growing older. Xiaoqiu even writes eloquently about the mental ramifications the COVID pandemic has had on long distance friendships like in “Purpose of Visit.” Furthermore, these poems also show his uncanny ability to mold and shift formatting into something cultural and revolutionary. 

Other Side of Sea has proven Xiaoqiu Qiu to be a formidable, graceful, and commanding new voice in poetry. 

Interview with the Author

EP: What does your creative process typically look like?

XQ: I usually start with something textual. A poem I am reading, or hear someone read, or an expression that I found peculiar–then it gets me going. There are usually things I have been thinking, imageries that linger, or music that repeats itself in my mind. When the verbal key activates, everything sort of falls into place. 

EP: Do you set time aside each day to sit down and write? Or do you wait for inspiration to strike?

XQ: You know what, that would definitely be a smart thing to do. However, I don’t write on a daily basis–I try to write every week, though. Many people have different opinions on this, but I believe there is such a thing as “writing a poem prematurely.” Sometimes I see amazing imageries, but it was not until years later that I found the best mood of speech to express them. 

EP: What authors or books have inspired you/your writing?

XQ: It has to be Tagore who says: “The traveler has to knock at every alien door to come to his own, and one has to wander through all the outer worlds to reach the innermost shrine at the end,” and Su Shi: “I always regret that this body does not belong to me. Let me tie the rest of my life to river and sea.” 

EP: What has been the most helpful piece of advice that you have received for your writing?

XQ: My teacher Donald Revell who told me, by way of early Ezra Pound, that “China goes beyond the borders of China, and into the swimming holes of Idaho.” 

EP: To what extent did aspects of naturalism and traveling have on the poetry in this collection?

XQ: The external landscape is always a reflection of its internal counterpart. Through traveling, you see your heart from different angles. 

EP: Some of the poems in this collection are very innovative and bold in their formatting. What was the process like in structuring poems like Purpose of Visit and Untitled #95?

XQ: Just be aware of the spaces. There is a notion in Chinese landscape painting called “Liu Bai,” literally, “leaving blank.” Chinese painters use the blank to indicate clouds, rivers, fogs, and lights, etc. to blur the perspectives of the viewer. In poetry, space can be all of those things, and is also musical.