The Experiment of the Tropics: Poems
Longlisted for The Believer Book Awards, 2020
Named 1 of 6 must-read poetry books in April 2019 by The Millions.
The co-winner of the inaugural Gaudy Boy Poetry Book Prize.
Through the lens of history and photography, The Experiment of the Tropics returns to early-twentieth-century Philippines during American occupation and asks, "How does one look at the past?"
By braiding the music of anthropology with the intimacy of the lyric, Lawrence Ypil explores history's archives and excavates a city, both real and imagined, that is constituted by the shimmer of petal and porch, coral and brass--a river-refrigerator where women catch their reflections on the sheen of magazines and men lean against the walls of old houses and beckon, come here. So, we approach.
Spare, musical, and erotic, The Experiment of the Tropics uses the intersection of text and image to meditate on the nature of a city and its longing, the revelatory power of photography, and the startling capacity of poetry to cut into the violent but redemptive parts of history.
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About the AuthorLawrence Lacambra Ypil is a poet and essayist from Cebu, Philippines and recipient of the prestigious Ani ng Dangal award in 2019. He has received an MFA in nonfiction writing from the University of Iowa and an MFA in poetry from Washington University in St Louis on a Fulbright Scholarship. His first book of poems, The Highest Hiding Place (2009) was given the Madrigal Gonzalez Best First Book Award, and his work has received numerous awards including The Academy of American Poets Prize, the Philippines Free Press Awards, and the Don Carlos Palanca Memorial Awards. His work explores the intersection of text and image, poetry and prose, and the role of material culture in the construction of cultural memory and identity. He teaches creative writing at Yale-NUS College in Singapore.
"Ypil's observant poems are direct and eye-opening. Often a single line creates a gap in the narrative that allows us to step inside and wonder. . . . Profoundly lucid . . . Ypil's lines carry the authority of aphorism without ever feeling pedantic. His stories are gentle and clear. . . . By the time you're done contemplating the truth of an early line, Ypil offers another." --The Millions, named 1 of 6 must-read poetry books in April 2019
"[Ypil is a] mature writer. . . . What is extraordinary is the style . . . clean, plain, no-nonsense prose of a poet--the beauty of which makes it poetry. . . . If language is the house of our being and poetry alone assuages our homesickness, the work being extremely terrestrial necessarily transcends the local, however heavily saturated with local colours. One lifts the pages of a family album with the poet, one falls under the spell." --Wong May, author of Picasso's Tears
"Larry Ypil knows that poetry--like photographs, and like life itself--is a conjuring act . . . The poems in The Experiment of the Tropics magically capture what Freud, and Janet before him, once called the 'subconscious'--that ever-fascinating layer of undying embers smoldering below the threshold of conscious awareness . . . These poems . . . feature the remarkable mind of an exceptional poet who has, against the backdrop of colonial history, brilliantly put into words those covert feelings that complicate our everyday desires and 'disconcert the world.'" --Mary Jo Bang, author of The Last Two Seconds
"In The Experiment of the Tropics . . . what seems far away in time comes closer in Ypil's writing, and the past no longer seems past. The incremental music of his lines shares something with Philip Glass's sonic weather. His poems build, twist, shift, and turn slowly but inexorably, pulling the reader forward. While the lines initially seem straightforward and descriptive, they become mysterious as Ypil weaves more and more information into his poems. . . . By bringing together these divergent strands, Ypil is able to something more: he teases out what is erotic in the everyday." --John Yau, winner of the 2018 Jackson Poetry Prize
"These poems are (as John Berger says of photographs) 'quotations from appearances, ' fragmentary, discontinuous, ambiguous. With their surprising, capricious conceits, these ruminations on place, time, image, and memory bespeak a distinct intelligence and sensibility. Ypil is one of the finest poets from the Philippines today." --Resil B. Mojares, National Artist of the Philippines for Literature
"Ypil's imagery shivers between the naturalistic and the imperial, itself an experiment with the lyric . . . [an] exploration of erotic potential and queer desire. . . . To develop such a lilting, spare touch to imagery requires a deep and abiding love towards what one writes about. . . . We find ourselves, at the end, with a book that has only revealed a part of its secrets to us. Woken from a dream, we open our eyes to a world that seems a little more beautiful." --Kendrick Loo, Empty Mirror
"A careful investigation of a rich and variegated place." --Theophilus Kwek, Hong Kong Review of Books