Timothy Liu (Liu Ti Mo) was born in 1965 in San Jose, California. He is the author of eight books of poems, including Of Thee I Sing (2004), a Publishers Weekly 2004 Book-of-the-Year, and Vox Angelica (1992), awarded the Poetry Society of America's Norma Farber First Book Award. Translated into ten languages, Liu's poems have appeared in such places as Best American Poetry, Bomb, Grand Street, Kenyon Review, The Nation, New American Writing, Paris Review, Ploughshares, Poetry, The Pushcart Prize, Virginia Quarterly Review and The Yale Review. His journals and papers are archived in the Berg Collection at the New York Public Library. Liu is a Professor of English at William Paterson University and a member of the Core Faculty at Bennington College's Writing Seminars; he lives in Manhattan.
I find myself momentarily humbled at the task of introducing a writer of Timothy Liu’s stature, with little new to add to what has already been said about this major poet’s work. We all know he is someone who has consistently been one of the most moving, innovative, graceful, and sexy users of language in our field. We know that he has had a central role in our historical understanding of queer writing as the editor of the anthology Word of Mouth. We encounter him this evening writing across and between genres, as the author of a new novel which includes poetry and prose, and which builds on his earlier work in surprising ways. One of the exciting things I see happening as Liu makes this foray into fiction is that it allows him a kind of electric, ambiguous relationship between confession and trope. Though he has always been a memorable love poet, the experience of writing fiction finds him meditating more intensively on how literal events become symbolic and vice versa when it comes to sex, and on the way sexual language has meta-resonances for literal and metaphorical registers simultaneously. In his most riveting moments here, Liu’s prose suggests an ambiguous relationship between one’s own identity and the identity of another, with the available language we have for sex acts (and by implication the sex organs or bodily organs that carry them out) providing the common site at which this confusion occurs, and at which we meet as listeners. Liu reminds us that we carry baggage in our memories and our bodies and these accrue a vocabulary of metaphors over time, that these resonances and overtones are precisely the alchemical elements from which desire is forged, whatever our object choice or whatever our genitalia. I’m pleased and honored to welcome Timothy Liu to the Zinc Bar reading series.