Ethan Chua’s Sky Ladders – a collection of multilingual poems and translations dedicated to those who passed away in the tragic anti-Asian shootings in Atlanta, 2021 – is an extended eulogy, a journey to the underworld, and a translingual sequence of dreams. Sky Ladders introduces a clear new voice that navigates the complex interstices of reportage, memory, and personal expression. Chua slows down time and conjures up the lingering specters of historical and racialized violence, while also honoring grief’s obverse companion: the horizon-possibility of joy.
“After reading Sky Ladders I came away haunted, thinking about the poems and the world they illuminated for me. Ritual and mystery; history and personal myth kept me reading and rereading the manuscript. I was struck by how much the poems created an archipelago of story, a rhizome of experience that shows how a life is lived in complexity of form and language whose holy places are those interstices created from displacement. Magic thrums in the heart of this collection, a multilingual magic I want to linger in, to get lost in, to find each image that renders the mundane complex. Languages, stories, poetries, and places layer upon one another into diasporic melancholy and memory. Bringing these all together in loose, shimmering lines the closure of the poem ‘Through a Medium, Feng Daoyou Speaks,’ asks, ‘Faint colors leach / through the blinds. Whoever finds me, / will they handle me with tenderness?’ speaking for the entire collection’s bleeding into my own reader’s mind at rest. This is what I want in poems: to wrestle that angel until it blesses me. Here is a blessing, a pilgrimage, an arrival.” —Rajiv Mohabir, judge of the 2022 Frost Place Chapbook Competition
“In Sky Ladders, Chua rouses the dream of tenderness beyond tragedy and historical violence, daring to name that the dead deserve elegy and ritual. A powerful agency threads together this collection, from the resistance of Yeb Saño’s hunger strike to the collective mourning of the Atlanta spa shootings. At once mystical and personal, these poems restore my faith in our futures. Chua is a bold and promising poet, whose courage summons us to lay down our own offerings.”—Monica Sok