A Soldier, Burning Four Olds
To read “A Soldier, Burning Four Olds" in its entirety, please order Reed Magazine Issue 156.
Sierra Simkins' Commentary
When the reader's gaze first lands on "A Soldier, Burning Four Olds," they may be taken aback or even overwhelmed by the piece's bold style. However, the striking visual plays a unique and splendid role in uncovering a complex story. As explained via an introductory aside, this poem references the aggressive destruction of traditional Chinese customs and cultural markers begun in the 1960s to instill new Communist ideals. Samantha Hsiung examines this approach by meaningfully following a format reminiscent of blackout poetry, which uses erasure to create something new--methodically obliterating something else that is then rendered both irrelevant and incomprehensible. Here, the character for "fire" consumes the page to isolate a wandering narrative. Artfully connecting substance with style, Hsiung crafts a disjointed train of thought that visually reflects the cultural demolition at hand. "A Soldier, Burning Four Olds" leads the reader down a numb, ashy path, exquisitely mourning the loss of humanity both from the destroyed and from within the destroyer.
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