“In Gone to Gold Mountain, poet Peter Ludwin brings to life the little-known story of Chea Po and his fellow Chinese gold miners, massacred in 1887 by Eastern Oregon pioneers. Ludwin embodies Chea Po and his experiences of breathtaking racism, homesickness, and dislocation. He imbues these persona poems, letters, and laments with the finely-drawn landscapes of Hells Canyon and China, glowing lanterns, and an eagle circling the canyon rim. Chea Po seems to have haunted Ludwin until finally, here, his life and death are told justly. We are the richer for it.”—Kathleen Flenniken
“Peter Ludwin is a writer who knows there are poems no one asks for, but everyone needs—so he sets out to write them. In this book, he travels to a place of massacre, then enhances the story of trauma with longing, devotion, hope, and the unfurling tendril of life that reaches generations beyond a tragedy. The poems speak as letters, news items, memories, secret notes of lover to lost soul. Ludwin’s lens of imagination pierces a hidden past at a remote place, and his lyric archive invents what might otherwise be forgotten, what he calls ‘the speckled rhythms’ of change. Read this book for insight into a hidden chapter of international history, and to break a code of silence across cultures. You will recognize more poems need rich research, and history needs to sing.”—Kim Stafford author of Early Morning: Remembering My Father, William Stafford, 100 Tricks Every Boy Can Do: A Memoir, and Muses Among Us: Eloquent Listening and Other Pleasures of the Writer's Craft
“Ludwin’s haunting poems resurrect an era of vehement anti-Chinese sentiment and the U.S. by focusing on the Hells Canyon massacre in 1887—a segment of U.S. history conveniently omitted from the textbooks. To a great extent, the work’s strength lies in its understated eloquence, riveting imagery, and frequent use of persona poems in different voices. With great insight, skill and compassion, Ludwin has produced a fine collection that succeeds in fleshing out this nightmare episode from our past.”—Diana Anhalt, author of because there is no return.
Most Helpful Customer Reviews
In Gone to Gold Mountain, Ludwin brings 19th century Chinese gold miners' experiences of racism, physical and mental exertion, and struggles to live with aching homesickness back to life. Ludwin does an excellent job amplifying those voices and perspectives, most of which were swept under the historical rug long ago. Chinese laborers immigrating to the U.S. during the 19th century were discriminated against and treated with shocking brutality, and only recently have those injustices begun to receive public acknowledgement. And for that, for even attempting to bring these stories back into public consciousness, I've got to give Ludwin serious props. Another thing Ludwin does well in Gone to Gold Mountain is mix the format and style of his poems while maintaining a strong, cohesive theme. Several of the poems are formatted as letters, some are in traditional stanza structure and others are free-flowing, but they all maintain a connection to the overarching theme. There are not poetic "stragglers" in this book. Interestingly enough, Ludwin also styled the poem titles in this collection to match classic Chinese poetry, where literal (and often long) descriptions of the content give readers let readers know what they're in for. A few examples include "Chea Po to Sails from China to America, Late 19th Century," "Meditations on a Chinese Minor" and "Clerk to an Investigative Reporter, Wallowa County, Oregon." On the other side of the coin, one of the things I don't like about Gone to Gold Mountain is that the level of sentimentality is much too high for my taste. It seems like the narrators' experience in many of the poems is romanticized to the point that readers are left with a one-dimensional view of early Chinese immigrants in the U.S. Personally, I would have appreciated more variation in narrators' personalities, intentions or viewpoints, which I think is more reflective of the diversity in any given group of people, regardless of the time period. Overall, I enjoyed reading Gone to Gold Mountain and I was glad to pick up a book of poetry that reflects a chapter of local history that doesn't get much attention otherwise AND that's written very, very well. I've already recommended Gone to Gold Mountain to a few people, poetry and nonfiction buffs alike.