Book cover: Iron Goddess of Mercy by Larissa Lai

Larissa Lai is the author of The Tiger Flu, Salt Fish Girl, Iron Goddess of Mercy, and five other books. Recipient of the Jim Duggins Novelist's Prize, the Lambda Literary Award, the Astraea Award, and the Otherwise Honor Book and finalist for seven more, she holds a Canada Research Chair at the University of Calgary and directs The Insurgent Architects' House for Creative Writing there. [More]

Iron Goddess of Mercy

Iron Goddess of Mercy is a long poem that captures the vengeful yet hopeful movement of the Furies mid-whirl and dances with them through the horror of the long now. Inspired by the tumultuous history of Hong Kong, from the Japanese and British occupations to the ongoing pro-democracy protests, the poem interrogates the complicated notion of identity, offering a prism through which the term ‘Asian’ can be understood to make sense of a complex set of relations. The self crystallizes in moments of solidity, only to dissolve and whirl away again.

Iron Goddess of Mercy is a game of mah jong played deep into the night, an endless gamble. The poem dizzies, turns on itself. It rants, it curses, it writes love letters. Finally, it conjures the compassionate bodhisattva Guan Yin, as a balm to the poem’s devastating passion and fury. Summoning the ghosts of history and politics, Iron Goddess of Mercy explores the complexities of identity through the lens of rage and empowerment.