Anita Feng

Anita FengAnita Feng has received the Pablo Neruda Prize for Poetry, a National Endowment for the Arts fellowship, and the Andres Berger and Washington State GAP Awards for her creative nonfiction. She is additionally a potter, creating musical instruments from clay. Feng earned her M.F.A. in Creative Writing from Brown University.

Books by Anita Feng at the Backwaters Press

Sadie & Mendel Sadie & Mendel by Anita Feng

Author: Anita Feng
Format: Paperback, 88 pages
ISBN: 0978578201
Published: May 2006

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Awards for Anita Feng’s Sadie & Mendel

Backwaters Prize, 2005

Critical Praise of Anita Feng’s Sadie & Mendel

Sadie and Mendel leapt off the pages every time I read it. This is an American story in the best sense of that word, and Ms. Feng is its perfect midwife.
Lola Haskins – Author of Hunger, Iowa Poetry Prize winner

Who would have thought the industrial Midwest could be the source of so much fine poetry? In another story of slight rise and long decline, Anita Feng’s Sadie & Mendel does for a Jewish mother and son in Detroit what Rita Dove’s Pulitzer Prize-winning Thomas and Beulah did for an African-American couple in Akron. In a variety of voices, and with crisp narrative lines, Feng unfolds a tale that begins with Sadie’s life in a peasant village near the Black Sea and ends with her death, “the other shore.” It is a saga of ambition and disappointment, from one generation to the next. At Mendel’s birth, the question arises, “Can one be born / with a flair for misfortune?” And an answer seems to come when Mendel, in middle age, looks around and sees “a raw thing diminished / to the size of regret.” But the reader will not regret—nor forget—Anita Feng’s powerful poems that open up this failed family, the “big American dreams” and the deep American sadness.
Elton Glaser – Winner of The Marlboro Prize in Poetry, 2002

Excerpts from Anita Feng’s Sadie & Mendel

Sadie’s Best Friend Says, Okay, I’ll Tell You

So you want to know
where the trouble came from?
Like the chicken and the egg,
is Sadie to blame, or her son?

He runs away and by this
stroke of genius he plans
to end his grief by leaving it
in someone else’s garbage can.

I know! Who can understand
these young intellectuals
who play the African this and that,
or whatever’s fashionable

these days? And what he reads,
you wouldn’t’ want to know—
some goyishe plays written
by nobodies, and morbid poets

who don’t even know to rhyme.
But who’s to say?
Mendel is a young man who
has to scatter dust, the same

as any other schlemiel.
But I’m telling you, lucky
it wasn’t worse. He doesn’t
get far before a bagel truck

nips the bicycle in the rear.
Thank God he flies clear,
but he has to walk home,
face up to the errors

of his modern ways. So?
That’s why neither one’s
speaking. What can you say?
What’s done is done.

Tea Reader

Mendel asked, “What’s next?”
The tea reader said, “I see love.”
She paused for effect. So much for the good part.

But what she could see, plainly,
was the gap between this guy’s teeth
indicating a poor sense of money.

And even clearer, the frayed elbows
at his sleeves, the volume of Keats under
tapered fingers, no doubt a cheap replacement

for a woman’s skin. “You know something
about women, but…” The tea reader paused again.
Slowly, she swirled the leaves at the bottom.

“I see that some of the leaves
have clumped together—this means
that you have been waylaid by complex

and completely useless theories of life.
And still, there is love—look at it, swollen
in the leaves.” She tapped a cigarette

out of her pack. The guy stared at her,
which she ignored. “Now. After I go, another
woman will come, and explain the terms,

ten dollars. But be advised: do you see
the way in which the remains swirl,
as in a flimsy dream? Which means

you need to quit playing with art,
and take up honest work and a day’s
wages. And one more thing—

I see one love exchanged, another lost.”
Then she took pity on him, her bit
for the vets that made it home,

and she said, “Look here—everything
is exposed in the dregs. See how the last
of the brew digests what’s left, and how strong it is?”

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