Poetry

Archive: Modern Chinese Poetry

 

From Asia Literary Review No. 18, Winter 2010: China

Essay - Modern Chinese Poetry: Insistent Voices, by Zheng Danyi

 

(Scroll down to read the poems)

 

Misty Poets

 

北島1949 - Bei Dao - Landscape Above Zero

多多(1951 - Duo Duo - Tonight We Sow

舒婷(1952 - Shu Ting - A Few Memories

楊煉(1955 -  Yang Lian - Snow Without Subject (2)

顧城(1956 - 1993Gu Cheng - One Generation

 

Transition

 

翟永明 (1955 - ) Zhai Yongming  Mother

柏樺(1956 - Bai Hua - The Future

 

New Generation

 

棗(1962 - 2010Zhang Zhao - In the Mirror

陳東東 (1962 - ) Chen Dongdong - Wild Temple

鄭單衣 (1963 - ) Zheng Danyi - Phoenix

 

 


Misty Poets

 

北島1949 - Bei Dao - Landscape Above Zero

 

It was the seagull that taught the song to swim

It was the song that found the first wind’s source 

 

We shared shards of happiness 

Entering the home from different directions 

 

It was father who recognised darkness

It was darkness that led us to sudden lightning

The weeping door slammed shut

And echo pursued its cries 

 

It was the pen that bloomed in despair

It was the flower that refused the necessary journey 

 

It was rays of love that awoke

Lighting the landscape above zero 

 

translated by Zheng Danyi, Shirley Lee and Martin Alexander

 

 

多多(1951 - Duo Duo - Tonight We Sow

 

Tulips, last days and the ferrying

and bed after bed piled up with seed, nourishes lovers.

Tonight, a piano made of ice plays in time with

the deep thoughts of goldfish

but the dull-witted sea knows only the swell.

Tonight, the wind has more voices

Tonight there is peace and here, no pretence.

Tonight the doors of the church are shut.

Tonight all around us, every bowl stops begging

all the eyes that watched us watch each other now.

We should sing our secrets out behind the clouds

Jesus holds me in your arms tonight.

 

Tonight is the night of our divorce.

 

translated by Zheng Danyi, Shirley Lee and Martin Alexander

 

 

舒婷(1952 - Shu Ting - A Few Memories

 

A wine cup knocked over

Stone paths float in moonlight

On green grass, pressed down

A lost red mountain flower 

Eucalyptus trees turn

Crowded stars kaleidoscope

By the rusty iron anchor

Eyes reflect a dizzy sky 

A book raised to block off candlelight

Fingers held gently between lips

In thin crisp silence

Dreams are half-awake 

 

translated by Luo Hui (with Zheng Danyi and Martin Alexander)

 

 

楊煉(1955 -  Yang Lian - Snow Without Subject (2)

 

The snowfield, covered with the blind. They couldn’t see

the poem that died in the hotel 

and the valley breeding terrible sunlight.

 

They lost their shadows under the same precipice

becoming thin black needles on the sundial in the garden

washing their feet with laughter. 

 

Flowers meticulously etched on a bowl by a dead bird –

drinking from the bright red stream at the picnic. 

Noon – the stream secreted by the blind. 

They couldn’t see the travellers in the poem lying naked in their hotel beds.

Without having to fall, they were swallowed by the avalanche. 

 

translated by Zheng Danyi, Shirley Lee and Martin Alexander

 

(Yang Lian was chosen to represent China at Poetry Parnassus as part of the 2012 Cultural Olympiad. He is one of eight Asia Literary Review poets among the 205 who performed at the South Bank Centre in the last week of June 2012.)

 

 

顧城(1956 - 1993Gu Cheng - One Generation

 

Black night gave me black eyes

But I use them to search for brightness

 

translated by Luo Hui

 

Transition

 

翟永明 (1955 - ) Zhai Yongming  Mother

 

There are too many places that we

cannot reach and our feet ache.

Mother, you never taught me

in the eager pink of dawn

to drink that age-old sadness.

My heart takes after you alone.

 

You are so much my mother that I am

the blood that you bled as dawn broke –

surprised into seeing yourself 

by the sight of the blood, that was you! 

 

You awoke me to hear the voices of the world.

You gave me birth, and cursed me

with the world’s misfortune as my twin. 

For years I’d forgotten the tears of that night.

The light that made you pregnant came

from so far away – and was so suspect –

as it stood between life and death.

The dark was possessed by your eyes.

How heavy the shadows at the soles of your feet! 

 

translated by Zheng Danyi, Shirley Lee and Martin Alexander

 

 

柏樺(1956 - Bai Hua - The Future

 

The wanderer has to return

He’s already damaged by loneliness

 

His unlucky liver is burdened with fish and with pride

Unlucky youth, and the crying of alcohol too! 

 

Oh, must you be angrier still,

and are not your curses enough? 

 

Birds, beasts, flowers, wood, spring, summer, autumn, winter – 

all are surprised by this crazy little man. 

 

More red than red, more white than white

More yellow than yellow

He is the corpse of his future. 

 

translated by Zheng Danyi, Shirley Lee and Martin Alexander

 

New Generation

 

棗(1962 - 2010Zhang Zhao - In the Mirror

 

As long as there are thoughts that bring regret

plum blossoms fall:

watching her swim to the other shore, perhaps,

or climbing a pine ladder,

there’s beauty in dangerous things.

Nothing beats watching her return on horseback,

cheeks warm with her shame,

head lowered, answering the Emperor.

A mirror always waits for her.

Let her sit at her usual place in the mirror

look out the window.

As long as there are thoughts that bring regret

plum blossoms fall and cover the southern mountain.

 

translated by Zheng Danyi, Shirley Lee and Martin Alexander

 

 

陳東東 (1962 - ) Chen Dongdong - Wild Temple

 

Peace and meditation

Twenty years alone on the empty mountain
An old monk

Acrid pines

 

He hears people speaking in the temple 

 

A child’s voice

Then a woman’s

Then again the child: a startled cry 

 

Like thin ice, the crescent moon drifts on water

 

translated by Zheng Danyi, Shirley Lee and Martin Alexander

 

 

鄭單衣 (1963 - ) Zheng Danyi - Phoenix

 

Tonight, my Phoenix is a greedy fox

When she loves me, it feels just like summer

Perfumed five times, her hair is soft and tender

Her small hands delicate as ever

After a few days away, they fascinate me 

 

Here is no home, but the summer breeze is just as cool

Now I see her drinking cold water. Then

She counts the freckles on my neck.

When evening comes, the lanterns look fat. All is before me

But my mind is on salt and a flock of sheep

 

Oh, how many bead curtains are closing at this moment

And how many deprived hands are fingering a single garment

One night differs from another. But in her room

One breath is familiar with the rest

Like a basketful of pears, with soft-jade core, one 

 

Another, for her I peel the fruits

As she repeats those gentle words

All words are but one. Tonight

Pears roll over our bodies as love

Opens its fiery body, then starts a storm in my heart 

 

translated by Luo Hui


 

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