Liao Yiwu About the Poet Liu Xia (Whose Collection EMPTY CHAIRS Self Is Currently Reading)

From “The Story of a Bird,” Liao Yiwu’s introduction to Liu Xia’s collection Empty Chairs (Graywolf Press, 2015):

When we first met, we were very young, and knew nothing but writing poetry. The bird called Liu Xia lived in a large, cage-like room on the twenty-second floor of a building on West Double Elm Tree Lane in Beijing. I traveled from Sichuan to meet her and climbed up the stairs as the elevator was broken. From the moment I knocked on the cage door, Liu Xia never stopped giggling. Her chin became pointy when she smiled, and she laughed like a bird, unrestrained. No wonder she wrote this:

Then, we started to hate winter,
the long slumber.
We’d put a red lamp
outside overnight
so its light would tell our bird
we were waiting.

Stay tuned, dear blog readers. Stay tuned.

The Syrian Refugee

The New Yorker, 26 October 2015:

Syria, 2014: Assad wins re-election with eighty-eight percent of the vote. His victory, he declared, was “a bullet directed toward the chests of the terrorists.”

The going price to smuggle a refugee out of Turkey: $5,000.

In late May 2015, a smuggler named Jamil announces on WhatsApp that a boat is available to take 154 refugees to Italy (Self multiplies $5,000 by 154 and comes up with $770,000. And that’s just one boatload)

The boat is “a white trawler, thirty-eight feet long, with a knee-high railing around the bow.”

The refugees are shocked. One, a pregnant woman named Reem, says “It was a very small boat for a trip to Italy.”

The overloaded boat can’t manage the trip and heads back to Turkey, where the smugglers abandon ship before the Turkish police get there. The refugees return to Mersin, pool their money and “rent a cheap apartment . . .  Once again they were stuck, and the boredom was excruciating.”

The smuggler Jamil re-surfaces and dangles another trip but refuses to return anyone’s money.

A Syrian refugee named Ghaith makes another attempt. This time the smugglers use hand pumps “to inflate a twenty-five-foot black raft” to which an outboard motor is attached. A smuggler asked “if anyone knew how to steer.”

Stay tuned, dear blog readers. Stay tuned.

#amreading: Peter Lovesey, SKELETON HILL

Having dispatched The Executioner’s Song (Stopped not-quite-halfway), self is starting her first Peter Lovesey, Skeleton Hill.

p. 9:

  • He had entered a field, staying roughly parallel with the road, when there was a rich splash of red in the evening sun as a fox broke from its cover and dashed in front of him only a few yards ahead. The sight uplifted him. He didn’t have the countryman’s contempt for such animals. Anything that survived in the wild by its own efforts would get his support.

Stay tuned, dear blog readers. Stay tuned.

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