Liu Xiaobo, Nobel Winner and Husband of Liu Xia (Poet, EMPTY CHAIRS), Has Died

And self can’t even.

She found out, of course, from Twitter.

There’s confirmation from BBC World News, here.

Heartbroken.

#amreadingpoetry: Liu Xia

Before you go into the grave
Don’t forget to write to me with your ashes
Don’t forget to leave your underworld address

quoted by Liao Yiwu in his introduction to Liu Xia’s collection Empty Chairs, the bilingual edition (Graywolf Press)

Liao Yiwu: Introduction to Liu Xia’s collection EMPTY CHAIRS (Graywolf Press, 2015)

She is no longer the bird she once was, the one that flew high to Tibet, alone; the one that made circles around Lake Namtso, the mirror of heaven; the one that laughed until out of breath. Instead, she became a tree. She can’t move her own nest — Liu Xiaobo can’t move, so she can’t either. She’s turned from a bird into a tree, her feathers becoming white and withered. But as a tree she still sings the songs of birds. — Liao Yiwu, February 2014

from One Bird Then Another

by Liu Xia

One winter night — yes
it was a winter night — the bird
came to us while we were soundly
sleeping. Neither of us saw it.
In the morning we saw — sun on glass —
its small shadow
imprinted, staying
for a long time, refusing
to leave.

Stay tuned, dear blog readers. Stay tuned.

Liu Xia: “June 2nd, 1989”

— Liu Xia dedicated “June 2nd, 1989” to her husband, Liu Xiaobo, imprisoned since 2009 on the charge of “inciting subversion of state power.” It’s in her collection Empty Chairs, translated from the Chinese by Ming Di and Jennifer Stern (Graywolf Press, 2015)

The poem begins:

This isn’t good weather
I said to myself
standing under the lush sun

Stay tuned, dear blog readers. Stay tuned.

Liu Xia: “June 2nd, 1989”

June 2nd, 1989

— for Xiaobo

This isn’t good weather
I said to myself
standing under the lush sun.

Standing behind you
I patted your head
and your hair pricked my palm
making it strange to me.

I didn’t have a chance
to say a word before you became a character
in the news, everyone looking up to you
as I was worn down
at the edge of the crowd
just smoking
and watching the sky

A new myth, maybe, was forming there,
but the sun’s sharp light
blinded me from seeing it.

An Excerpt from Liu Xia Because, Because, Because

Give me a glass of wine.
Let me play the game with you
regardless of ending with a full house applauding
or one person alone crying
to the night

— from Liu Xia’s “Game” in the collection Empty Chairs (Graywolf Press, 2015)

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.

Liu Xia: “Days”

from her collection Empty Chairs: Selected Poems, translated from the Chinese by Ming Di and Jennifer Stern (Graywolf Press, 2015)

Days

Our life, like the calendar
on the wall,
presents a stale picture.

Friends come at night
and I cook enough dishes to cover the table —
remembering to put salt in each.
You get chatty
without even drinking wine.
Everyone is happy and eats chicken feet
until the bones are sucked white.

At dawn, our friends are suddenly gone
like a breeze.
The sunflowers on the window curtain
are crazily bright
against the light.
Cigarette ashes and beautiful fish bones
are jammed down our throats.
Without looking at each other
we climb into bed.

Liu Xia is a Chinese poet and artist who has lived under strict house arrest since her husband, poet and activist Liu Xiaobo, was imprisoned in 2009 for “inciting subversion of state power” and received the 2010 Nobel Peace Prize.

Stay tuned, dear blog readers. Stay tuned.

Mind Cleanse for the New Year

Self stopped reading In Cold Blood even though she was 100 pages from the end. She had not expected to have the murders described in such detail, starting on p. 237. Of course, since none of the victims survived, the crime is told from the murderers’ point of view.

The one she ached for most particularly was the 16-year-old, Nancy Clutter. Alone in her room, listening while the killers dealt with first, her father, then her mother, she decided to show herself when they dragged her younger brother from his bed. She had taken the trouble to get fully dressed. She came out of her room smiling at the two murderers, as if to charm them. She faced them.

What. A. Brave. Girl.

So, because of that, self stopped reading at p. 240.

Instead, she browses through one of her poetry books, Sunflower Splendor: Three Thousand Years of Chinese Poetry. It was the assigned text in a class on Chinese poetry in translation, taught by James J. Y. Liu in the Department of Asian Languages at Stanford.

Here’s a sample:

I Say Good-bye to Fan An-ch’eng

by Hsieh Tiao (464-499)

In the usual way of the young
we made appointments
and goodbye was easy.
Now in our decay and fragility, separation is difficult.

Don’t say “One cup of wine.”
Tomorrow will we hold this cup?
And if in dreams I can’t find this road,
how, thinking of you,
will I be comforted?
And if in dreams I can’t find this road

Stay tuned, dear blog readers. Stay tuned.

Liu Xia: EMPTY CHAIRS (Graywolf Press, 2015)

Liu Xia is the wife of Chinese dissident and Nobel Peace Prize awardee Liu Xiaobo (Liu Xiaobo is currently serving an eleven-year sentence in China for the Charter 08 Manifesto).

The excerpt from Black Sail is in her collection, Empty Chairs (Graywolf Press, 2015)

Black Sail (translated from the Chinese by Ming Di and Jennifer Stern)

You reach out your arms and pull the man
close, quiet, until his hair floats like seaweed.
Then you calm down and light a cigarette — green smoke
rises. The next day, when firecrackers
clear the way for a full black sail,
you become a gust of wind, a cloud, an eye.

DSCN0406

Lake Annaghmakerrig, Ireland

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