Books Are Life

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New COVID Reading, post-Expanse:

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Poetry Monday: T’ao Ch’ien

On Returning to My Garden and Field

— translated by Wu-chi Liu

(1)

When I was young, I did not fit into the common mold,
By instinct I love mountains and hills.

(2)

I plant beans at the foot of the southern hill;
The grass is thick and bean sprouts are sparse.
At dawn, I rise and go out to weed the field;
Shouldering the hoe, I walk home with the moon.

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Side yard: Self placed the Chinese character for longevity beside the gate.


Self studied Chinese poetry under Prof. James J. Y. Liu at Stanford University, who became her advisor.

T’ao Chi’en (365-427)

Popularly known as Tao Yuan-ming, he was born the son of an official’s family near what is modern-day Kiangsi. During his youth, the family fortunes declined, and after several frustrating attempts to find an appointment, he gave up all worldly ambitions and retired to his home and gardens while he was still in his early forties.

Woe: Milkman, p. 97

Mammy! The heads! They took the heads! Where are the heads? Where’s Lassie, mammy? Where’s daddy? Have the brothers found Lassie? Where’s daddy? Where’s Lassie?

This novel, which won the Man Booker, fully deserved to win.

Graywolf Press has now given self two books that absolutely shattered her: this one, and the translation of Liu Xia’s poetry collection, Empty Chairs.

That is all.

Poetry Thursday: LIU XIA

Excerpt from Scheme, in the bilingual poetry collection Empty Chairs (Graywolf Press)

You’re always disappointed in me/
I, too, can do nothing about myself.

Liu Xia is the widow of Chinese dissident Liu Xiaobo, who received the Nobel Peace Prize in 2010. She is currently under house arrest in China.

Stay tuned.

 

In Memoriam, Liu Xiaobo, Dissident and Nobel Peace Prize Winner

Discovered the poetry of Liu Xiaobo’s wife, Liu Xia, through a bilingual translation from Graywolf, Empty Chairs.

Liu Xiaobo passed away earlier this year. Self can imagine Liu Xia’s pain.

This morning, in Paris, reading Liu Xia’s “One Bird and Then Another:”

One Sunday, the sky was
overcast, but it wasn’t raining.
We went out together and you bought
me a blouse from a boutique.
When it got dark, we went
to a crowded restaurant
and each ate two bowls of dumplings.
On the way back we
were quiet, not saying a word,
feeling slightly uneasy.

Stay tuned, dear blog readers. Stay tuned.

Liu Xia: “June 2nd, 1989” (Excerpts)

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

* * *

 

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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.

(from the collection Empty Chairs, translated from the Chinese by Ming Di and Jennifer Stern, published by Graywolf Press in a bilingual edition in 2015)

Stay tuned, dear blog readers. Stay tuned.

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.

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