Poetry Tuesday: Wislawa Szymborska

DREAM (An excerpt)

A meadow spreads between us.
Skies come flying with clouds and birds,
mountains rise silently on the horizon
and a river flows downward, searching for the sea.

— Wislawa Szymborska, translated from the Polish by Clare Cavanagh

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.

Poetry Friday: Wislawa Szymborska

from Utopia

For all its charms, the island is uninhabited,
and the faint footprints scattered on its beaches
turn without exception to the sea.

As if all you can do here is leave
and plunge, never to return, into the depths.

Into unfathomable life.

The poem can be read in its entirety here.

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.


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.


Lake Annaghmakerrig, Ireland

This Evening, Tomas Transtromer

When self was with Angela Narciso Torres in Venice Beach in November, Angela took self to A Small World, a fabulous bookstore fronting the beach. Self ended up getting poetry collections by Neruda and Tomas Transtromer.

This evening, self is looking through Transtromer’s collection The Great Enigma (Pretty fabulous, that title!), translated by Robin Fulton.

The back cover has the New York Times quoting Transtromer as saying, “My poems are meeting places.”

Oh. Wow. Self can’t even. Just. Kill her now.

Here’s an excerpt from Transtromer’s Balakirev’s Dream:

 The black grand piano, the gleaming spider
trembled at the center of its net of music.

In the concert hall a land was conjured up
where stones were no heavier than dew.

Love, love, love those images.

Stay tuned.

To Help Medicins Sans Frontieres/ Doctors Without Borders

In this season of giving, where every delivery of mail brings requests for donations, naturally self feels she has to be rather sparing about her charity (First of all, her 1998 Nissan Altima broke down again). But here’s one organization that self feels absolutely no doubt about supporting:  Doctors Without Borders.

Doctors Without Borders — Her first December in Bacolod, 2010, they occupied a whole floor of L’Fisher Chalet.

Self saw these doctors (whom she mistook for tourists) on the rooftop restaurant of the hotel and was casting all sorts of nasty aspersions on their motives for being in Bacolod.

Then she found out from one of the L’Fisher Chalet staff that the people she had assumed were tourists were actually doctors. In fact, the staff assumed self was a doctor, too. She also found out that Doctors Without Borders comes every year, that the doctors stay for a month, that they go out into the poorest villages and provide free medical care. And they’ve been doing this for a while.

They were in west Africa to deal with the Ebola crisis (and more than one did end up contracting Ebola themselves).

They were in the Philippines during Typhoon Haiyan/Yolanda, bringing their inflatable hospitals to reach typhoon survivors in the most isolated, hard-hit regions.

87.4% of donations goes towards medical programs.

They were awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in 1999.


2011 Nobel Prize for Literature: Who Should Win?

Self confesses, she’s not really that into the Nobels. But what the hey, if Words Without Borders cared enough to solicit opinions from its readers, why not enter the game?

October is the month when the Nobel Committee makes its announcement.  Here are the authors that Words Without Borders readers felt could or should win:

Self would like to nominate Lydia Davis or Jim Harrison or Chang-rae Lee or Steven Milhauser or D. A. Powell or Bernard Schlink.

And Gilda Cordero Fernando, who is not prolific, but who in self’s humble opinion is the greatest woman writer in Asia today.

Stay tuned, dear blog readers.  Stay tuned.

Quote of the Day: The Murakami Phenomenon

From Hillel Wright’s review of A Wild Haruki Chase:  Reading Murakami Around the World, in the Summer 2008 Pacific Rim Review of Books:

Okay, so having produced just two Nobel laureates in literature in the 20th century (Yasunari Kawabata in 1968 and Kenzaburo Oe in 1994), the Japanese government, cultural and literary establishments are now engaging in a rather shameless promotional campaign to see novelist Haruki Murakami win a Nobel Prize.

Murakami, arguably the most popular Japanese writer outside Japan is, ironically, not extremely popular in his own country.  Except for his 1987 novel Norwegian Wood, which sold over a million copies and made him famous in Japan, Murakami’s works have done better in translation than in his native Japanese.  His books have been translated into over 30 languages and have been published in nearly 40 countries around the world, from Brazil to Bulgaria and from Israel to Taiwan.

Murakami’s works are especially popular in Scandinavia and the Baltics, with Norway, Denmark, Sweden, Finland, Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania all offering translations.  Another irony is that the original Japanese title of his novel Norwegian Wood, “Noruwei no Mori”, the translation of the Beatles’ hit “Norwegian Wood”, is actually a misinterpretation of the original.  “Mori” in Japanese means “forest” while the “wood” in the Beatles’ song actually refers to the material used to make cheap furniture.  Perhaps the title should have been “Noruwei no Ki.”

Wright’s essay is a fascinating one, dear blog readers.  Among other things, he points out what many people have suspected:  “Murakami is popular abroad because he is not typically Japanese.”

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