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.

Against the Odds: The Daily Post Photo Challenge, 15 February 2017

An unexpected victory? A snapshot of an unlikely moment? This week, show us something that defines the odds.

— Michelle W., The Daily Post

Last year, on the 2nd day of self’s trip to the UK, her camera shutter stopped opening all the way. Rather than buy a new camera, self decided to see how far she could push that old thing. And it lasted till the very end of her trip.

One of the last places she visited before returning home was Bletchley Park, about an hour train ride from London. Bletchley Park is where the World War II codebreakers did their work. According to the visitors’ brochure, “the Codebreakers’ efforts helped to shorten the war by up to two years, saving countless lives.” The codebreakers worked year-round in unheated wooden huts. “The first Enigma ciphers were broken in early 1940.”

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Bletchley Park: June 2016

Self took the picture below in Chinatown. She forgets which street it was on. It was either on Grant or on Stockton. Look closer at the words, and it turns out to be about Filipino immigration: the first immigrants faced discrimination. Caucasian women were not allowed to marry Asian immigrants, most of whom were single men. Yet, those early immigrants endured. Their descendants are all over California.

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Wall Mural, Chinatown, San Francisco

Anne-Adele Wight coordinates a monthly reading series at Head House Books in Philadelphia. She is a published poet. Just before June’s event, she hurt her knee and had to wear a brace. But — the show must go on!

She is fantastic.

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Anne-Adele Wight introducing speakers at the Head House reading series, which she coordinates: Philadelphia, June 2016

So there are self’s examples of “Against the Odds,” which is a very, very interesting photo challenge.

Stay tuned, dear blog readers. Stay tuned.

#amreading: Iowa Review, Spring 2015

Excerpt from “Turtle”

by M. E. Hope

Seaman Recruit Robinson was a petite black woman
always smiling, though few met her eyes.
On first look you saw the scar, her entire
face was burn — a healed swirl of pink
and brown, a nose less nose than placeholder
for the center of her face. But her eyes
and smile — those calmed every one
of us. And she did know us all, knew
names and with every small conversation
remembered our stories.

Quote of the Day: Aimee Nezhukumatathil (The Writer’s Chronicle, Sept 2016)

“I do think persona is helpful in however heavy or light the disguise, if only to announce to the reader that if my persona says or does something they don’t find agreeable, it’s just a character, not the person.”

— Aimee Nezhukumatathil, in her interview with Eric Farwell, The Writer’s Chronicle, September 2016

#amreading: All Day, Poetry

The Sublime

by Joshua Gottlieb-Miller

(An excerpt)

He was worried he was growing
immune to his anxiety
medication when the bank called
to tell him his identity

had been stolen. He did some
quick calculations, then
They can keep it, he said,
and hung up. The sublime

is kindled by the threat
of nothing further happening,
the painter wrote, and he liked that
so he thought about it as he walked

into the woods. Creditors
from other branches of the bank
called to ask when he would put
more money in his checking account.

He was delinquent, they explained,
so he explained it was only
the account that was delinquent.
Not after Zen, not after quiet

determination, or equilibrium —
just a view from the overlook,
and to enjoy it, the forest being new
to him. He keeps going. Leaves

— published in Indiana Review, Vol. 34, No. 2

Joshua Gottlieb-Miller holds an MFA in poetry from the University of Houston, where he was a poetry editor for Gulf Coast.

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.

#amreading: Sally Potter’s Screenplay for YES

Last year, self saw Sally Potter’s Yes at the London Review Bookshop and the filmmaker herself was present to do Q & A afterwards. Self asked Potter if the screenplay had been published, and when Potter said yes, it was available in the U.S., self almost broke out into a Happy Happy Joy Joy dance.

Can she just tell dear blog readers how she adores this screenplay, the fact that it is written in iambic pentameter from first to last is glorious.


Scene: An Irish woman (played by a luminous Joan Allen) who’s moved to New York returns to Belfast to visit her dying aunt in a hospital. The following passage is the aunt’s interior monologue:

AUNT

No one explained to me when I was young
Why time only goes forward. Hold your tongue
Was what they said when I asked them about
The universe and such and why we can’t
Do all that much about it when we make
A mess of things. If only a mistake
Could be corrected. Wind life back and start
Again. The second time we’d know the art
Of living. But we only get one go;
No dress rehearsals, this one is the show,
And we don’t know it. I don’t see the rhyme
Or reason in this so-called grand design . . .

(A priest enters the ward quietly and rapidly gives the last rites, making the sign of the cross and softly muttering a prayer)

But then I don’t believe. There is no sign
Of him up there as far as I’m concerned.
See . . . if there’s one thing that I’ve truly learned
It’s this: it’s down to me.

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.

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