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.

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Lake Annaghmakerrig, Ireland

Poetry for After November 8, 2016

Excerpt from “I Copy the Scriptures,” by Liu Xia

Day and night,
I copy the Diamond Sutra
of Prajnaparamita.
My writing looks more and more
square.
It proves that I have not gone
entirely
insane, but the tree I drew
hasn’t grown a leaf.

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

Reading Life 2016

October 2016

  1. Ghost Soldiers: The Epic Account of World War II’s Greatest Rescue Mission (history), by Hampton Sides
  2. A Short History of Women (novel) by Kate Walbert

September 2016

  1. The Way to the Spring: Life and Death in Palestine (nonfiction), by Ben Ehrenreich
  2. Brazillionaires (nonfiction), by Alex Cuadros

August 2016

  1. Northanger Abbey (novel), by Jane Austen
  2. Swimming Studies (memoir), by Leann Sharpton
  3. The Course of Love (novel), by Alain de Botton
  4. The Narrow Road to the Deep North and Other Sketches (travel book, poetry), by Matsuo Basho
  5. The Lonely City: Adventures in the Art of Being Alone (essay collection), by Olivia Laing

July 2016

  1. The Green Road (novel), by Anne Enright
  2. Girl Waits With Gun (mystery), by Amy Stewart

June 2016

  1. The Girl on the Train (novel), by Paula Hawkins
  2. My Brilliant Friend (novel), by Elena Ferrante

May 2016 Read the rest of this entry »

From “Utopias” by Alfredo Zaldivar (New Letters, vol. 82 nos. 3 & 4)

The poem is in the New Letters Cuban issue.

Excerpt from Utopias, by Alfredo Zaldivar, translated from the Spanish by Margaret Randall:

I romanticized the tent they gave me
the fierce hand that caressed my skin
the assigned word
and promised touch.

I didn’t take into account the fragility
of the dying stag
who sleeps among beasts
the few doves who fly
when the lights go on.

I didn’t see the labyrinths surrounding the tent
the fear of conceding passion to terror.

I fled with such precision
that only my obsession for being on time
could ignore those flights.

Alfredo Zaldivar is co-founder of Vigia, a cultural arts magazine and publishing house based in Matanzas, Cuba.

More Quests

All books are quests of one kind or another. To self, they represent explorations of new experiences.

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New Edition of Don Quixote, at the AWP 2016 Bookfair in Los Angeles

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From the Europa booth at the 2016 AWP Los Angeles Book Fair

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from self’s own copy of Hans Christian Andersen’s The Wild Swans, retold by Amy Ehrlich, illustrated by Susan Jeffers

This is how the fairy tale begins:

Far, far away, in a warm and pleasant land, there once lived a king who had eleven sons and one daughter. The princes wore stars on their shirts and swords at their sides, and their sister, Elise, sat on a footstool made of glass. These children were happy from the time they woke in the morning until they went to their beds at night. They never imagined another life.

Stay tuned, dear blog readers. Stay tuned.

Seamus Heaney’s Translation of The Aeneid, Book VI

Earlier this year, self was in Ireland, cutting out book reviews from a copy of The Guardian at the breakfast table in the Main House of the Tyrone Guthrie Centre in Annaghmakerrig. She was explaining to a writer from Belfast that back home in California she had file drawers full of book review clippings and now . . .

The writer just smiled.

What is it about the Irish? Self never has to complete sentences there. Never. They’re pretty observant and never waste words.

In the Wall Street Journal of Wednesday, 17 August 2016, there’s a review of Seamus Heaney’s last work, a translation of the Aeneid, Book VI, which according to reviewer Christopher Carroll, he completed just a month before he died:

  • It is his last published poem, a poignant rendition of Aeneas’ arrival in Italy and journey into the underworld to see his dead father.

Right. Self is adding it to her reading list, as well as Heaney’s “Station Island” (1984) and “Route 110” (2010).

Stay tuned.

Another Basho Sentence

Even while I was getting ready, mending my torn trousers, tying a new strap to my hat, and applying moxa to my legs to strengthen them, I was already dreaming of the full moon rising over the islands of Matsushima.

— from The Narrow Road to the Deep North, translated from the Japanese by Nobuyuki Yuasa

1689, Basho made three major journeys in his lifetime. The Narrow Road was the result of the third and last. He was 50.

Stay tuned.

Basho Again, Summer 1676

Who is it that runs with hurried steps,
Flowers of sasanqua dancing on his hat?

— translated from the Japanese by Nobuyuki Yuasa, in his Introduction to Basho’s The Narrow Road to the Deep North

Basho: Edo, Summer 1676

Finished The Lonely City, started The Narrow Road to the Deep North, by Matsuo Basho. It’s a travel book like no other, written in haiku.

In the summer of 1676, Basho returned to his native Edo for a brief visit. He wrote this poem after. It is included in the introduction by translator Nobuyuki Yuasa.

My souvenir from Edo
Is the refreshingly cold wind
Of Mount Fuji
I brought home on my fan.

Stay tuned, dear blog readers. Stay tuned.

Miguel Hernandez: Been So Long

A creature must grow
From the seedbed of nothing
and more than one turns up
under the design of an angry star,
under a troubled and bad moon.

an excerpt from “Bloody Fate” (in the collection Miguel Hernandez, NYRB/Poets) translated by Don Share

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