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.

The Economist Books of the Year 2015

Yes, self is a year behind in her reading of The Economist. So pathetic.

Anyhoo, here are the books self picked to add to her reading list: four histories, three works of fiction, one book on Culture, Society and Travel.

HISTORIES

  • Nagasaki: Life After Nuclear War, by Susan Southard — “a searing account of five teenage survivors of the bombing of Nagasaki”
  • Waterloo: The History of Four Days, Three Armies and Three Battles, by Bernard Cornwell — “a great and terrible story of a battle . . . fought 200 years ago, told with energy and clarity”
  • The Fall of the Ottomans: The Great War in the Middle East — “how a multinational Muslim empire was destroyed by the first World War”
  • SPQR: A History of Ancient Rome, by Mary Beard — “about Rome from its myth-shrouded origins to the early third century”

CULTURE, SOCIETY AND TRAVEL

  • Plucked: A History of Hair Removal, by Rebecca Herzig — “a curious account of hair-erasing, and why people have tried clamshell razors, lasers, lye depilatories, tweezers, waxes, threading and electrolysis to try and free themselves from hairiness”

FICTION

  • Seiobo There Below, by Laszlo Krasznahorkai — Seventeen stories, “a fitting winner of the 2005 Man Booker International Prize”
  • Submission, by Michael Houellebecq — “France under Muslim rule,” 2022
  • An Account of the Decline of the Great Auk, According to One Who Saw It, by Jessie Greengrass — a “spectacularly accomplished, chilly debut collection of short stories about thwarted lives and opportunities missed”

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.

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

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.

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