- Walking in the Woods, and: Ode to Shennongjia Firs
walking in the woods
Walking in the woods in the summer, I seetrees flourishing in a complicated way.Uplifting, they are positive, thriving, their interiorgrows like human ambitions and swelling desires.I think of the word 木 mu, simple and quiet,born to be silent, born in the deep fall,its first appearance stunning. Shocking.木 mu of four seasons slows down to acquire a 木 image.Look at its shape with branches and a trunk, createdin more than a few days, or a few weeks.A simple beauty. A holistic miracle. A concrete abstract.木 lives in the woods, in nature, in the human heart,immortal in a mortal world.木 becomes paper, and paper's full of the words 木.How does 木 in words meet 木 in the woods? How? [End Page 39]
ode to shennongjia firs
In the whiteness of early February, fog spreadsaround the snow dictatorship of Shennongjia Mountains.Along the shady streams are firs forty meters high,each a green body, white beard and hair.Each tree stands alone, far away from the others,in its own coldness and solitude.They like to look at each otherfrom a distance. They are tall and straight,looking down, and looking over the others.Their needles, thick and straight, look up in V-shape lines.In June, male and female cones will blossom,and mature in October. But sometimes they are shyin showing their hearts. They wait two years to grow fruit.What touches me most is how they die.In Shennongjia Mountains, the firs live a hundred andeighty years, then they begin to die—first they wither from the top, then down and down in segments.Within a few years, they've gone over their lives again,from top to bottom.When the dying reaches their roots, they fall intactin a big roar. Each tree still holds its shape,lying down all in one body.Years later, they will still look like trees and this is the mostthorough death of a plant, perhaps. They possessthe art of dying.Snow or wind will not wake them again.If you step on one, you will feel likeyou are losing your feet in mud—their entire bodies have turned into earth,into the living shape of firs. [End Page 40]
Huang Bin 黄斌 was born in Chibi (Red Cliff), in southeastern Hubei province, in 1968. He won first place in the national poetry competition in 1994. His other honors include the ninth Qu Yuan Literary and Art Award. He studied journalism at Wuhan University and now works for the Hubei Daily.
Ming Di 明迪 is a Chinese poet based in the U.S. She attended Boston College and Boston University, where she taught Chinese. She has published six books of poetry in Chinese along with a collaborative translation, River Merchant's Wife (2012). She co-translated The Book of Cranes by Zang Di (2015) with Neil Aitken, and Empty Chairs: Selected Poems by Liu Xia (2015) with Jennifer Stern, which was a finalist for the 2016 Best Translation Book Award. She edited and co-translated New Cathay: Contemporary Chinese Poetry (2013) and New Poetry from China 1917–2017 (2019). In 2013 and 2014, she received Henry Luce Foundation fellowships. A co-founder of Poetry East West journal, she serves as the China editor for Poetry International Rotterdam. She has also translates from English into Chinese, most recently Observations by Marianne Moore (2018).
Kerry Shawn Keys has published nearly fifty books, including poetry, plays, fiction, and children's literature. He is the recipient of NEA and Poetry Society of America awards, and translation awards from the Lithuanian Writers' Union. A member of International PEN, he is the Republic of Užupis' World Poetry ambassador.