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  • The Shape of the Ocean
  • Jiang Hao (bio)
    Translated by Ming Di (bio) and Frank Stewart (bio)

When you ask me what the ocean's shape is likeI should bring you two sacks full of sea water.They are the ocean's shape, like two eyes,or what the ocean seems like because of a pair of eyes.You caress them, as though dabbing awaytwo scalding tears, and tearsare also the ocean's shape, their transparencyarising from identical souls.Leaning the sacks togetherdoes not make the oceans wider. From their freshness,two not-fish are about to emerge.You sprinkle water on the sand-like flour.Bread is an ocean's shape.Before you slice it with the blade of a sailit is already going away, like a boat from a harbor. The plastic bagslying flat on the table are an ocean's shape,with their tides ebbing from the beaches.When an actual tide ebbs,the salt that remains is the ocean's shape.You don't believe me? I should bring you a sackof sea water and a sack of sand, which are the shapes of the ocean.You say yes, then no; then not-yes,not-no. Go and look at yourself,you are also an ocean's shape, even though you say,"I am only the shape of myself." [End Page 48]

Jiang Hao

Jiang Hao 蒋浩 was born in Sichuan province in 1971. His books include a volume of essays and four poetry collections. His first book, Rhetorics (2005), won the Tendency Literature Award that year. He lives on Hainan Island.

Ming Di

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).

Frank Stewart

Frank Stewart is a recipient of the Whiting Writers Award. His edited books include The Poem Behind the Poem: Translating Asian Poetry (2004). His translations, with Michelle Yeh, are included in Hawk of the Mind: Collected Poems of Yang Mu (2018). He has also translated I, Snow Leopard by Jidi Majia (2016); other translations have appeared in Chinese Poetry Today, World Literature Today, and Harvard Review On-line: "Omniglots."



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