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  • Bland Life, Blunt Poetry, and: Nothing to do with Crows
  • Sun Wenbo (bio)
    Translated by Ming Di (bio) and Neil Aitken (bio)

bland life, blunt poetry

Apples change genes, oranges change genders,words become absolutely tyrannical under the shadow of -ism.I speak but say nothing; you oppose and oppose everything.The paradox of rhetoric leads me to the way of poetry,I travel valleys and gullies like a huge bird in the sky, only to seefruits become symbols. Too symbolic,the toughness of apples, the brutality of oranges. To find gentlenessI have to clear away other words from the pile. I plane offthe snobby and sneaky ones, they've been trying to use the old against . . .Or let me put it another way, they act as if they were authorities,as if they were ministers, or even emperors, of words.The kingdom of language is decadent. How have I tolerated itfor so long? I'd rather see chaos. I saychaos is good! When apples fly in the airoranges become shields against the -ism. Or when I seeapples swimming in the ocean of words like mermaids,oranges a pack of camels carrying feelings on their backs, I feelliberated. I feel so liberated I start writing aboutthe republic of apples and democracy of oranges. When I seeapples have not become tanks, oranges not bombs,I know I've not become a slave of words after all. [End Page 106]

nothing to do with crows

First just one, then a flockflapping their crooked wingsbefore me—darkness sweeping the sky.I watch as if watching a play unfold, a drama of nature.A single crow is mystery, a flock of crows is fear.Humans can't escapethe past, the consciousness—the crowsflying within me: witchcraft, prophecy, forbidden awakening.I sit, limited: I believe what I don't understand,trust what I don't believe, like a countrybuilt on mistaken foundations constructing a false enemy.I miss the days of youth, the fence of languagenot yet built—only imagining, remembering—the black crows and white snow opposite but one,a beauty, a paradox in paradise—to vanishwas to be eternal—I watch now, the crows become fiction,flying outside me—they're not really there, circling in old silence;they're not really there, dwelling high on the glassy roofs. [End Page 107]

Sun Wenbo

Sun Wenbo 孙文波 was born in Sichuan province and lives in Shenzhen. He was a factory worker and a soldier before becoming a literary editor in the mid-1980s. He launched the magazine The Nineties, with Xiao Kaiyu, in 1989, and was the chief editor of Contemporary Poetry.

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).

Neil Aitken

Neil Aitken holds a doctorate from the University of Southern California. His first book of poetry, The Lost Country of Sight (2008), won the Philip Levine Prize; his most recent book of poetry is Babbage's Dream (2017). He co-translated with Ming Di The Book of Cranes: Selected Poems of Zang Di (2015) and has contributed to New Cathay: Contemporary Chinese Poetry (2013). He received the DJS Translation Prize in 2011.



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