- River Qi, and: Witnessing Daoism
Translator's Note: The River Qi, pronounced chi, is one of the thousand tributaries of the Yangtze River in Hubei province. Located upstream, the Three Gorges Dam is the world's largest hydroelectric-power station. In China, people are not allowed to talk about the dam's construction, which displaced millions, caused natural disasters, damaged the environment, and destroyed the oldest archaeological sites in the country.
A river you can sail alongis more than just a riverespecially when you can sailwith the flow—the sailingand flowing become one stream.
How long has it been like this?Not long.Damaged and ruined for thirty years.Or sixty years.All nature's agonies converge herein the river of griefthat raises the riverbed,
A small tributary of the Yangtze.A small stream of a bigger phenomenon.Many rivers run into the same fate.Many rivers pour out their sadnessas if the sadness upstreamisn't sad enough, [End Page 157]
as if I've been speaking speaking nonstopwith a retarded mind: if only. . . if only. . .Well, let me say it once again. If only I can sail a boatback to my old homeeven if I inadvertently fall into water, choking,jerking about, and swearing,
I will say to you loudly: Hello stranger,if you ever come to River Qi, please sail with meagainst the tides.
In my balcony, there's a bird-droppingon the iron rails.I will not clean it offout of respect for flying creatures.I will not clean itoff.I will even take itas a floweron rust. [End Page 158]
Yu Xiaozhong 余笑忠 was born in the rural area of Qichun County, in eastern Hubei province, in 1965. He graduated from Beijing Broadcasting Institute in 1986 and has worked for Hubei TV since then. He won the 2003 Chinese Poetry Prize awarded jointly by the Star Poetry Monthly and Poetry Monthly, the third Yangtze River Poetry Prize, and the twelfth October Literary Prize in 2015.
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.