Friday, May 6, 2011

Reading Bei Dao

Bei Dao is an especially fine poet , and I thought it would be a relief to read some work from a contemporary Chinese poet who better brings together a modern diction with the tradition of image clarity found in traditional Chinese verse. Pound's translations are so loose in their relation to the original tongue and intent that many specialists consider them to be not translations at all but wholly original poems instead. This perspective makes the poems a bit more approachable, and presents us with the idea that Pound's misreading of Chinese aesthetic led him, all the same, to develop his notions of a twentieth century poetry where the image prevails over sentiment and empty rhetoric. Bei Dao, of course, has the sure-footedness I don't think Pound ever achieved in this area. While Pound was busy mimicking an old old style (or what he took to be what an older style would sound like) ,Bei Dao neatly builds surely, delicately, all things in balance, indeed, not an idea but in the thing.

Branch roads appear and disappear
in the hands of trees.
Where did the fawns go?
Only cemeteries could assuage
this desolation, like tiny cities.


The thinking comes after the poem, for the reading to resonate with. Our fine poet here performs his art beautifully, the presentation of the perception.Here are other poems he's written,scaled back to a sparkling essence of perception,
translated by Eliot Weinberger :



June

Wind at the ear says June
June a blacklist I slipped
in time

note this way to say goodbye
the sighs within these words

note these annotations:
unending plastic flowers
on the dead left bank
the cement square extending
from writing to

now
I run from writing
as dawn is hammered out
a flag covers the sea

and loudspeakers loyal to the sea's
deep bass say June

___________________________________

Teacher's Manual

A school still in session
irritable restless but exercising restraint
I sleep beside it
my breath just reaching the next
lesson in the textbook: how to fly

when the arrogance of strangers
sends down March snow
a tree takes root in the sky
a pen to paper breaks the siege
the river declines the bridge invites

the moon takes the bait
turning the familiar corner
of the stairs, pollen and viruses
damage my lungs damage
an alarm clock

to be let out of school is a revolution
kids jump over the railings of light
and turn to the underground
other parents and I
watch the stars rise