Image credit: Eylul Doganay, "PMS"

Light Through a Crack

 

Looking at sunflowers beyond my window,

casting their saw-toothed shadows,

swaying to and fro.

 

My own worst crisis, those occasions when I fail

to find the right word,

to find the place for it where it’s best, exact,

where it will remain.

So many illusions, like the shadows at the window.

 

To live is to throw the dice.

All we have is language, the light cast,

making it impossible to explore every upturned face.

 

Leaning out of the window to look

beyond the sunflowers –

green boulders, giants’ eyes,

the little stream,

the chinaberry tree.

Every object a billion times older than we are,

yet somehow fresh,

as if born in the last few seconds.

 

Through a life of abrasion, the wearing down,

then to be worn down again.

Our frailty has no echo in nature, no symmetry.

Sunflowers like cracks in the world.

All these errors accumulating quietly

about my windowsill.

 

We are like a word

already written.

Our images projected

here at the window.

 

All earthly things are obscure as stone, the sole light cast,

man’s falling into language.

 

 

 

Oriole

 

Let the wildfires consume the barren wilderness

of late winter,

so the undestroyable things can emerge.

 

This is the farmer’s way

of remaking the world.

As well as the unrestrained hand of Van Gogh –

sat in ashes to paint the morning stars,

he knew only those who starve

see the constellations turn.

 

At no distance from where death is stiffening,

leaves of grass recover their elasticity.

But another thing knows only in extremes

do the fissures burst open –

the diamond cracking.

 

Swooping down, she comes, goose-yellow

and still so immature,

hardly able to steady herself in one place.

Well then, welcome, oriole,

to this sharp, this senseless world.



Original ↓

来自裂隙的光线

看窗前葵花

那齿轮状的

影子

晃来晃去

最难捱的危机莫过于

找不到一个词

把它放在

不可更改的位置上

多少假象似此影临窗

活着,是随手一掷的

骰子

我们只有语言这一束光

不可能穷尽它的八面

推窗看见比葵花

更远的

碧岩,巨眼—

小溪水、苦楝树比我们

苍老亿万倍却又鲜嫩如

上一秒刚刚诞生

活着,磨损

再磨损

我们的虚弱在自然界居然找不到

一丁点的对称

葵花状如世界之裂隙

多少谬误清静地漫积于

窗台之上

我们像一个词

被写出来了

我们的形象被投射

在此窗下

但万物暗黑如岩,只有人在

语言中的屈辱是光线

 

 

 

黄鹂 

用漫天大火焚烧

冬末的旷野

让那些毁不掉的东西出现

这是农民再造世界的经验

也是凡·高的空空妙手

他坐在余烬中画下晨星

懂得极度饥饿之时,星空才会旋转

而僵硬的死讯之侧

草木的弹性正恢复

另有一物懂得,极度饥饿之时

钻石才会出现裂隙

她才能脱身而出

她鹅黄地、无限稚嫩地扑出来了

她站不稳

哦,欢迎黄鹂来到这个

尖锐又愚蠢至极的世界

Translator's Note

Martyn came across Xianfa’s work firstly in Bloodaxe’s anthology of contemporary Chinese poetry, Jade Ladder (2012). Through taking part in the 2020 Cambridge Poetry Festival (online, of course), he discovered more of Xianfa’s poetry in being asked to present and read some of it in a translation by Nancy feng Liang (based in the US) He was subsequently contacted by Nancy who was looking for an English-language poet to work with her on bringing Xianfa’s acclaimed and prize-winning 2018 collection, Poems in Nines, to present to a Western readership. Martyn and Nancy have been working on poems from this extensive collection over the last 6 months.

So Nancy is a bridge translator in effect, Martyn working with her text and some help via on-line translation tools. Nancy communicates directly with Xianfa over cultural issues, in particular. As a poet, Martyn has been learning to trust in Xianfa’s text which moves often in leaps and bounds (seemingly illogically) but the overall effect is one of humanity, curiosity and sensitivity. These are moving poems.

Xianfa is unmistakably contemporary: he registers the modern world very vividly, yet its impact on the individual’s life and nervous-system and spiritual well-being is always his key focus. Part of that self is an awareness of the past of Chinese traditions, though he is also well read in the Western canon of poetry and philosophical thought.


Martyn Crucefix
Nancy Feng Liang

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