Image credit: Sufyan Jalal, from Withering Exhibition

View Artwork Credits
View full size

South    North

Living in the North    prickled with mountains

As well as many spacious places

I am actually more used to surveying tiny things

With my stocky, compact body

In a lower place    in various valleys and dales

 

Those more minute than I are mole crickets, ants and some rats

That crisscross the humble underground

Producing sounds penetrating into another world

Those more calm yet timid than I are wild beasts

That egress and ingress the mountain woods

Chased by poachers    and on a moonless windy night

Get lost occasionally in the wilderness

 

There are times when I scale the mountains    look high up

Stray in the wilderness    just like a wind

And look afar into the place where mists rise

Nevertheless I will not think highly of this universe

Nor will I get totally immersed in bewilderment

 

Staying in the North all year    I witness eye-openers everywhere

When the North-loving migrant birds return again

They bring tidings of the South    where

Heavy rainstorms have caused disastrous floods this summer

And many people have perished in the horrid heat

 

My valleys and I    even the entire North

Can’t help falling into prolonged quietude

Thinking of many inherently low Southern places

Our hearts mourning    start to plummet heavily

Towards the South

 

And like a bird whose heart ruptures abruptly

Or a never-weighted steelyard weight

Are descending from the celestial arc

Speedily

 

 

Balloon and Emptiness

Earth is like an unexpected balloon

With a solid inside    and an empty outside

Floating in the endless emptiness

 

Earth wafting in the boundless emptiness like a balloon

With a heavy head    heavy wings    and a heavy heart

Has so easily bumped a plane down

And smashed an eagle like blowing off dust

And even tossed an inadvertently toppled hill

Into the ocean like dumping trash

And thereby returned the emptiness

They once occupied pointlessly

To the infinite hollowness

Which only the universe can match

 

Therefore rendering Earth wafting like a balloon

In the limitless emptiness

A shape as sensitive yet solid as a heart

And the truth of the entire emptiness

Verifiable by a balloon

Harder to rupture than a heart yet explodable

By excessive internal emptiness

 

 

I Have Captured Another Monster

In these mountains    the tigers have all perished

Even the stealthily prowling wolves have vanished

The legendary old black bear eating devils instead of men

With its gall removed by an indomitable hunter

Shuddering with a whole lot of uncontrollable fat

Has fallen to his death    

Rolling down the mountain like a giant ball

 

Afterwards a man clambers up the mountain range

To capture monsters    runs up and down for ages

And lives in the darkness of strata and the chasms of giant boulders

Like a savage    and also a deity of the mountains

Whilst the legendary monsters are mysteriously latent

For many years    this monster hunter

Exhausts his wits in vain

 

One day this monster catcher    indefatigable and unflinching

Came to the city like a monster at high noon

Emanating the foul smell of a monster    I had encountered only once

Looking at his monstrous appearance    I felt somewhat embarrassed

“I have captured another monster!”

The words I had been thinking for so long

Could not be uttered in the end

 

 

Horse

You are the one

Born in an era with no one riding horseback

Destined to be solitary for a lifetime

 

Foreordained to be a wild horse    racing around

Indifferent to meadows    with no purpose

Running until you cannot run any more

 

One with talents but not values    starving

Galloping    hunkering down

Indolent and free in the wilderness

 

One watches wildflowers

Too tired even

To take more bites of grass

 

You are the one

Becoming an old steed

Miserably kithless and kinless    boney nag

You still cannot stop

Still run over and over and over

Ceaselessly

 

A wild horse like you

Has the destiny of a horse

 

A horse’s kismet 



Original ↓

南方    北方

生活在北方    有许多高山

也有许多空旷的地方

我其实更习惯于在低处    在不同的山谷里

用我身体的细小和结实

丈量那些小事物

 

比我更细小的是蝼蚁和一些鼠辈

它们在卑微的地底下出入

发出通向另一世界的响动

比我更从容也更胆怯的是野兽

它们在山林里出入    被盗猎者追赶

月黑风高    偶尔也在旷野里迷失

 

我也有上山的时候    向高处仰望的时候

也会像风一样

迷失在旷野里    眺望远方至迷雾升起处

但我并不会高看这个世界

也不会让自己陷入迷惘而不能自拔

 

长年待在北方    满目都是让人长见识的事情

当那些喜欢北方的候鸟再一次归来

带回南方的消息    那里

今年夏天暴雨成灾

热浪中死了很多人

 

我和我的山谷    甚至整个北方

禁不住陷入了长久的沉默

想到那里很多地方生来就很低

沉痛的心    便重重地向着南方

开始下坠

 

仿佛一只心脏突然裂开的鸟

像没有称重的秤砣

从天空快速地往下降落

 

 

气球与空虚

地球就像一只令人出其不意的气球

里面是实的    外面是空的

在无边无际的空虚里飘荡着

 

在无边无际的空虚里飘荡着的气球一样的地球

它的头是重的    它的翅膀是重的    心也是重的

不费吹灰之力就碰落了一架飞机

碰碎了一只老鹰

甚至将不慎撞倒的一座山扔垃圾一样扔进了大海

从而把它们不得要领占领过的空虚

重又还给了无边无际    只有宇宙才配得上的空虚

 

从而使气球一样在无边无际的空虚中飘荡的地球

有了心脏一般既敏感又敦实的形状

和比心脏还要难以憋破的

但却能被空虚所憋破的气球所验证出的

全部空虚的真理

 

 

我又捕捉了一个怪物 

这一带的山上    老虎早已死光了

鬼鬼祟祟的狼也已消失多年

传说中吃鬼但不吃人的老黑熊

在被不屈的猎人取走了黑熊胆以后

抱着一大团失控的肥肉瑟瑟发抖

像一个巨球一样滚入山中摔死了

 

之后这个人来到山上

捕捉怪物    很多年中他四处奔走

居住在地层和巨石裂开的暗处

像个野人    也像个山神

传说中的怪物一个个秘而不显

很多年中    这个捕捉怪物的人

费尽心机却一无所获

 

这个捕捉怪物的人    不屈不挠的人

有天正午曾像一个怪物一样来到城里

浑身散发着怪物的骚味    与我有过一面之交

看着他的怪物模样    我有点尴尬

“我又捕捉了一个怪物!”想了很久的这句话

我临到终了也无法出口

 

 

你这个人

生在人已不再骑马的年代

命里注定要孤独一生

 

命里注定是一匹野马    到处跑

对草原不以为然

没有什么目的的野马

一直要到跑不动的时候

才会停下来

 

一匹有才无德的马    饿马

爱跑的马    喜欢懒散而自由地

卧在野地里

 

看野花的马

累得要死

连草都不想多吃几口的马

 

你这个人    你老了的时候

成了一匹老马的时候

孤苦伶仃    皮包骨头的马啊

依旧停不下来

依旧是跑啊跑啊

跑个不停

 

你这匹野马

就是马的命

 

马的命

Translator's Note

Yan An’s poems are highly experimental, unconventional, and unique according to the standards and traditions of Chinese culture, in terms of their aesthetic value, contents, and philosophical denotations. As a pioneer in modern westernized Chinese poetry, Yan An has completely transformed Chinese readers’ concepts and understanding of poetry through his unique viewpoint. Fitting his rather unconventional way of thinking, his poems do not typically contain any of the Chinese elements traditionally and commonly depicted by other Chinese poets, such as Chinese cultures, traditions, vernacular language, Chinese-style objects, architecture and scenery, and when they do, they are addressed from unique perspectives. For example, in these four poems of his, only one Chinese object, a steelyard weight, is exploited to depict the speed of the falling hearts, which in turn depicts the intensity of mournful hearts. Therefore, his poems can transcend the boundaries of nations and cultures, reaching a wider audience across the world. A story lies within each poem and behind Yan An’s boundless imagination, along with his sentiments and views on life, people, society, and the universe. 

His language is intense and abstract. Like his other poems, these poems are rich in literary devices, such as similes, metaphors, personifications and parallelisms. These literary devices have well served their purpose in the Chinese versions. Nevertheless, in their English versions, some transcreation techniques have to be exploited to retain the same or similar effect. For example, we have used addition, omission, translocation (a technique of relocating one word, phrase or even sentence from one line to another line), and a few other techniques, to make the translation succinct, readable, iambic, and/or poetic.

All in all, we have attempted to bring something new and foreign into English in order to enrich the language, to help English poets and readers unleash their creativity and imagination, and to begin to bridge American and Chinese ways of thinking and cultures. Also, we have endeavored to create some novel transcreation techniques to help with any future translations of Yan An’s poems. For example, the technique of changing from one part of speech to another is used in some lines of the four poems to make the translation more coherent and logical.


Chen Du
Xisheng Chen

×

In the Classroom

×