Anthology's Rich Assortment Has 'Spiritual Fragrance' In Chinese, Then English

Tom Chandler

        Yidan Han is the founder and editor of poetrysky.com, a Web site dedicated to the cultural cross-pollination of American and Chinese poetry. She also edits the bilingual quarterly journal, Poetry Sky. Born in China, she has lived in Providence for five years now, and is the author of two books of her own poems, as well as a Chinese Dictionary of Rhetoric and other academic books on classical Chinese poetry.

        Poetrysky.com is the first bilingual poetry Web site in the world to publish both English and Chinese contemporary poetry and their translations. As Yidan says: "Most poets stand at a point of intersection from which they send out their unique voices. New visions, new ways of thinking inspired me while I was editing the anthology. The spiritual fragrance of poetry is timeless."

        It was only natural that she would arrive at the idea of publishing The PoetrySky Anthology of Contemporary Chinese Poetry, 2005-2006. Although online literary journals have become quite popular, people still prefer reading actual books rather than sitting in front of a computer.

        All of the poets represented in the anthology were born in the 20th century, some as recently as the 1970s. They are all native Chinese, whether from mainland China, Taiwan, England, The U.S., Singapore, or the Philippines. As might be expected, their styles range from lyrical to surreal to experimental.

        The Chinese mind strikes me as inherently poetic, even when expressed in the form of conventional prose. By way of example, here are a few sentences from the anthology's foreword: "If time were bubbles, some poets would dance on the bubbles, some may look at the bubbles and tell you their temperature, and still others would destroy the bubbles and disappear with them."

        I've picked two poems from the anthology's rich assortment, "A Heart for Home" by Yun He, who has been poetry editor of the World News in the Philippines for 30 years, and "Drinking with an Empty Glass," one of Yidan's own pieces. You can buy a copy of The Poetry Sky Anthology by going to poetrysky.com/bookstore.html. Hands across the water!

        A Heart for Home

        Why does flight limit itself to looking down
        Clouds will melt into rain or dew
        Falling, sprinkling, seeping into every inch of earth

        The path awaits footsteps not seen for ages, the stone house
        Leaving mottles for whom to see?
        The cock's crowing hails the morning light; sparrows' chirping weighs branches down
        A dog's barking betrays local accent
        When kitchen smoke circles twilight
        Mountains move back, leaving the sun setting
        Thus the person awaiting
        Is transfixed, a tree
        As if in an embrace
        Spreading out, towards heaven, a thousand hands.

         Yun He (translated by Shirley Lua)

        Drinking with an Empty Glass

        Far away,
        I look at an empty glass.

        My fingers
        linger around
        the edge of the glass
        as if lingering around
        a long, wandering coastline.

        Once there was wine,
        there was a claret sea.
        Waves surging.

        The sea was in front of us.
        Graves behind.
        Lilies blooming ardently,
        a fleeting summer.

        Now
        The glass is filled with sea water.
        Autumn is coming
        to an end.

         Yidan Han (translated by Yidan Han)

        Source: Providence Journal (December 9, 2007)

Tom Chandler is the Poet Laureate Emeritus of Rhode Island. He is the author of five books of poems, including the latest Toy Firing Squad (2008). He is a professor of creative writing at Bryant University.

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