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In October 2007 and June 2008 I took part in the first Chinese/English Yellow Mountain Poetry Festival in Anhui Province, China and the UK. Here are some photos:
POET TO POET TRANSLATIONS, CHINA
These translations are from The Treekeeper's Tale (Seren, 2008)
From Lee Valley Poems
I wake when the wild goose calls, a cry
thousands of miles away, piercing
The river turns. A parched child
thinks of a glass's inky rim
and wingtips sunk in cold crystal.
Night’s hourglass anchors my house to the street.
After rain, tyres tear long bandages from the road.
I hear the boats in my body
jostling against each other, their keels fused.
When the wild goose cries, the city stuck to my eardrum
flies elsewhere, a geography light as a wreck.
Water tells nothing.
The river turns. Wind rasps the hulls.
Rats love climbing the davit struts.
Rust sticks in my throat like a fish-bone.
Moonlight casts a lunar arc, painting a corpse's face,
quiet as a wooden womb thrown on the bank,
just by the lapping water, the gravel,
just by the rudder which has escaped all bearings among the stars,
the oars drawn in like tired questions
bound in a stranglehold around the axle.
Water tells nothing, but
on the water-surface the marina’s glaze is fire-painted.
The clock ticks backwards –
what can a boat cradled by air remember
except water’s embroidery,
except to be a bell, ringing to delete
my coiled ear, the ceaseless migrations.
But earth stalls.
The light-years woven around its nest
no longer know who sails on what river.
Water sinters into shatterproof porcelain
long broken, fissioning every night,
shattering my past, which so loves to invent.
Water tells nothing, therefore
in my abandoned boat, I can’t raise the periscope
to peep at the sky where billions of orbits
clasp their lotus-suns. They close their corals, whisper
in a language which has no past tense, no nostalgia.
Their iron organs implode.
How long can we survive, when fish seek the poison in oxygen?
What more can we possibly find in an unblinking eye?
Dawn won’t arrive. Dawn has swum elsewhere,
its beauty cuts me to the quick.
The wild geese's cries are an underwater co-ordinate.
What corpse can continue the journey ended last night?
At the circle's centre, a text secretly watches me
draft another page.
My bed circles – floating in a ghost script
revealed then unravelled by water.
Did the wild geese really cry, or is this night too adrift
for their arched and chopped necks?
The more afraid I am to listen, the easier they’re summoned.
Their call transforms the landscape; darkness
transforms my flesh;
the city's hydromechanics splash out a branch of peach-blossom.
A hammering heartbeat still withholds the horizon.
My mind is a starry sky; my bed-edge
a starboard –
a scream locked in a raindrop, the pull of dreams
longing for each other over thousands of miles
all in the circle, driven out by what isn't yet written
only to circle back to here.
Translated from the Chinese by Pascale Petit with the author
From Jingan Village
Moonless night – the wind is high and boys practise killing.
Desire stirs in the wild wheatfield –
I can smell the drunkenness of the village.
For half a year I stare at the moon
until this twisted body of mine melts
and the spinning moon is a rusted hinge.
Everybody is drinking, having fun – no-one
notices me. At the garbage heap
I can feel an echo from the very heart of the earth.
A dusty farmer touches a fissure
in the old ebony table.
I think of legends from the great dynasties.
Tonight there'll be a lunar eclipse
and the farmer's wife will take a bath,
her eyes full of blind fear.
The veiled sky shivers and shapeshifts.
In the graveyard where ancestors lie
the baked mud walls crack open with dead eyes.
At dawn, tomb diggers will find
the coffins crawling with termites.
My body – all the bodies we are born with
decay in the dark and the light.
Translated from the Chinese by Pascale Petit