Saturday, November 15, 2008

Zang Di: Two Poems


  Revolution Canonical Poetry Series
           Zang Di (1964-) tr. Fan Jinghua
This is the joy of existence: wild fires or wild grasses.
Mutually linked up, spectacular amid secret stimulations.
Dynamos run without explanations, no part over the body having fear.
Education is everywhere: a session of self-criticism can cook
wild vegetables. And wild fruits, rotten, scatter beside wild animals,
emitting the revolutions of morality. A stir of air
will bring forth a beautiful space, and even
makes wild men lie lower than wild flowers.
So wild that nature feels ashamed. The end is an illusion.
Do you still remember how we race against time?
This is a wild pride, and mystery, you have only
One friend and a half. No good if not everlasting—
This is the joy that gloomy ones can never understand.
This unorthodox way of chewing, poetry grinds teeth on our behalf.
            For Wang Ao
            Oct. 2008


  Beautiful Mind Series

           Zang Di (1964-) tr. Fan Jinghua
This corner is yours now: no one comes from the end,
No one passes from the nearby. Behind the grove
Lies the price of mystery. Games just over, no one
Has ever thought how lovely a touchstone can be and how come
Thoughts can be harder than basic instincts. So much sweat!
Watery, unable to stand a touch. Haven’t you hoped to know
How beautifulness is trained? Deritualization means more
Ready examples. A dozen of black ants appear to console
The details of life: their crawling avoids fallen petals,
Bearing on their shoulders a peanut shell. It should not be
Difficult to extract a kind of black step from this tiny march.
I am walking toward a corner more abstract than human’s fate.
I hope to help us figuring out: if you are beautified
Out of carelessness, what would you do? If you are beautified
Before you are prepared, do we have another chance?
             Oct. 2008



  Zang Di (1964-) is perhaps the best one among the contemporary poets. He is considered to be the most representative of the so-called “academic school” (学院派), but this is perhaps an easy label. Zang has always been in the academic institution; or more precisely, he teaches in Chinese Department in Peking University, which makes him the most prominent figure to be applied such a label.
  Compared with those often-grouped with him who wrote in the wreck or light of Western High modernist masters, Zang’s language levitates between the overtly colloquial and the purely written. One of major difference between the so-called grass-root (school of) poetry (民间派literally, among the people) and the academic school, in my understanding, is the transparency of language. That is, the grass-root poetry tries a language that facilitates the poetry’s intervention in life, although the poetry may appear to be too prosaic, while at best the prosaic language may be compensated with the overall irony of the poem. The contemporary reality is usually obscured in the poetry of the academic school, or it may be said that these poets are more reflective artists who prefer to step back from reality in order to maintain a deeper perspective.
  If a poem may be expected to bring us a new perspective to view the world, its language may be expected to perform a function of mediation between the everyday reality, mundane or not, and the metaphysical idea. In this sense, Zang has done its job. While his poems appear to have transcended everyday life as perceived by the media and the grass-root poets, his poetry does not retreat into purely metaphysical meditation or language game, but can be related to the existence of the people.
  Zang has in recently two or three years written a few poem series, and the series called "series" is particularly ambitious. The two poems here are the most recent examples of his poetry. The first poem can be read as a belated response to the Cultural Revolution by the generation who was brought up in the post-Cultural Revolution era. This generation has not been persecuted during the Cultural Revolution, but familiar with those victims, therefore they could be indirect witnesses. Furthermore, the end of CR does not mean the discard of its language, and this generation is particularly sensitive to the CR language /discourse. Zang must have found that the discourse of Cultural Revolution has disturbingly taken root into the contemporary writing. In fact, the discourse of revolution has always been central to modern and contemporary literature in China from Qing Dynasty (Manchu people) when a vernacular Chinese was adopted to write a new literature, especially true in terms of poetry writing.
  This poem in particular attempts to build out of the language (discourse) of revolution a new language or discourse, which shares the absolute idealism with CR discourse. The slogans about self-criticism and the “revolutionary ideal” are smoothed out into the poem as both a reflection and a parody over poetry-writing itself.
  As to the second poem, it the word “beautified” (beautiful) is replaced with the prevailing catchword “harmony” as propagandized today in China, then the poem is a satire of the contemporary political culture.

             ZANG Di 臧棣 (1964-)


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