Day 20/30 - six four
I was reminded by a friends’s FB post that 2 days ago was June 4th. Today’s poem is in memory of that.
In university I picked up a bilingual edition of Chinese poet BeiDao’s Old Snow (1991). BeiDao was a seminal poet for that generation - and post-TianAnMen lived in exile.
This poem “Celebrating the Festival” bears a note by the translators (Bonnie McDougall & Chen Maiping) that “festival” refers to June4 as the students who occupied TianAnMen had quoted Marx to the effect that revolution is the people’s festival. This poem is an example of how powerful imagery can be - and how with simple words, a poet can conjure scenes of desolation - that even an orange in the window can be, simultaneously, both an image of hope and its false construction. He gives us imagery at a mythological scale, and then swings immediately to the other extreme of a village scene. Every line plays with your emotional lens - we encounter a kind of ancient evil, then an abstract loneliness, the promise of a rural idyll, but wait, why are the dead fields eerily smiling and what, there’s an abandoned parking lot with either a village idiot or a government posterboy - is there a difference?
(The original Chinese is in the second image. The cover of the book features a work by artist ShaoFei, BeiDao’s wife. Incidentally, the word snow 雪in Chinese is a combination of the radicals for rain and hand - makes sense huh, rain that you can hold in your hands.)