The Changing Room by Zhai Yongming

changingroomThe Changing Room by Zhai Yongming (翟 永明)

Zephyr Press, 2011

I have been dabbling with Chinese characters for almost 40 years since my days living in South Korea. Later, when I lived in Singapore and worked extensively in China, I studied Mandarin, and off and on I have continued to dabble. I study, I learn, I forget, I begin again. So I can’t say that I got a whole lot out of the Chinese poems in this bi-lingual edition of poems by Zhai Yongming other than a thrill when I could make out a whole line here and there.

But you don’t need to read Chinese to enjoy this collection because the English translations by Andrea Lingenfelter really sing.

From “Fourteen Plainsongs”:

So when we speak of poetry     we no longer waver:
–it’s like stirring ice cubes
it’s like pairs of cymbals crashing into each other’s faces
Wounded     suffering like glass–
words, fair faces, and love at an impasse

I tend to think of Tang Dynasty classics when I think of Chinese poetry, but this is modern work, representing China today.

For more about the poet, see Zhai Yongming

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