The 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