Bridge to Global Literature

Let’s all remember that more and more poetry gets lost without earnest attempts at translation.Read poetry here to get a glimpse of the rhythms and resonances of languages you don’t know.

Lin Bai

Mar 20, 2021 | Front And Center, Poetry | 0 comments

Translated from the Chinese by David Haysom
Split Spring

Translator’s Note: “Split Spring” is a literal translation of 春分 chunfen (Spring Equinox), the fourth of the twenty-four
solar terms

This spring has truly been split in two.
One half in the old year,
The other
On this side of the mask.

How I long to sing about the flowers of before,
The rapeseed flower, most of all.
I wish I could gather the rapeseed
At Hubei’s Mulan Lake.
Though the golden yellow
Is retreating fast.

Skin and flesh turn to dust.
Spring Equinox is still three days away,
But the Lunar year has sharpened the blade
And it has left its mark on me.

(Afternoon, March 17th, 2020)

Apple

This apple on the table is the last one.
Never have I formed such a bond with an apple,
From January, through February,
To March Twentieth.

The faint fragrance consoles me
This is a collapse I can comprehend.
At a distance that fluctuates
You open a polychromatic fist
And I see poetry
In the browning core.

Your colours enrapture me.
Pale yellow, turmeric gold, orange,
A juice that contains all of creation,
And jolts me beyond myself.

I think, surreally, of Cézanne,
His apples and dish.
So loud, those colours,
And such a muted reply.

I cannot help thinking
Of Rilke’s letter on Cézanne:
The interior quivers,
It rises and it falls.
How difficult it is to get close to the facts.

(March 20th, 2020: Spring Equinox. The final three lines are a quotation from Rilke.)

Silent

But not completely silent.
The line is long,
More than three thousand people.
This must be one section.

A metre gap between each of them,
Heads all bowed, playing with phones.
Even the sound from a phone
Would not break the silence.

The ashes are silent,
and silent are their palpitations.

On the road to a casket
There are no ordinary sounds.

(March 26th, 2020. Written in response to a photo of a line of people queuing outside the Hankou mortuary to
collect cremated remains. Two days later, I heard from a friend that this mortuary is a mere two hundred metres
away from Hehuayuan, where I live.)

Republished with permission from Read Paper Republic https://paper-republic.org/pubs/read/split-spring/

 

Lin Bai

Lin Bai

Lin Bai was born in Guangxi Province in 1958 and graduated in library sciences at Wuhan University. She worked as a librarian, a reader for a state film studio and a newspaper journalist, before beginning to write full-time. She has nine novels, as well as novellas, short stories, essays, and collections of poetry to her credit. In 1998, Lin Bai won the first Chinese Women’s Prize for Fiction. She was named “Novelist of the Year” by the Chinese Literature Media Prize in 2004 for the novel, The Words of Village Wives.

David Haysom

David Haysom

Dave Haysom is a literary translator and editor who has been living in Beijing since 2007. He first started publishing translations online at spittingdog.net in 2012. In 2014 he became joint managing editor of Pathlight, a quarterly journal of Chinese literature in translation, and in 2015 he helped launch “Read Paper Republic”, a year-long initiative to publish one translation online every week. He has also written articles and essays on contemporary Chinese literature for publications such as Words Without Borders and China Dialogue.

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