The Art of Seeing — Five Poems by Yuan Changming — in Chinese with English Translation

Nov 25, 2020

Traversing multiple geographies, actual and digital, Yuan Changming brings us five poems in Chinese, with translations in English made by the poet himself. In conjunction, these five communicate a journey from the village to the city and back, from the digital stratosphere to landscapes of our natural world, from the East to the West and vice versa, bringing together verses that ultimately shape a journey into memory while offering a pause on the sidelines of recollection.

相处:双语文化诗一首

中文里的“朋友”,“恋人”,和“爱人”
都由十二个笔画所组成,就像英文帝国
friend, couple spouse 三个单词
分别都由六个字母组成一样

虽然他们都强调人类特有的

爱与忠诚,但与后者相比
前者需要加倍的努力和心血投入
才能保持完全不同的
类似于言语行为的人道关系

Getting Along: A Bilinguacultural Poem

In Chinese, 朋友,恋人,and 爱人 are all
12-stroked characters, just as their counter-
parts friend, couple and spouse are 6-lettered
words in the imperial vocabulary of English

Though they are all underlined with human

love and loyalty, the former entails twice
as much input or effort of the heart
as the latter to maintain a disparately
similar humane relationship as a speech act

自由体十四行诗外一首:碎片化

是生                为某一并不产生疑问的事情
还是死            于其实无关紧要的特定问题
去        与直蹲在荆州城附近洪湖里的
荷叶之上的                青蛙一道歌唱
去    回顾所有的过去,并将其调和
就像一杯                                鸡尾酒一样
去                在两根折断的乾坤树枝之间
筑起  意义的鸟巢
去        争取神性
长寿                            甚至
还有幸福
去时不时地上线、下线 

去把意识压缩成一个文档, 然后将其上传
到纳米芯片上。去    过完白天,去            死。

Fragmentising: Another Free Sonnet

To be                   a matter when there’s no question
Or not to be           a question when nothing really matters
To sing                       with a frog squatting straight
On a lotus leaf in the Honghu Lake near Jingzhou
To recollect                       all the pasts, and mix them
Together like a glass of                   cocktail
To build                                  a nest of meaning
Between two broken branches on                 Ygdrasil
To strive           for deity
Longevity                       and
Even happiness
To come on and off line every other while

To compress consciousness into a file, and upload it
Onto a nanochip. To be          dying, to         die

故土游

无聊之际,我为打发时间
在平板电脑上
观赏一幅传统的国画 

因为放大了很多,看起来就像
是在一张普普通通的宣纸上
涂的墨水。我 

在盆景面前观画;在
历史的地板上粗粗摔下几笔
又在沙发后面 

留下几许精细的线条
但未能在黑白之间
抓住任何无色的角落 

这是新近搬迁到
我内心后院的景观。然后
我盘起双腿打坐,冥想着 

画中没有光线,无论什么
都没有阴影,就像在地狱一样
也没有视角。这岂不就是看的艺术?

Hometowning

Having nothing better to do, I kill
time by looking at a traditional
Chinese painting on my iPad

 Much enlarged, it appears like
a plain sheet of rice paper
smeared with ink. I view it

 In the presence of bonsai; I
drop several thick strokes to the floor
of history, leaving a few fine lines 

Behind the sofa, and failing
to catch a colorless corner
between black and white 

It is a landscape newly relocated
into my heart’s backyard. Then I sit
on my legs, meditating about there

 Being no light in the picture, no
shadow of anything, no perspective
as in hell. Isn’t this the art of seeing?

有关可塑性的思考

                              当然,我会将我的皮肤
进行无色处理,我会染发
戴上一对蓝色的隐形眼镜,我甚至
会去整容,不过,如果我真的要这么做
我向您保证,在讲这种外语时(我十九岁
才开始像青蛙一样模仿它),我不会消除
自己原有的乡下口音;我也不会
完全内化英语的语法以及
亚里士多德的逻辑。不,我向您保证,我不会
放弃看电影或电视剧,读书
听歌,虽然我讨厌它们都低俗不堪,但全都用
中文。我天生就是吃饺子
吃豆腐的,因此虽然我用英语写作, 但注定
总是喜欢讲普通话。我还向您保证,即使我新近
在科学,民主和人权的潮流中
受过洗,我会正如我的儿子们一样,与
我父亲的单倍群雷同。不管
我们怎样认同自己或被他人认同,这就是
我向您保证的:我永远都不会把我的原始自我
变成白色数据主义,不,绝不
                                     在我的微黄的心肌中有所改变

Pondering Plasticity

                                                   Sure, I would paint my skin
into a colorless color, and I would dye my hair
Wear two blue contacts, and I would even
go for plastic surgery, but if I really do
I assure you, I will not remove my native village
accent while speaking this foreign tongue (I began
to imitate like a frog at age nineteen); nor will I
completely internalize the English syntax and
Aristotelian logic. No, I assure you that I’ll not give up
watching movies or TV series, reading books,
listening to songs, each in Chinese though I hate them
for being too low and vulgar. I was born to eat dumplings,
Doufu, and thus fated to always prefer to speak Mandarin
though I write in English. I assure you that even if I am
newly baptized in the currents of science, democracy and
human rights, I will keep in line with my father’s
haplogroup just as my sons do. No matter how
we identify ourselves or are identified by others, this is
what I assure you: I will never convert my proto selfhood
into white Dataism, no, not
                                      in the yellowish muscle of my heart

初恋

远,整整绕过地球半圈
从世界的另一面
我回到久别的故土
村边的小河早已干凅
儿时的玩伴依稀不见
只有蛙鸣如旧
往事如烟

听说你嫁到外乡
不知你男人是谁
也不知你是否儿女双全
又听说你几年前病故
送殡时也许有哭声震天
祭奠者与我却一无关联

是的,因为我早已先你而亡
那是大约两代人之前
在一个不眠的秋夜
我悄悄把心葬在你家后院
那颗楝树虽已不在
我们相拥的身影
仿佛还在树下时聚时散

First Love

Afar, far from the other side of this world
I return to my native place for the first time
The riverlet through the village has dried up
Childhood playmates are rarely seen
Except frogs singing aloud as before

I heard that you were married to an unknown stranger
I don't know who he was, nor am I aware
If ever you had one or two children
Also, I heard you died a few years ago
There must have been many cries over your loss
But none of them had anything to do with me

Definitely not, for I had already died before you
That was almost two generations ago
On a sleepless autumn night
I quietly buried my heart in your backyard
right under that banyan tree. Though it is no longer
there, our muted laughters left a deep impression
on the field as if still echoing against the stump

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About the Contributor

Yuan Changming grew up in a remote village, started to learn the English alphabet in Shanghai at age 19 and published monographs on translation before leaving China. With a Canadian PhD in English, Yuan currently lives in Vancouver, where he has worked as a tutor, translator and publisher. Credits include ten Pushcart nominations, Best of the Best Canadian Poetry: Tenth Anniversary Edition, Best New Poems Online and publications in more than 1700 literary outlets across 46 countries.

Knowledge is like Teher.
A handful of cooked rice
a humble offering
to ward off the grief
from an entire century.
Whosoever receives Teher
does so with blessings
and well wishes.
Today the T in Teher
is the T in Taaleem
just as the K in Kashmir
is the K in your name.
From Teōtīhuacān to Tral
we make a humble offering.

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