Chi Lingyun 池凌雲

In the following section dedicated to the work of Chi Lingyun 池凌雲, literary scholar Shengqing Wu 吳盛青 and translator Eleanor Goodman 顧愛玲 offer CLT readers an avenue into the lively scene of contemporary women poets. Focusing on Chi's poetry, they explore issues of the feminist consciousness, different possibilities for the expression of empathy, questions of a writer's social responsibility, and the status of a poet's relationship to language in contemporary China. Born in 1966, Chi has emerged as one of the most prominent feminist voices in poetry during the past decade. Her books include Darting Snowflakes (Feiben de xuehua 飛奔的雪花) published in 1997, One-Sided Dialogue (Yigeren de duihua 一個人的對話) in 2005, Selected Poetry of Chi Lingyun (Chi Lingyun shixuan 池凌雲詩選) in 2010, and Stealth's Gleam (Qianxing zhiguang 潛行之光) in 2013.

As a whole, Chi's work is characterized by a strong female voice and charged with lyrical emotionalism. Many of her early poems offer reflections upon and metaphorical transformations of her struggles growing up as an intelligent, inquisitive child in the restrictive environment of rural China, and then coping with the rapid changes the country has undergone in the last several decades, an experience shared by many of her generation. She also writes extensively about the experiences of other prominent female figures, from Lin Zhao 林昭 to Jacqueline du Pré, through which she delves into a collective experience of—and resistance to—the forces of seemingly predetermined fate, as well as to gender and social hegemony. Much of her literary inspiration is drawn from other great writers of the past century, especially the poets of the Silver Age of Russian literature, such as Marina Tsvetaeva and Anna Akhmatova, and, like these writers, Chi uses a deft touch to reveal "the beauty of tremendous difficulty" in life as in art. Her work draws upon personal experience and everyday life to explore often-disturbing themes of death, suffering, and assault. Yet she is also able to write about a full range of topics, and demonstrates a virtuosic ability to render everyday subject matter with an abstract and philosophical dimension. In this way, she has made great contributions to the larger artistic exploration of the ethical dimension and affective power of contemporary Chinese poetry. In her personal ethos, "Sorrow is ever / the slow walk of maturity."

According to contemporary critic Xi Du 西渡, Chi Lingyun belongs to the third wave of Chinese female poets who have come to the fore since the late 1970s. Having internalized a "consciousness of night" (a phrase coined by her contemporary Zhai Yongming 翟永明), her articulation of a feminist grounding can be more subtle and mediated than what is sometimes found in the work of her peers. Further, Chi is deeply committed to dealing with subject matter such as poverty, despair, injustice, and death, all of which carry significant social import. With these dark materials she fashions a melancholic voice, a "feeble murmur" that in the current situation in China can paradoxically be heard more clearly than a shout. She understands her own writing to be a form of "hungry writing," a concept indebted to Nietzsche, which she uses to mean a commitment to the social responsibility of writing about poverty, disasters both natural and manmade, and the plight of the less privileged. This idea is also revealing of her attitude toward language, which she considers "another skeleton of my spirit, giving me a second life." In purely artistic terms, her poetry is characterized by concrete imagery, a strong lyric voice, and the use of oxymoron and concise description. With its expressive power, language is a "dangerous light" that can combat darkness of social, historical, and existential import.

Selected Poems

By Chi Lingyun 池凌雲

Translated by Eleanor Goodman 顧愛玲 and Shengqing Wu 吳盛青

The Chrysanthemum's Question

The chrysanthemum enters the wheat field, and reaches up between the wings
of gold-plumed birds. Why does its hungry stomach

reject the real grains of wheat? The pitch-black prairie

refuses to subside. The shadows of days bearing chrysanthemums
shift about, worse than a yoke.

More chrysanthemums pace along the road.

More white-colored rites
fall from the sky. More empty earth

comes under the potter's hand. One by one, human puppets
are captured, offered up for sale.

You are all the same sort of thing.

Anonymous spasms

are also the same.

菊问

菊花进入麦地,延伸到金翅鸟的
翅膀中。不知为什么,它饥饿的胃
拒绝真实的麦粒。漆黑的旷野
拒绝下沉。背负菊花的日子,
影子的移动,比牛轭艰难。
更多菊花在路上徘徊。
更多白色的礼仪
从空中降落。更多空土
在制陶匠手中。一个个人形
被擒住,被出售。
你们有着同一种色彩。
匿名的抽搐
是同一种。

 

Cloth's Dance

Her longing is soundless

her longing covers all of longing's eyes
it shocks all those who are falling

An unstoppable descent

each soft closure

drives a woman to madly
entangle her own body in the dark

and dance in silence. An aching bird
takes off in low flight

her pain has a warm exterior

This one single refuge, an inexpressible
loneliness, adds to life's urgency—

the setting sun in her heart is transparent
and emits a mysterious radiant halo

A soundless violation is beautifully patterned
I've gazed at it for a long time, touching

her loosening pain

it lets someone completely different from me
live inside my body

But she has forgotten her fate

she hopes to encounter a thief

and be stolen. She dashes through the stillness
with a tearing sound

布的舞蹈

她的渴望无声
她的渴望覆盖了所有渴望的眼睛
让所有下降的人感到惊奇

无可阻挡的陷落
一次松软的关闭
让一个女人疯狂
在黑暗中纠缠自己的身体

安静地舞着。一只疼痛的鸟
开始低低的飞翔
她的痛苦有一副温暖的外表

这唯一的庇护,无法言说的
孤独,加重了生命的紧迫
她内心的落日是透明的
发出神秘的光晕

无声的侵害有着美丽的图案
我长久地注视,抚摸
她正在松开的伤痛
任由一个与我有着不同秉性的人
住在我的躯体中

然而,她忘记了自己的命运
她希望碰到一个窃贼
被偷走。她在寂静中飞跑
发出撕裂的声音

 

A Kind of Poetry

To discover a tree's memories is impossible.

To seek a pebble's experience
is also impossible.
We spy on water's motion

but in the end we still can't touch its core.

The cloud has always been there, we exhaust our energy
to understand its will, yet there's no hope
it will reveal the sky's mysteries.

Poetry also has the will of clouds

with words like rain, to avoid madness

it creates more madness. Just as when love

is written down, it loses half of its sincerity.
When explained, there is only a layer of sticky
mist left. No one is quick or deft enough

to capture poetry for long. Everything perfect
contains a dark cave.

I can't explain the attraction of this cave.

A kind of tranquility, which carries a greater sacrifice
undissolved by light. A kind of dizziness

from this shore to the farther shore, crossing freely.

It has enslaved every golden finger.

A wild cave, harboring minerals, ice and feathers

a few symbols, and I still don't know what it is.

一种诗艺

发现一棵树的记忆,是不可能的。
寻找一块鹅卵石的经验
也不可能。我们窥探水的运动
却始终无法触及它的核心。
云朵一直存在,我们耗费力气
理解它的意志,却无法祈望它
泄露空中的奥秘。

诗歌也有云朵的意志
言辞如雨水,为逃避疯狂
制造更多的疯狂。就像爱情
被写下,就失去一半纯真。
意义经过阐释,只留一层黏糊的
薄雾。没有人能做到眼明手快
捕获长久的诗意。一切完美
都存在一个黑洞。

我无法说清黑洞的诱惑。
一种寂静,带着更大的牺牲
不被光所溶解。一种晕眩
从此岸到彼岸,自由过渡。
所有的金手指都受过它奴役。
野性的黑洞,包藏矿物、冰块和羽毛
一些符号,我至今不知它是什么。

 

Sea Lily

As it retreats step by step into the deep sea
opening into a sea lily, the world's
loneliest flower appears on the horizon.

My path also secretly revolves.

The breeze blows over the water and the newly built towers,
lurks between the railings and inscribes its yellow mark

and spreads the sea lily's seeds.

This lithe lit gold,

the feather-light petals dance with flames.

These ancient young deaths in the ocean, the end

to which it has retreated, let it all rise from the dead.

海百合

当它一步步退到深海
开成一朵海百合,这世上
最孤独的花,现出了地平线。

我的道路也在悄悄回转。
风吹着流水也吹着新建的塔楼,
潜流在栅栏之间打上金黄的印记
送出海百合的种子。

这守护光明的柔软的黄金,
轻如羽毛的叶瓣与火焰共舞。
这古老的深海之殇,退守的
终点,让一切死而复生。

 

A Flame's Hardship

A sheep sparkles in crystal—it's very important not to run.
Inside, he softly lifts his front hoof.

So it goes year in and year out. A flame's hardship

has never pulled along a wisp of smoke. No fissures.
I am convinced that a sheep lives in the crystal.
I don't pity him. The sky

darkens with every minute.

We are already soaked through.
I tell them his heart is pure.

People haven't changed the bark and grass.

No one knows what his breath means.
Anyway, trees are pulled up tall from the earth.
A woman hovering over the craggy terrain
goes on her way alone.

一朵焰的艰难

羊在水晶里闪光,不奔跑,这多么重要。
它在里面轻轻举起一只前蹄。
常年如此。一朵焰的艰难
从不曳着一缕轻烟。没有裂缝。
我确信,一只羊住在水晶之中。
我没有感到惋惜。天空
每分钟都在变暗。
而我们早就湿透了。
我对人说,它的胸中没有一点杂物。
树皮和青草没人动过。
呼吸怎么样,没有人知道。
总之,树从地下被高高拉起。
飞翔的女人,在嶙峋的岩石上
独自走去。

 

From Chinese Literature Today Vol. 4 No. 2

Current Issue

Table of Contents

VOLUME 4, NUMBER 2

SPECIAL FEATURE: SHORT FICTION

  • 6 Introduction

  • 10 The Chrysanthemum Blade, by Ai Wei

  • 20 Our Life of Combat Is Like Poetry, by Fan Xiaoqing
  • 30 Why Don't I Have a Mistress?, by Dong Xi

  • 44 The Hospital, by Li Shijiang

FEATURED POET: CHI LINGYUN

FEATURED SCHOLAR: WOLFGANG KUBIN

IN EVERY ISSUE

  • 3 Editor's Note
  • 4 Contributors

  • 86 Chinese Literature in Review
  • 96 Pacific Bridge

THIS ISSUE'S ART

  • On the Cover: Can You Hear Me?

  • On Page 5: I Don't Give A Damn

  • On the Back Cover: I Can Hear You
  • 
Images from 2010 Communication Triptych by Sonya Fu www.sonyafu.com
  • On this Page: Travel images by Jonathan Stalling

BOOK REVIEWS

  • Wang Yuan, Beijing Women: Stories
    Irina's Hat: New Short Stories from China, ed. John Stenberg
  • Yu Xiang, I Can Almost See the Clouds of Dust
    The Pearl Jacket and Other Stories: Flash Fiction from Contemporary China
  • Zhang Daye, The World of a Tiny Insect: A Memoir of the Taiping Rebellion and its Aftermath
  • Lo Fu, Stone Cell

Get the digital edition at www.zinio.com