Monday, April 01, 2013

Unlikely Duck as a metaphor

Some of us just don't fit in! 

We can either fight it, or go with the flow. It was Bei Dao's fortune that he was out of China reading his poems in Europe at the time of Tienanmen Square. He couldn't go back for many years, was separated from wife and child for seven years and, in the end, the marriage did not endure. During the Cultural Revolution he worked as a concrete mixer for five years and then was a blacksmith for six years more. "In truth, I am not quite confident about my writing when I look back. It reminds me of those days of blacksmithing, when I was frustrated by the iron works I had made. I realize that a poet and a blacksmith are much alike, both of them chase after a perfect dream that is unrealizable. I once, in an early poem, wrote the lines: "freedom is nothing but the distance/between the hunter and the hunted." It is the predicament, as well, of writing poetry: when you are hunting poetry, it turns out that you are hunted by poetry. In this sense, you are both hunter and hunted, but poetry is the distance like freedom." (The Rose of Time, page xii)

S and I have been reading history, recently about the reign of Henry VII of England, General Stilwell in China, and George Eliot in nineteenth Century London. Where I am with George E. she will soon start writing fiction. She has already shown herself to be smarter than almost anybody and learns new languages just so she can translate stuff. I am waiting until I finish this book to decide which of her novels I will read next. I've avoided them for years after high school exposure to Silas Marner, which was too deep for me, and then being cross with Casaubon in the TV series.  And the plot of The Mill on the Floss sounded utterly silly to me. (It still does, sort of--might be a while until I get there, but I WILL get there!) I might be almost grown up now in my 77th year; it's just a matter of making a choice.

Here is Bei Dao on this topic:


hostile dew in a uprising of plum blossoms
guards the darkness etched by the noon sword
a revolution begins the following morning
the bitterness of the widows cuts through the tundra like a pack of wolves

on account of the prophecies the ancestors are moving backward
into that river of the furious debates of faith and desire 
that never end, only a hermit swirl
learns another silence of meditation

go up to see the sunset of kingship
when civiilization and flute songs flost off in an empty valley
the seasons stand up in the ruins
fruits climb over the walls to chase tomorrow

Bei Dao from The Rose of Time; new & selected poems, p. 271.

Looking for something else tonight I found this old blog post with a passage I truly loved from Planet of the Blind. Click on the link and read it right now! I have to admit that making a blog has meant that I can rediscover what I discovered before. Come with me! And then rest well! Good Night.

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