To begin ...

As the twentieth century fades out
the nineteenth begins
it is as if nothing happened
though those who lived it thought
that everything was happening
enough to name a world for & a time
to hold it in your hand
unlimited.......the last delusion
like the perfect mask of death

Thursday, December 9, 2010

Liu Xiaobo: from "Experiencing Death"

Translation from Chinese by Jeffrey Yang

[Liu Xiaobo, poet and literary critic, is the recipient of the 2010 Nobel Peace Prize. China has forbidden him to travel to the award ceremony, which will be held on Friday December 10 in Oslo. Earlier postings on Poems and Poetics were published on May 10, 2008 and January 1, 2010. A letter from PEN American Center “in solidarity” follows this excerpt.]

I had imagined being there beneath sunlight
with the procession of martyrs
using just the one thin bone
to uphold a true conviction
And yet, the heavenly void
will not plate the sacrificed in gold
A pack of wolves well-fed full of corpses
celebrate in the warm noon air
aflood with joy

Faraway place
I’ve exiled my life to
this place without sun
to flee the era of Christ’s birth
I cannot face the blinding vision on the cross
From a wisp of smoke to a little heap of ash
I’ve drained the drink of the martyrs, sense spring’s
about to break into the brocade-brilliance of myriad flowers

Deep in the night, empty road
I’m biking home
I stop at a cigarette stand
A car follows me, crashes over my bicycle
some enormous brutes seize me
I’m handcuffed eyes covered mouth gagged
thrown into a prison van heading nowhere

A blink, a trembling instant passes
to a flash of awareness: I’m still alive
On Central Television News
my name’s changed to “arrested black hand”
though those nameless white bones of the dead
still stand in the forgetting
I lift up high up the self-invented lie
tell everyone how I’ve experienced death
so that “black hand” becomes a hero’s medal of honor

Even if I know
death’s a mysterious unknown
being alive, there’s no way to experience death
and once dead
cannot experience death again
yet I’m still
hovering within death
a hovering in drowning
Countless nights behind iron-barred windows
and the graves beneath starlight
have exposed my nightmares

Besides a lie
I own nothing



Dear Friends,

Help us celebrate Liu Xiaobo and the Nobel Peace Prize: please read and listen to Liu's words below, and forward this message to 10 of your friends by using the link at the end of this e-mail.

By keeping Liu Xiaobo behind bars, and by preventing his wife and brothers from traveling to Oslo to accept the award on his behalf, the Chinese government has done its best to silence this important voice once again.

At PEN, we can think of no better way to respond, and to celebrate this momentous day, than to flood the world with clips we've compiled featuring Liu, his wife Liu Xia, and Liu's poetry and so-called "subversive" prose.

SO PLEASE: take a moment and watch the four short clips below, and read a poem by Liu Xiaobo published today in The New York Times. Then forward this message on to 10 others, asking them to do the same.

By making Liu Xiaobo's voice viral, we'll be accomplishing what the Chinese government has worked so hard to prevent: we'll be making sure that on this, his day, he is heard around the world.

Liu Xia telling the story of Chinese authorities confiscating Liu Xiaobo's work, recorded in Beijing, March 2010

• Readings by Liu Xia and Victoria Redel of the poem "Greed's Prisoner"

Liu Xiaobo on freedom of expression in China, 2006

Writers Rally for Liu Xiaobo, New York, December 31, 2010

"Words a Cell Can't Hold," translated by Jeffrey Yang

Check out for more multimedia, Liu's poetry, and continued updates on his case.

In solidarity,

Larry Siems
PEN Freedom to Write & International Programs Director


Scoremore said...

I hope so, China got it. They deserve that. But I just have a question, will America has something to be appraise in such way?

Boris said...

Freedom to write, indeed, Scoremore. But it's a bit hard to discern what you wished to express here. Did China get the lie they deserve? Does America itself still produce poetry of note? The answer to the former is: of course not, no people should be disenfranchised by poetry. The answer to the latter is just: of course.