Asia Literary Review — Let’s have some flora in the poems

There are some wonderful poems in the Winter 2010 issue of Asia Literary Review (this is their “China’ issue) and it is interesting to see that many of them feature flora imagery.1 

  • Landscape Above Zero | Bei Dao | “It was the pen that bloomed in despair / It was the flower that refused the necessary journey”
  • Tonight We Sow | Duo Duo | “Tulips, last days and the ferrying / and bed after bed piled up with seed, nourishes lovers.”
  • Snow Without Subject (2)Yang Lian | “Flowers meticulously etched on a bowl by a dead bird – / drinking from the bright red stream at the picnic.”
  • A Few Memories | Shu Ting | “… pressed down / A lost red mountain flower / Eucalyptus trees turn”
  • The Future | Bai Hua | “Birds, beasts, flowers, wood, spring, summer, autumn, winter – / all are surprised by this crazy little man.”
  • In the Mirror | Zhang Zao | “As long as there are thoughts that bring regret / plum blossoms fall” 
  • Wild Temple | Chen Dongdong | “An old monk | Acrid pines”
  • PhoenixZheng Danyi | “Like a basketful of pears, with soft-jade core, one // Another, for her I peel the fruits”
The issue also includes Liu Xiaobo’s poem for his wife “You Wait for Me with Dust“. There is no flora in it. No sunlight.  
1Two of the translators, Martin Alexander (who is also the poetry editor of ALR) and Shirley Lee, have previously contributed to Cha.

Poetry OutLoud poets and Cha contributors on the BBC World Service

BBC World Service – The Strand

Poets Zheng Danyi and Martin Alexander talk about “New Generation Poetry” and read Danyi’s poem “Dedication”, written in 1990.
Also, a love poem from the Chinese Nobel Peace Laureate Liu Xiaobo to his wife (“I Give Everything to You”) is newly translated by Danyi, Martin and Shirley Lee and read on the programme by Danyi (Mandarin) and Martin (English).

Listen to this particular edition of “The Strand” here (start from 20:00).

Danyi, Martin and Shirley are all Hong Kong Poetry Outloud poets.

Martin is a regular Cha contributor and Shirley’s poem “Letter to a Prominent Korean Man And to You” is published in the current issue of the journal.

UPDATE: A longer love poem by Liu Xiaobo will be included in the next issue of the Asia Literary Review, with an essay by Danyi and Martin on New Generation poetry and what’s been happening with poetry in China since the death of Mao. 


Poetry OutLoud meets on the first Wednesday of every month at 8pm in the downstairs bar of Hong Kong’s Fringe Club.
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Meet Shirley Lee

‘Potent references’ was the comment guest editor Royston Tester gave to Shirley Lee’s poem “Letter to a Prominent Korean Man And to You”, which will be published in the September 2010 issue of Cha. Royston was right: potent references indeed. Shirley’s poem is a heroic and (unfortunately) timely and necessary assertion of the right of all humans to all of our heritage. She claims Homer and Virgil for Korea, and so probably acknowledges everyone’s right to the Samguk Yusa. (qtd. Reid Mitchell).
Bio: Shirley Lee, composer and recording engineer, is currently reading for a degree in Classics and Persian at Oxford. She has read at Man Hong Kong International Literary Festival, and has had her poetry published in various journals and anthologies. She edited “A Visual Collective Biography of the Former Korean ‘Comfort Women’”, published in the summer 2008 issue of the Asia Literary Review.