Sun Lei “going out”



Preparing for a summer trip to China.  June-July in Shanghai-Beijing. After years of living in cool summer Seattle, the prospect a bit on the daunting side. Somehow, the exercise of translating Sun Lei’s poem (and pairing it with his painting “Purple Boat”) eases concern with just how hot it will be.



“Tendency” 取向

Going out. Summer

Facing this congealing wave of heat


It often becomes some kind of observer

Not far off, it staring down at virtually everyone

and the rain it expels is supple

wiping out half the sky


But an evening rain is in fact a kind of brutality

Sending main thoroughfares careening

down to lower ground


Going for a walk in summer

Is to go out looking for love. To go out in protest.

To go out and twist up this life.


At least, its to go out and lay claim to a slip of shade

Gingerly heading home along the tree shadows

Along roads many times obscured


And the few stones that comprise resistance

Give me a deep impression


They are lazily arranged there

and they are absolutely quiet

Cooling my own high self-esteem down a bit






























Mang Ke, painting and a poem

Here again working on poetry-art intersections. One interesting case in point, I think, the Chinese poet Mang Ke, one of founding members of Jintian 今天 (Today) poetry journal, and otherwise major forces in the opening up of poetic and other artistic expression in the 1970s and 1980s. Since around the year 2000, though, Mang Ke has been turning his attention more and more to oil painting, principally landscapes. For a poet towards the end of his career, particularly a career as distinguished as Mang Ke’s is, to suddenly pick up visual art is in itself an unusual event. His own explanation, in typically self-deprecatory fashion, is to suggest that he needed money to support his family, and paintings are more lucrative cultural objects than poems. Perhaps so, but one cannot detract from the rather extraordinary progress he’s made in the realm of painting in a very short space of time. Below an untitled work from 2012


Mang Ke, 2012, oil on canvas, no title, 800mm x 800mm

This I pair with “A Poem Presented to October”, here in translation by Gordon T. Osing and De-An Wu Swihart. The poem in context of painting is, to quote Octavio Paz something like translation, replete with “shadows and echoes”

1. The Crops
Quietly the Autumn fills my face;
I am the wiser.

2. Working
I want to be with the horses and carriages
pulling the sun into the wheat fields . . .

3. The Fruit
What lovely children,
what lovely eyes;
the sun himself is like a red apple,
beneath it the countless fantasies of children.

4. The Forest in Autumn
Nothing of your glance is here.
no sound of yours,
just a red scarf fallen by the way . . .

5. The Earth
All my feelings
have been baked by the sun.

6. Dawn
I wish you and I with one heart
could sweep away the darkness down the road.

7. The Sailboat
When that time comes
I will come back with the storm.

8. Sincerely Yours
I bring one rose-red petal of sunlight
and dedicate it to love.

XI CHUAN with PAUL MANFREDI at Seattle Public Central Library

Start: 01/09/2012 7:00 pm

Co-presented with the WASHINGTON CENTER FOR THE BOOK AT THE SEATTLE PUBLIC LIBRARY. A welcome Seattle return is made this evening by one of the foremost poets at work in China today, Xi Chuan. He read with Zhou Zan this past September at the Seattle Asian Art Museum as part of a U.S. tour for an anthology of contemporary Chinese poetry, Push Open the Window (Copper Canyon Press). Later in spring 2012, New Directions will publish the first major collection of his to appear in English, Notes on the Mosquito: Selected Poems, translated by Lucas Klein. A chapbook which would include some of this work, Yours Truly & Other Poems (Tinfish), may be on hand for this evening. “In 1988, when he was twenty-five, Xi Chuan and some friends launched an unofficial literary journal, Tendency. At the time he was translating Ezra Pound and Tomas Tranströmer, Czeslaw Milosz and Jorge Luise Borges, and his own writing suggests a corresponding sophistication and aesthetic range.” – Robert Hass, The Believer. Xi Chuan lives in Beijing, where he teaches classical Chinese literature at the Central Academy of Fine Arts. His awards include the Modern Chinese Poetry Award, the Lu Xun Prize, and the Zhuang Zhongwen Prize for Literature. With Xi Chuan this evening will be Pacific Lutheran University professor Paul Manfredi. This should be thoroughly engaging, as those who attended his September reading can attest. Free admission is on a first-come, first-serve basis. The Seattle Public Central Library is at 1000 Fourth Avenue (between Madison and Spring). For more information, please call Elliott Bay at (206) 624-6600, The Seattle Public Library at (206) 386-4636, or see


ISBN-13: 9781556593307
Availability: On Our Shelves Now
Published: Copper Canyon Press, 8/2011


ISBN-13: 9780811219877
Availability: Special Order – Subject to Availability
Published: New Directions Publishing Corporation, 4/2012

Seattle Public Central Library
1000 Fourth Avenue

, Washington98104United States