Friday, October 10, 2014

With Stomachs Rumbling

Did you hear about the Chinese poet Wang Zang who was arrested on October 1 for a Twitter post supporting the Hong Kong protests and their Umbrella Movement? (Many headlines about it have been along the lines of "Chinese poet faces jail for possession of umbrella." Read the PEN article about it here.)

Blue Umbrella by Don2G

Today, we have a poem by Hong Kong poet Leung Ping-kwan:

Leung Ping-kwan

by Leung Ping-kwan
Translated by John Minford and Chan Oi-sum 1996

As the Zhou Dynasty rebuilt the Empire
and celebrated the unity of All-Under-Heaven
courtiers were honoured, ceremonial music composed,
metals melted, vessels cast, new injunctions set in bronze, power revalidated.
The grand banquet commenced, noblemen and elders took the places of honour;
while savage fauna bubbled restlessly in the cauldron,
a sober phoenix motif replaced the gruesome mask of the Beast

Our humble bellies have ingested a surfeit of treachery
eaten their fill of history, wolfed down legends --
and still the banquet goes on, leaving
an unfilled void in an ever-changing structure.
Constantly we become food for our own consumption.
For fear of forgetting, we swallow our loved ones,
we masticate our memories and our stomachs rumble as we look outwards.

Read the rest on Leung Ping-kwan's site (look at "Archives" and search for "Cauldron")


You can find the Poetry Friday round-up at The Miss Rumphius Effect.


Linda B said...

I couldn't find the proper translation of the rest, Tabatha, & Google translate was a garbled mess. But the part you shared is interesting to connect the poem to the protests & the arrest.

Tabatha said...

Here's the rest, Linda. Sorry it was so hard to find on the site!

Creation’s aspirations are trussed,
caught tight by the luminous bronze.
In his campaign against the Chu, the southern state,
as the Emperor approached the wilderness beyond the Central Plain,
ten thousand bawled for the rustics beyond the pale,
to make their low bow of homage;
Stone and metal engraved; vessels fashioned; tintinnabulations of history.

The proclamations sit heavy on the stomach,
destroy the appetite; the table is altogether overdone.
May I abstain from the rich banquet menu,
eat my simple fare, my gruel, my wild vegetables,
cook them, share them with you? Is there a chance
your pomp and circumstance could ever change,
evolve slowly into a new motif, some new arabesque of beauty?

Doraine said...

"new injunctions set in bronze" says so much. Thanks for sharing this.

jama said...

I wish I were more historically savvy in order to grasp more fully the context of Leung's words. The metaphor of feasting and banquet is powerful ("we swallow our loved ones"). This is the second poem shared today with "tintinnabulation" in it. Maybe the translator was a Poe fan. :)

Andromeda Jazmon said...

"eaten their fill of history, wolfed down legends --
and still the banquet goes on, leaving
an unfilled void in an ever-changing structure.
Constantly we become food for our own consumption. "

wow. thanks for sharing this.

Michelle Heidenrich Barnes said...

Powerful stuff... both the poem and the history being made today. I am concerned about how it will all end, though.

Violet N. said...

I was thinking how much he says with a few well-chosen metaphors. One appreciates the power and subtlety of poetry when it's used in political comment like this. No wonder poets get arrested in repressive regimes.

Heidi Mordhorst said...

Tabatha, you broaden my horizons every single time. Thanks.

Mary Lee said...

What Heidi said. Times 10.

Bridget Magee said...

I never know what inspiring story/poem I'll find when I visit your blog, Tabatha. I'm never disappointed. Thank you for expanding my view of the world. =)