Poetry written in both Chinese and English by author.
Posted April 14, 2016
Art of Man and Woman
surplus tenderness between the two sexes.
The only commodities available are
life necessities, including
and swollen lungs--
a syndrome of speechlessness.
As breathing thickens,
Day yields a wet dream.
We perform the residue of pleasure
on each other’s body
God created the penis
to penetrate moldy truth.
Man sharpens the kitchen knife
and flies in his longjohns.
Woman grinds her makeup into powder,
dedicated to coughing as she does.
The feeling is as unspeakable
as an aphrodisiac.
That weekend my friends and I gathered.
Xiaomai sighed as she usually does.
My punk friend was a little stoned,
he even forgot to say his Fuck.
I read too much news during work,
But I didn’t know what to say.
At the table next to us,
a group of people were eating and drinking,
drowning our conversation.
We side-eyed them,
Chinese steely stomach can digest the heaviest cloud.
Outside, neon lights blinked the crawling night.
To kill the silence, my friend proposed a toast.
Well, to Tianjin then.
In our impotence,
we swallowed our beer,
knowing our anger would, like truth,
like a hangover.
In the end we left early,
I returned home, and wrote a poem
that doesn’t sound like a poem.
Chen Bo (陈波)
Responses written in Chinese and English by Steve. 答案都由陈波亲自写。
1. Why did you choose to share these two poems with the international world?
I hoped these China-specific topics could be realized by international readers, and for myself, I just hoped for my poetry to reach an international audience.
2. What's your background as a writer? As a non-writer?
I studied English literature at Beijing University, where I joined a lovely poetry club. In 2014 I worked in a hu*ma*n ri*ghts NGO in Dublin, and started writing in English. I also write short stories and critiques. In my life, I try to care more about political affairs here, which is not always easy.
3. What do you do in Beijing? [Answer as you wish.]
I did consultation in public policy. Now I am considering working in NGOs, however the environment for that kind of work is getting increasingly difficult. I also do freelance translation.我做过公共政策咨询。目前在考虑做非政府组织的工作，虽然眼下大环境并不好。我也做自由职业，主要是翻译。
4. What do you make of the state of poetry in China today?
It’s diverse and burgeoning, with quite a few original and experimental poets who merit more acknowledgement than they’ve received. That said, the quality of China’s poetry output is mixed. Also it is polemical as to what constitutes poetry or modern poetry. Besides the Intellectual and the Grassroot (Minjian) division in the center of the arena, China’s poetry society also faces the historic legacy of abused politic discourse, or a de-political discourse, which tends to be the case for younger poets; poetry can sometimes function as a personal sentiment lifejacket, which can contribute to people’s interest in poetry, as well detract from it.
5. What do you think of the Beijing's Chinese literary scene? Beijing's foreign/international literary scene? (Do you perceive these scenes to exist, and if so, how?)
I would say Beijing continues to be a haven for poetry. The Chinese scene is big, despite the sad fact there are probably more writers than readers. The English community is pretty active, and occasionally we have voices from Asia and Africa.
6. What's most inspiring about Beijing?
Its diversity and dynamics. On a side note, its political myth as the capital of power is sort of fantasy-provoking.
7. What about the Chinese language makes it unique when writing poetry?
It’s hard to define, but it is definitely there in the air. I think the feel of a language is cultivated, like that of a certain food. The Chinese language is unique enough with its immediate tones, its elusiveness of meaning (thanks to its sparser syntactic structure and overloaded historical connotations), etc. Possibly because of that, I find Chinese language less analytic, allowing for greater flexibility in terms of imagistic creativity and it can somehow result in a wilder style.
8. How does it differ from writing poetry in English?
I guess with English, you can rely more on the form (in a broader sense), as something to play with. With Chinese, besides its different texture, a poet often has to deal with the sheer amount of its historical references and intertextuality (some poets manage this by dismissing them).
9. What challenges do you face in expressing yourself in poetry in English? In translating into English?
Vocabulary is a disadvantage, so is cultural background. As to translation, actually I find translating into English not as difficult as translating into Chinese sometimes.
10. What do you want to tell readers of this interview [which are mostly 25-35 year-old educated Chinese Youth and Westerners with an interest in China's art scene]?
I believe poetry has potential to break down boundaries, physical or metaphysical, and more mutual familiarity from either side of the Chinese-Western divide would be good.