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Overview

New poetry by the internationally acclaimed Chinese poet-in-exile.

Bei Dao, the internationally acclaimed Chinese poet, has been the poetic conscience of the dissident movements in his country for over twenty years. He has been in exile since the Tiananmen Square massacre of 1989. Unlock presents forty-nine new poems written in the United States, and may well be Bei Dao's most powerful work to date. Complex, full of startling and sometimes surreal imagery, sudden transitions, ...

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Overview

New poetry by the internationally acclaimed Chinese poet-in-exile.

Bei Dao, the internationally acclaimed Chinese poet, has been the poetic conscience of the dissident movements in his country for over twenty years. He has been in exile since the Tiananmen Square massacre of 1989. Unlock presents forty-nine new poems written in the United States, and may well be Bei Dao's most powerful work to date. Complex, full of startling and sometimes surreal imagery, sudden transitions, and oblique political references, and often embedding bits of bureaucratic speech and unexpected slang, his poetry has been compared to that of Paul Celan and Cesar Vallejo: poets who invented a new poetry and a new language in the attempt to speak of the enormity of their times. The sixth book of Bei Dao's work published by New Directions, Unlock has been translated by Eliot Weinberger, the distinguished essayist and critically acclaimed translator of Octavio Paz and Jorge Luis Borges, in collaboration with the historian Iona Man-Cheong and the poet himself.

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Editorial Reviews

Amy DiBello
The impeccably constructed verses eventually yield a universe of intricate wonders populated with dazzling metaphors and shattering symbolism.
Weekly Alibi
Amy DiBello
The impeccably constructed verses eventually yield a universe of intricate wonders populated with dazzling metaphors and shattering symbolism. —Weekly Alibi
Andrew Ervin
[F]ew living writers possess a voice as elegant as that heard in Unlock. —Philadelphia Inquirer
Pacific Reader
I highly recommend this book.
Philadelphia Inquirer
[F]ew living writers possess a voice as elegant as that heard in Unlock.
Publishers Weekly - Publisher's Weekly
In America, exiled poet Bei Dao (a pen name) is the best-known member of the Misty School, a group of Chinese poets now in their 40s and 50s. In China, Bei Dao's American-influenced poems were thought to have helped inspire the Tiananmen Square demonstrations. (He has reportedly been often shortlisted for the Nobel Prize.) This fifth collection to be translated here presents more of the weird, breathless poems that are his signature, and owe as much to the thrifty paradoxes and mood lighting of Tom Waits's songs as to more standard voices of dissent. "The newspaper boy sets out in the morning/ all over town the sound of a desolate trumpet/ is it your bad omen or mine?" he writes in "Delivering Newspapers"; "Leaving Home" ends with the quatrain: "at night the wind steals bells/ the long-haired bride/ quivers like a bowstring/ over the body of the groom." Solo instruments in fact appear, like "crowds of strangers," in almost every poem, and readers will wonder whether the melancholy is better sustained in the original versions of the poems, since it often falls apart here. Translators Weinberger and Man-Cheong follow David Hinton's precedent with a (mainly) punctuation-free verse that accommodates Bei Dao's odder phrases ("authorized blizzard," "mint-flavored mailman"), but also calls attention to the botched getaways of many of the endings ("sound of the beginning/ color of the end" closes "Time and the Road"; "someone climbs a ladder/ out of sight from the audience" finishes "Deformation"). More annoying is the use of the continuous present to yoke poetic-seeming details together arbitrarily, which comes off as an intent to mystify, one that is not back up by the poems as presented. (Sept.) Copyright 2000 Cahners Business Information.|
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780811214476
  • Publisher: New Directions Publishing Corporation
  • Publication date: 9/28/2000
  • Pages: 112
  • Product dimensions: 5.12 (w) x 8.04 (h) x 0.32 (d)

Read an Excerpt




Excerpt


    JUNE


Wind at the ear says June
June a blacklist I slipped
in time
note this way to say goodbye
the sighs within these words
note these annotations:
unending plastic flowers
on the dead left bank
the cement square extending
from writing to
now
I run from writing
as dawn is hammered out
a flag covers the sea
and loudspeakers loyal to the sea's
deep bass say June


    READING


Taste the unnecessary tears
your star stays
alit still for one charmed day
a hand is birth's
most expressive thing
a word changes
dancing
in search of its roots
read the text of summer
the moonlight from which
that person drinks tea
is the true golden age
for disciples of crows in the ruins
all the subservient meanings
broke fingernails
all the growing smoke
seeped into the promises
taste the unnecessary sea
the salt betrayed


    REQUIEM

for Shanshan


The wave of that year
flooded the sands on the mirror
to be lost is a kind of leaving
and the meaning of leaving
the instant when all languages
are like shadows cast from the west
life's only apromise
don't grieve for it
before the garden was destroyed
we had too much time
debating the implications of a bird flying
as we knocked down midnight's door
alone like a match polished into light
when childhood's tunnel
led to a vein of dubious ore
to be lost is a kind of leaving
and poetry rectifying life
rectifies poetry's echo


    UNTITLED


Rubbing this bruise I see an instant of brilliance
a slaking axe startles a sea on strike awake
all the keys are inserted in the same night
lamplight
how calm the times exposed on earth
like the rooftop that splits the floodwaters
the changing climate of the fate of birds
known by a wind that reads the fingerprints of moonlight
throw a stone to ask the way the book ten times reality
obstructs the calling of the witnesses
all existing doubts point toward love
in the presence of a dead friend whose smile floats up


    MISTAKE


Solo saxophone
weaves rain into night
weaves a temple into lamplight
lets dead water grow bones
that wander about
it's not that there is no honor
I let the bad weather turn
into the topic of roses
examining youth
with a double-edged razor
one proper face
the barber clips
unnecessary years
still all right
to pass a mirror
slowly rusting
in another era
around me
people doing business giving lectures
without a sound
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Table of Contents

[characters not reproducible] June 3
[characters not reproducible] Reading 5
[characters not reproducible] Requiem 7
[characters not reproducible] Untitled (Rubbing This Bruise...) 9
[characters not reproducible] Mistake 11
[characters not reproducible] Time and the Road 13
[characters not reproducible] Delivering Newspapers 115
[characters not reproducible] Balcony 17
[characters not reproducible] The Old Castle 19
[characters not reproducible] Untitled (A Trumpet...) 23
[characters not reproducible] Post 25
[characters not reproducible] Postwar 27
[characters not reproducible] Smells 29
[characters not reproducible] Driving 31
[characters not reproducible] Untitled (The Landscape...) 33
[characters not reproducible] No 35
[characters not reproducible] Moon Festival 37
[characters not reproducible] Night Sky 39
[characters not reproducible] Untitled (Soaked by a Fog...) 41
[characters not reproducible] Leaving Home 43
[characters not reproducible] Spirit Game 45
[characters not reproducible] Crying 47
[characters not reproducible] Night Tree 49
[characters not reproducible] Teacher's Manual 51
[characters not reproducible] Etude 53
[characters not reproducible] Deleting 55
[characters not reproducible] Writing a Letter 57
[characters not reproducible] Untitled (Two-Dimensional...) 59
[characters not reproducible] In Memory 61
[characters not reproducible] Transparency 63
[characters not reproducible] Substitute-Teaching 65
[characters not reproducible] Morning Song 67
[characters not reproducible] Destination 69
[characters not reproducible] Deformation 71
[characters not reproducible] Spending the Night 73
[characters not reproducible] Going Home 75
[characters not reproducible] Call 77
[characters not reproducible] A Moment Against the Light 79
[characters not reproducible] The Hunt 81
[characters not reproducible] Poppy Night 83
[characters not reproducible] Montage 87
[characters not reproducible] Mission 91
[characters not reproducible] Swivel Chair 93
[characters not reproducible] Unlock 95
[characters not reproducible] Silence and Trembling 97
[characters not reproducible] Dry Season 99
[characters not reproducible] Fifth Street 101
[characters not reproducible] Moat 103
[characters not reproducible] Soap 105
A Note on the Translation 107
About the Translators 113
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