Li Shaojun (China)
Li Shaojun was born in Xiangxiang, Hunan Province in 1967. He earned a B.A. from Wuhan University with a major injournalism (1989). He has published sixteen books, includingpoetry collections “Book of Nature”, “Book of Grass Roots”, “Book of the Sea and the Sky”, and “Let Us Do Something for Spring”. Li Shaojun is known in China as The Naturalist Poet. He now serves as the editor-in-chief of China’s Poetry Journal (Beijing).
I Have the Ocean In Me
People from high mountains
see the plains as flat and uninteresting.
People from the grassland
feel the cities are congested and constricted.
People from the forest
see the streets as sterile and depthless.
People from the sea
feel all other places are stuffy and drab.
I am a man of the sea,
what I have experienced, you will never know.
The sea is with me,
my perspectives are often different from yours.
Seagulls tread the waves, living their lifestyle,
following the morning sun into the magnificent blue.
Whales patrol their realm, freehearted and high-minded,
the tireless wanderers of the untroubled sea.
I have the ocean in me.
My heart is as free and willful as the wind at sea,
going where it pleases, till the end of the world. . .
Raindrops release the scent of the rainforest.
Branchlets and leaves loosen up, looking supple and lush.
A footpath enters the jungle, dewy and misty,
adding an aura of mystique to its unsounded depth.
How can it be a tropical rainforest but for the rain?
Without the rain, the entire forest droops—
bird songs seem scant, memories grow faint.
Raindrops manifest the deepest and quietest kind of homesickness.
Poets fret about the so-called modernity,
lingering over the topic all the way up and down the mountain.
As for me, I don’t worry about it at all.
Can we say the Pacific Ocean is modern?
How about Antarctica? The Nine-Turn Creek?
Are they modern?
How about Huangshan Mountain? Wuyi Mountain?
Are they modern?
Clouds are perhaps the modernest.
From Li Bai’s verse “Birds have flown far and high, leaving behind a roving cloud”,
to Liu Zongyuan’s “The clouds play tag with the precipice without a care”,
to Zheng Chouyu’s “Three thousand eons of roaming, the clouds
finally come to rest on the westernmost peak . . .”
From the old Chinese saying— “Good enough for self-amusement,
but too scanty as a gift”,
to Baudelaire’s dreamy voice—“I love clouds . . .passing clouds . . . there . . . over there. . .
Then, there are bellicose clouds in the sky over North America,
the icy cirrus clouds over western Asiatic plateau,
and the warm passionate clouds of Southeast Asia for every globetrotter.
Roving and roiling, merging and diverging,
clouds are forever modern,
the avant-garde of Modernism.
Western Hill, There and Not There
Winter always arrives on time, frosting our clothes.
Skeletal trees raise the mountain’s stately profile,
an indolent world where no one expects anything.
So am I, staying indoors every day,
sipping tea and reading poetry, no real diversions.
A few sparrows skip around the leafless twigs outside the windows,
as for me, I am ever content with the way things are;
not fluttered at all if the world has forgotten me.
I do hide a small secret now and then,
for example, wanting to be the Western Hill,
the serene, zen-like recluse in Beijing’s winter,
patiently waiting for good friends to visit,
who later would call the treacherous trip in the storm totally worthwhile.
Translator’s note: Western Hill or Xishan (西山) is a mountain range
towards the west of Beijing.
Translated by Meifu Wang and Michael Soper