Surveying from Mount Dongliang

Yang Jian
Translated from the Chinese by Fiona Sze-Lorrain

Pure herbal scent from an old phoenix treeI know, this is my countryMidway at night, someone will smash a jar of herbsI know, my country will spill from itKneelingkneeling hereKneel my restless heartinto a stone statueAt the blasted mountain's footan old willow stands, like a dragon corpsesurrounded by burnt grassNone of these exists in the mountainToo much emptiness in the mountainI've yet to reach this emptiness 在东梁山远眺在一棵老梧桐树下飘来一阵炖草药的香味,我知道,这是我的祖国。夜里将会有人把药罐摔碎在路中央,我知道,我的祖国将会从药罐里流出。跪着,在这里跪着。把胸膛里动荡的心,跪成石像。在炸出一个大口子的群山脚下,有一截老柳树,就像龙的尸体。在龙尸体周围是烧糊的青草。山上没有这些,山上的空白太多了,我尚未到达空白的境界。

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Yang Jian was born in Anhui province in 1967. He worked as a factory laborer for several years before starting to write in the mid-eighties. He is the author of five volumes of verses, including Weeping Temple (2014), Remorse (2009), Ancient Bridge (2007), and Late Dusk (2003), the latter rated as one of the nation’s top ten titles of the year. He paints in ink and leads a Buddhist life in Ma’anshan. Green Mountain (MerwinAsia, 2020) is a bilingual volume of his selected poems in Fiona Sze-Lorrain’s translation, with a foreword by Christopher Merrill.

Fiona Sze-Lorrain

Fiona Sze-Lorrain is a poet, literary translator, editor, and zheng harpist. She is the author of four poetry collections, most recently Rain in Plural (2020) and The Ruined Elegance (2016), both from Princeton, and more than a dozen books of translation of Chinese, French, and American poets. A 2019-2020 Abigail R. Cohen Fellow at the Columbia Institute for Ideas and Imagination, she lives in Paris.

A film on Sze-Lorrain’s poetry, translations, artwork, and zheng harp music, Rain in Plural . . . and Beyond is now available to watch here, where she reads alongside her poems, bilingually a poem and translation of Ye Lijun, “In Pingyuan Village,” as well as “I Can’t Stay Here and Love You” by Yin Lichuan, previously featured on Poetry Daily.

"Yang Jian is the rarest of contemporary Chinese poets who takes on the excesses of modernization and materialism. In his signature style of economy and imagery, which Fiona Sze-Lorrain has rendered in English with precision, Yang creates a poetic landscape of hermit living which is as enthralling as it is illusory."
— Dian Li, Professor of modern Chinese literature at the University of Arizona

"Fiona Sze-Lorrain’s translation captures the spare essence of Yang Jian’s poetry in all its honesty and in its deep expression of his own Buddhist faith. This beautiful translation offers the reader a rich and delicate portrait of the poet’s world in all its complexity. Sze-Lorrain’s profound knowledge of Yang Jian’s language, as well as her sensitivity to his imagery, enables her to provide a vivid portrait of both his spiritual and mundane life."
— Morris Rossabi, author of A History of China, Distinguished Professor at the City University of New York and Adjunct Professor at Columbia University

"Fiona Sze-Lorrain’s translations meticulously present Yang Jian’s sickly, serene landscapes, where feeling resists sentimentality and witness resists idolatry. She leads us through rain, dust, and decay with bracing directness, inviting us to hear the 'archaic beauty' of the poet’s voice and glimpse a vision 'as vivid as devastation.'"
— Jennifer Zoble, Clinical Assistant Professor at New York University and Co-Editor of InTranslation (The Brooklyn Rail)

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