Writing poetry is the process of my death and my resurrection. Writing poetry is like I travel from the earth to the moon, and from the moon to the constellation Ursa Major…Writing poetry is like I walk toward my end and my beginning. I obtain peace and tranquility like the sea and moonlight after expressing my passion and inspiration.
Your love has gone for a walk since the afternoon.
My body becomes silent,
As if my words have gotten stale.
How long can I keep my love for you,
I stand here until the field runs out of all the birdsong.
Your love will return home.
My body shines again after being silent，
And my words flow to another city.
I say to you: I love you,
The period of validity is like the days of the forests on earth.
A bird opens itself, but also opens the silence of the field.
You Taught Me This Kind of life
Talk with the third person about what we also talked about,
Arouse my fantasies about you.
Your nails or even suitcase
What texture of shirts and sadness are filled in.
Your name is a contract.
Speaking of you——this virgin territory,
I sweep away the treasure map like a thief.
I went to the restaurants and bookstores you had been to.
I Collected your life like a museum.
And you, the generous artist
You exhibited to me：despair is a piece of paper，
Paint flying birds, paint blue grass.
You taught me this kind of life.
Fantasy I were a bird
My steps moved backward, there would be a high cliff behind me.
The memory with you
Like a river flowing between our hands.
You make my blood obtain flow，
You make my time begin to die.
You make me know a second is
Finite and endless.
Everything is you,
There couldn’t be any more of you.
I want to die in every second of the sea，
The tide surges over every inch of our skin.
Every inch of our skin longs for death，
Land is salvation，while we are drowning.
Waves carry plague.
Before we left, we took one last look at blue.
Blue as my parting words.
Before we left, we took one last look at blue.
Sea, your traveler is leaving.
Before we left, we took one last look at blue.
It dyed my homecoming shirt blue.
“What is the name of this sea?”
“Or, let’s call it the Incheon Port.”
Before we left, we took one last look at blue.
Incheon Port. If you don’t like the name,
I will call you, lover’s gaze.
They put a carrot nose
On my silence.
They laughed beside my window,
Tore my silence
Into small snowballs.
They had a snowball fight, my silence
Was thrown into the air,
Was trampled under their soles.
They had loved me, touched me, kissed me,
And they left, the snowball rolled to the withered grass.
Only snow and me,
Brighten each other.
We are cut off by language and daily life,
Abandoned by the sky on the earth together.
Our love is handcuffs,
We share each one
And be a pair.
The bird is about to soar and to sacrifice.
Our common and only existence.
The moment the bird is decapitated and released,
I close my eyes, god is crying.
We wander around the planet,
The bird distinguishes us.
God’s tears welled up.
This is an old clock. You and I are second hands.
Second by second. If you start crying now,
It’s just tears falling too soon.
Note on Translations: All poems translated by Cai Yingming
off the margins contributors are asked to respond questions that will be asked of all featured writers to further articulate a collective response to the question: How do we step off the margins of convention and enter the wild terrain of our writing?
off the margins 网站要求每位特约作者回答这一面向集体的问题，以进一步阐明对该问题的集体回应：我们如何走出常规的边缘，进入写作的狂野地带?
Firstly, Language has boundaries, which are expanded by real poets. Step off the margins of convention, that is to say, step off the boundaries of language. Enter the wild terrain of writing, that is to say, expand the boundaries of language. Wittgenstein believed that the boundary of language is the boundary of the world. The world beyond boundary is unknowable and unspeakable. And I believe that the mission of poets is trying their best to extend the boundaries that beyond the boundaries of language, to reach the world that beyond the world, to approach those “unknowable and unspeakable”.
If poets try to break the boundaries of language, they must struggle with language. Theodor W. Adorno said: “To write a poem even after Auschwitz is barbaric.” Auschwitz, as a mark of historical events, is over, but “Auschwitz of language” is always there. Poets are forever in the Auschwitz camp of language, struggling fiercely with language. Step off the margins of convention, that is to say, give up our daily polluted and damaged language. The language of poetry should keep a distance from the daily language. Poets must create their own language, make unconventional use of language, distort words with violence and trigger special feelings. As Cleanth Brooks argues, poetry comes from this disharmony and inconsistency, that is, paradox—— The reason why the poet adopts this difficult way of discourse is that the poet has no other choice. The poet must fight with the language to the death.
Our language is invisibly destroyed, damaged, polluted and devalued in our daily life. The mission of poets is to preserve the purity of language. Let language restore its self-activity and vitality. Literary critic George Steiner analyzed that the German language was beautiful before Hitler, while it was damaged after Hitler. The soldiers went to battle and also took German language away. Restoring language means not using language to lie, not using words that we have lost our sense. Let writing return to pure language.
The proposition of “Stepping off the margins of convention and entering the wild terrain of our writing” also needs to involve the inheritance and development of literature. We have to love our father and then kill our father like Oedipus. We have to be influenced deeply by literature tradition, and then get rid of “the anxiety of influence”. Sappho, Dante, the Book of Songs, Chu Ci, Tang poetry, Song Ci, Whitman, Eliot, Pound, Frost, etc…these literature heritages are our shared traditions. The more national, the more international; the more international, the more it will be absorbed by the languages of all nations. The literature classics of different nationalities fuse with each other and naturally produce chemical reactions, which is beneficial for individuals to enter the wild terrain of writing. In addition, Throughout the ancient Chinese literature, Tang Poetry, Song Ci, Yuan Qu, Ming and Qing dramas, the literary peak of each dynasty in China is different genres and forms. However, Tang poetry, Song Ci, Yuan Qu, Ming and Qing dramas are actually variants of China’s oldest poetry. This also proves that only by entering the tradition can we shake off the tradition.
Literature itself is a way of constructing and imagining the world, but literature is also constructed to some extent. According to Simone de Beauvoir, “one is not born, but rather becomes, a woman.” We can say that literature is not born as “Literature”, but gradually becomes “Literature”. In terms of the external research of literature, cultural researchers put literature in a broader cultural context, such as the cultural phenomenon of poetry crossover, poetry crossover music, poetry crossover dance, poetry crossover technology, poetry crossover sociology and so on. Literature is placed in a vast space, intersecting and integrating with various cultural elements. On the other hand, for we writers, in addition to some visible forms of literary text, there are also some invisible forms of non-literary text that influence us when we write. Intertextuality includes between literary texts and literary texts, as well as between literary texts and non-literary texts. That is to say,– the scene of writing itself is always open, trans-boundary, free and wild.
Returning to the fundamental position of pure language, poetry is dancing with shackles, and poetry is the language standing on the cliff. The poet is bound to expand the boundary of language. The poet must fight with language to the death, so as to enter the wild terrain of writing. However, for me, writing is my unfinished life, and a Jerusalem beyond my reach in life.
Who are the women writers who have influenced your own work?
This question makes me think of Literature mother and moonlight.
Literature mother is only. Literature mother is a writer among all women writers, a source of all light, and a great force that calls me. So far, I don’t know who my literature mother is, but I think she is a mysterious energy rather than a specific person. And those women writers who influenced my work are the light emitted from the literature mother. Their works are mirrors, and I can see myself in front of these mirrors; their works are coordinates that allows me to know about writing in the past and a certain direction of writing in the future.
When it comes to the specific women writers who have influenced my work, the Russian poetess Marina Tsvetaeva has influenced me. Tsvetaeva loves everything in life when she is in farewell, not when she is in an encounter; she prefers death rather than life, which has greatly influenced my aesthetic thoughts. Tsvetaeva combines extreme passion with despair and paranoia. There is a strong explosive and destructive power in her work. She is the voice of god, and is always fixed in the strongest voice. She has been waiting for the point of the knife for too long! She sanctifies everything in the world, but what is truly sacred is not everything but her soul and emotion. She has always maintained a noble heart in her miserable life, like an indomitable and smooth pebble in the heavy spoondrift of history. There is an indestructible power in her words or rather in her personality, which is like a giant magnet and I was firmly attracted.
Provide that Tsvetaeva is a sea with rising tides to me, then Emily Dickinson is a sea with falling tides to me. After the ebb tide, the world obtains a kind of eternal and tremendous tranquility, as if the end of life. “Had I not seen the sun, I could have borne the shade. But light a newer wilderness, my wilderness has made.” This is incomparable wildness. This is the greatest desolation in the world. Her sea is endless, deep and fascinating, shining with quiet and passionate light. A tranquil passion is a kind of passion to attain eternity, and ebb tides also contain a rising power. Her words exist like time on the earth. Although she was unmarried and childless all her life, her motherhood has been reflected and shining in her words. If Tsvetaeva tears me apart, then Emily Dickinson restores me. They are the dazzling sun and the serene moonlight, the sea with rising tides and the sea falling tides respectively.
I’ve been reading American poetess Sharon Olds recently. Many of her works reflect unique and delicate innermost feelings of women, which deeply moved me. Her precise control of text details is like setting off a human electric shock test through a human cell. She is honest to herself and to life, and also presents this honesty to her readers. This honesty sublimates into a kind of loyalty. Loyal to the women’s distinctive sensibility of life, loyal to words and to the world. She writes with noble and glorious humanity.
Other women writers who have influenced me include ancient Chinese poetess Li Qingzhao, Chinese novelist Eileen Chang, Polish poetess Wislawa Szymborska, Japanese poetess Kaneko Misuzu, and Swedish poetess Edith Sodergran,etc. My understandings and feelings to the women writers are based on my limited reading experience in my young life. Looking for women writers who have an influence on me is like looking for the light emanating from literature mother, and I will keep looking for them until I die. Perhaps, this literature mother is time, or the universe that we exist.
What would you like people to know about what inspires your poetry?
When I write poetry, I often feel that I have experienced tsunamis and earthquakes in my mind. My fingers tap the keyboard like waves rolling, and every wave is about to swallow me. When I write poetry, I often feel like I’m a nuclear power plant, and the sparks of inspiration spurt out from my brain. When I write poetry, I am self-destructive and self-igniting. I am igniting my endless passion and outpouring inspiration. This process approaches death. The process brought me back to the moment when I was born from my mother, sweet and cruel, painful and happy.
Writing poetry is the process of my death and my resurrection. Writing poetry is like I travel from the earth to the moon, and from the moon to the constellation Ursa Major. I am led to a distant and unknown place in the depths of the universe. Writing poetry is like I walk toward my end and my beginning. I obtain peace and tranquility like the sea and moonlight after expressing my passion and inspiration.
Then, what inspires my writing? What is the Muse of my poetry?
I often say — it is not the Muse to come to me but I come to the Muse. It is not me to find poetry but poetry finds me. Poetry and me choose each other and we are fated. Poetry is my savior and slave owner, my nuclear power plant and tsunami, my death and my love, my pain and my happiness. Writing poetry is bound up with my destiny. Or, poetry transcends my destiny, transcends my physical body and transcends my language.
When I meditate quietly, my mind enters a sea. Thoughts and inspirations pour down naturally like moonlight, and words flap like waves and whirlpools. This is a revelation from nature. I’m listening to nature’s command to me. At this time, if I were a shrimp or a crab, I would be addicted to the sea. If I had been more intoxicated, I would have drowned in the sea, and given up the struggle.
When I write poetry, I create a illusion of life. I exist in the universe and time while my existence is also an illusion. My thoughts like leaves fall, fall, fall, cannot stop. Spring, summer, autumn and even winter, the vitality of the leaves still exists. The inspirations of my poetry writing is probably the same. As long as my physical body exists, inspirations flow to the root of my tree of life. Even if my body disappears, my inspirations also flow in time and space.
Writing poetry is something I have to do. If I don’t write it down, I will be swallowed up by the waves on me. If I don’t write it down, I will be burned by the flames on me. — I have to write it down–god orders me to write it down–I can’t stop it, nobody can. I am a labor of poetry forever. I submit to poetry meanwhile poetry is my proudest craft as a mortal.
I seek more profound meanings of life from poetry. I seek my existence in the universe and time from poetry. And where do I exist? An unknowable place. Just like poetry is unknowable. The essence of my relationship with poetry is the fundamental source that inspires my writing. Because poetry and I are destined, I was born for poetry. And as above-mentioned, poetry transcends my destiny, my physical body and my language. Where does my inspiration come from? Is it from the universe? Is it from nature? Is it from time? I think it comes from my being, and the connection of my being between the universe, nature and time.
Postscript: the above answer was originally written in the winter vacation at the turn of 2019 and 2020 when I was twenty years old. A writer said in his middle age “If just one word is maintained, I believe it is a technique of great rhythm. At the age of twenty, I can’t understand these with empathy. I purely believe that poetry is experience and strong emotions, etc. ”I do not intend to make an in-depth discussion on this issue here (what is the most essential thing of poetry) because of the limited space. But to express that, just like the mentioned writer, if I face this question again, “What inspires my poetry?” it is probably to be a calmer answer than when I was twenty years old. However, I decide to keep my original voice, which is also the voice I am grateful for–brave, naive, enthusiastic, passionate, perhaps fading — as some kind of record. Defamiliarisation not only occurs in literature language, but also in the relationship between people and themselves. Poetry is my nostalgia, and I am also my own nostalgia– Poetry is the homesickness of poets, and poets are also the homesickness of human beings.
Cai Yingming (Pseudonym Sinan) is a poet from China. She was born in Fujian Province in 1999. She published her first book of poems Naming at 20 years old. Her poems have been published in national, provincial and municipal magazines, including Poetry Magazine, Stars, Flying sky, Grassland, Poetry Forest, Coconut City, Jiangnan Poetry, Prose Poetry, Quanzhou literature, Shan Dong literature, Yanhe Poetry, Taiwan Genesis, etc. Her poems have been translated into Japanese and English and published overseas, including Japan Gendaishi Techo (Journal of Contemporary Poetry) and Philippine World Daily, etc. Her poems have been selected in various writing anthologies, including 2018 Youth Poetry Yearbook, 2018 Annual Anthology of Chinese Poetry, 2019 list of Chinese New Poetry, 2020 Calendar of Chinese New Poetry, 2020 Selected Works of Chinese Young Poets, A Poem A Day Volume 2021, Penning The Pandemic (USA), and a dozen of other anthologies. She was awarded the Third Boao International Poetry Prize for Young Poet, the Outstanding Prize in the Seventh Handan National University Students’ Poetry Festival, the College Student Special Prize in the Second Dufu Chinese Poetry Competition ,etc. In November 2019, she visited the United States to participate Poetry Bridging Continents, an international symposium held at New England College in Henniker, New Hampshire and the AMC Highland Center in Bretton Woods. In 2020, her first poetry collection Naming won a Hainan provincial literature award, the First Xiaojian Youth Literature Award which was awarded to outstanding Hainan writers born after 1975, she is currently the youngest writer among the winners. Email address: firstname.lastname@example.org