Yang Lian



          Shanshui: a type of landscape painting featuring mountains and rivers

          - For Xu Longsen
when     did I arrive here?
facing tracklessness
mist unending on water behind me
murderous fragrance of gardenia
when     did living
become war’s smouldering ashes forever hung on a wall?
ashes that sift an intoxication lovely as stone
great rivers and mountains like a little essay
let me step up    into the wind’s howl
my hearing sits on encircling cliffs 
an inky black pine exudes a numinous hand
and delicately supports the lotus flowers
deletion of what doesn’t stop
an ever-moving poem    that never again
looks out of the poem     my love of limits
is near-limitless
beside the window     what birdsong 
is not the fallen and shattered cry of wild geese?
held in the stone’s mouth
scouring a famished fate
an excess of moonlight      
a skiff berths
at the focal point of the blur of silver waves
the dying poet is always there
heaving a bitter sigh of otherworldly anguish
to sum up the rain-scribed
mountain     farther than the distant hills
who does water     float above?
gardenia -perfumed wrists
are stuck to insane scribbling on vast rivers of white snow 
here     death is an inborn talent
the beauty of the last brushstroke caresses all beauty
when     have I hung myself up
to become the eerie dark tombstones around me and
that eagerly-prostrating


YANG LIAN is one of China’s foremost contemporary poets in exile. He has published eleven collections of poems, two collections of prose and one selection of essays in Chinese. His work has been translated into more than twenty languages. English titles include Where the Sea Stands Still (Bloodaxe, 1999); Yi, a book-length poem (Green Integer, 2002); Concentric Circles, another book-length poem (Bloodaxe, 2005), Riding Pisces: Poems From Five Collections (Shearsman, 2008) and Lee Valley Poems (Bloodaxe, 2009). He is the co-editor of the anthology, Jade Ladder: Contemporary Chinese Poetry, published in 2012 by Bloodaxe Books. He lives in Berlin.


About the Translator:

BRIAN HOLTON (born 11 July 1949) is the translator of Chinese “Misty” poet Yang Lian, with whom he has performed work at numerous festivals, including London Poetry International, Salisbury Literature Festival, Edinburgh Book Festival, Edinburgh Festival Fringe, Aberdeen University Writers Festival, Ledbury Literature Festival, Taipei Literature Festival, Hong Kong International Literature Festival, and PEN International. He translates into English and Scots, and is the only currently-publishing Chinese-Scots translator in the world.


Read more by Yang Lian:

Poem at Poetry Foundation
17 poems at Poetry International
Two poems in Jacket 16
Poem in Dancing in Other Words
Three poems in Words Without Borders
Interview in Poetry Parnassus
Author’s website and links to other work online