back toJacket2

Jacket 16 — March 2002   |   # 16  Contents   |   Homepage   |  Catalog   | to New Zealand Contents list     

New Zealand feature

Yang Lian: Two poems

12 Storkwinkel, Berlin

Translated by Jacob Edmond

death’s play has twisted your features   no longer people
remember one cry of a frail child’s laughter and dread
the entranceway is empty   the tree is a column of incense
September is escorting the whole world’s gold coins
follow a common eccentricity and polish the brass numbers
a staircase scenario   an exaggerated hat in a room
an unexceptional age stands tall and straight
pinching the ocean to pieces, the wind waits   blood   never children’s stories

only     the restored virtue of the dead still walks the road home
withered blades of falling leaves quietly cut down the autumn
one letter’s unexceptional lies   your names
slyly swap with ours   the ghost is an old photograph
masterpieces know all too well how to cook human faults
touch up a star chart in the hollows of the children’s palms
whoever hides in the sound of the wind   never fall again into black oysters of feet
die now   a poem is the only address worth resurrecting


Translated by Brian Holton

reality is part of my nature
spring has accepted the overflowing green of the dead again
streets    accept more funerals which are blacker yet beneath the flowers
red phone boxes in the rain like a warning
time is part of the internal organs     bird voices
open every rusting face on the benches
watching night’s eyes a prolonged flying accident
when yet another day is blotted out     London

write out all my madness     lick out all the brown beer’s froth
the bell’s toll in a little bird’s brain vibrates like a gloomy verse unemployed
the city is part of the word     the most terrifying part of me
showing my insignificance     accepting
blue mildewed sheepskin slip-cover outside the window
sheep meat’s memory diligently binding
its own death    dying in    the non-convulsing lens
when between two pages of newsprint is a grave    behind the grave is the ocean

Original version of ‘London’:

Image of Chinese version of 'London' poem

Yang Lian, Berlin, 2001

Yang Lian is a Chinese / New Zealander, based in UK since 1993. YI, a book-length poem translated by Mabel Lee, has just been published in a bilingual edition by Sun & Moon Press in Los Angeles. Other bilingual collections are Masks and Crocodile (Wild Peony, 1990), translated by Mabel Lee, Non-Person Singular (WellSweep, 1994) and Where the Sea Stands Still (Bloodaxe, 1999), both translated by Brian Holton. A major collection of new poems, Notes of a Blissful Ghost, translated by Brian Holton, is due soon from the Chinese University of Hong Kong Press. You can read his poem ‘Ten Years’ in Jacket 15.
See also

Photo: Yang Lian, Berlin, 2001, by John Tranter

Jacob Edmond is an Auckland-based critic who is currently completing a PhD thesis at the University of Auckland on the politics and aesthetics of contemporary experimental poetry in Russia, the United States and China, and on the writers Arkadii Dragomoshchenko, Lyn Hejinian, and Yang Lian in particular. He has a homepage at

Brian Holton grew up in West Africa, Edinburgh and the Scottish Borders, and was educated at Edinburgh University and Durham University. He is currently Assistant Professor at The Hong Kong Polytechnic University. He has published several volumes of translations of Yang Lian’s poetry, including Where the Sea Stands Still: New Poems by Yang Lian (New Castle: Bloodaxe Books, 1999) and Non-Person Singular: Collected Shorter Poems of Yang Lian (London: Wellsweep Press, 1994). , as well as translations of Chinese literature in Scots, including several chapters of Shuihu zhuan, which he renders as Men o the Mossflow; he has also translated several short stories and a great deal of pre-modern Chinese poetry into Scots. He hopes one day to complete all of Mossflow, and if he does, this will be the longest piece of Scots prose in several hundred years.

Jacket 16 — March 2002  Contents page
Select other issues of the magazine from the | Jacket catalog | read about Jacket |
Other links: | top | homepage | bookstores | literary links | internet design |
Copyright Notice: Please respect the fact that this material is copyright. It is made available here without charge for personal use only. It may not be stored, displayed, published, reproduced, or used for any other purpose

This material is copyright © Yang Lian and Jacket magazine 2002
The URL address of this page is