Ron Padgett and Yu Jian

Five poems

Shoe Cloud

I the good elephant saw you
resting in the air over the jungle
The spring squats down on the lawn
Ties her shoes
The same shoes the clouds
were wearing last year
Your dream walks into my sleep
as soon as I wake up and
The person who wakes up
No longer is you
The place of waking up is not your place
though the cloud is still your cloud
and your head is still in it
because of your other head
Spring is your other head
Cloud is your other head
China is your other head
You have plenty more heads
Asleep in the dark and deep place
Waiting for the early brain beginning
I the good elephant saw you


Poem 8

When I was a child
my elders taught me
that there are 24 hours
in each day
But 24 hours is
afterward too
Is a springtime
The flower opened
I look similar to yesterday
Except that I am open
and my petals
are starting to fall
O excuse me!
For a moment
I thought
I was a flower


Poem 9

At dawn
a leaf falls onto the windowsill
I can’t be sure
Yesterday
I was a poet
Or
a blossom
or box
of cookies
and today
I am a man
looking at a blossom
on a box of cookies
and the leaf
that now
has come inside
to sit beside me


Poem 16

At the time that shoes do not walk,
Whose feet?
The feet go off on their own
Without a body.
The shoes go off on their own
Without feet.
The walking goes off too.
Hey, walking, wait for me!


Poem 11

You do not go to sleep?
Kunming morning
The sunlight is brilliant
In fact
it is so intelligent
that no one can understand it
You ask it a question
in Kunming
but the light
has gone away
to be the late night
in New York
where the answer
is waiting
I tell it
Bare ray
Go to New York
Illuminate my friend.

Left to right: poets Yin Lichuan, Ron Padgett, Yu Jian; Nassjo, Sweden, 2002.

Left to right: poets Yin Lichuan, Ron Padgett, Yu Jian; Nassjo, Sweden, 2002.

Yu Jian, born in 1954 in Kunming, China, is a poet, author, and documentary film director. He is a major figure among ‘The Third Generation Poets’ that came after the ‘Misty Poetry’ movement of the early 1980s. Anthology of Works is a five-volume collection of his poems and essays 1975–2000. His work has been translated into English, French, German, Dutch, Spanish, Italian, Swedish, Danish, and Japanese. Currently Wang Ping and Ron Padgett are translating Yu Jian’s collection of poems, Anthology of Notes.

Ron Padgett’s many books include a collection of poems, You Never Know, and a memoir, Oklahoma Tough: My Father, King of the Tulsa Bootleggers. He is the editor of The Handbook of Poetic Forms and World Poets: An Encyclopedia for Students, as well as the translator of Blaise Cendrars’ Complete Poems. Padgett has taught imaginative writing at Columbia University and Brooklyn College, and for 20 years he was publications director of Teachers and Writers Collaborative in New York City. His poetry has received awards from the American Academy of Arts and Letters and the Guggenheim Foundation, and the French government named him an Officer in the Order of Arts and Letters. His new book, from Coffee House Press, is Joe: A Memoir of Joe Brainard.


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