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Wu Mu (Teo Sum Lim) – 新加坡组曲 (translated as ‘Singapore Suite’ by Shelly Bryant)

新加坡组曲

冒烟的枪管
辜加兵们举着一支支冒着热烟的枪管
冷冷地,瞄准我
以英国殖民地政府的语言和警告
在当年基里玛路的光华学校校园内
在一触即发的沸腾点上
(杀戮是可怕的——
那两个在枪管前临阵退缩的学生领袖
犹如两个弃械而逃的败将
她们不堪的溃散形象,塑成我
半个世纪后犹新的记忆)
群龙不能无首
我选择走出对峙的课室
挺身面对这个时代的惶恐和浪尖
在英国殖民地政府的算计与镇压下
在最为喧闹的世纪叫嚣前
在学生群众的不解眼神前,我高举双手
我以我孱弱的身体
一种舍身成仁的感性语言
走向那些雇佣兵
走向那些兀自冒着热烟的枪管
走向炼狱
作于2010年2月15日
原载2010年3月5日《联合早报·文艺城》
地铁工事
组屋之外,公路之外
高楼大桥与一切文明建设之外
还有一种奔放的声响
正在萌芽
筑着历史,筑着
混凝土与钢筋的骄傲
狮岛的血脉
以巨大的手掌穿云插地
音符是长长长长的衔接轨道
自南向北,横跨西东
如此粗犷的性格
将时空浓缩的地铁工事
每一节车轨是一下脉搏
每一根圆柱皆奠下一种无比的信心
作于1986年6月9日
原载1986年6月13日《联合早报·星云》
城市
城市从甜梦中晨起睡醒
黄色街灯揉着睡眼惺忪睡去
走廊上众排日光灯睡去
屋顶那颗红色夜间飞行警告灯睡去
夜间霓虹在太阳升起后暂停营业
播种组屋,五年一次翻新
硬质土地上,打桩声迫不及待地响起
碎路器赶着前来合唱
诸灯乍熄,树枝上的小鸟未曾展喉
急急的声响长长的声波已重重地切肤而入
那边厢印族同胞击鼓而歌
联络所一隅,有人正和城市主调抗衡
为一种名曰亚洲文化价值的东西
在大清早
作最后的力挽
作于1988年11月14日

原载1988年12月8日《联合早报·文艺城》

 

The English translation of this poem was first published in the programme notes of A Melody named Memory, an event on October 7, 2017 as part of The Arts House’s Poetry with Music series.

Singapore Suite

Wu Mu (Teo Sum Lim)
– Smoking Barrel –
the Gurkhas hold the hot smoking barrels
aimed coldly at me
with the language of the British colonial government
that year at the Kong Hwa School on Guillemard Road
exploding at the boiling point
(killing is terrible –
the two retreating student leaders before the barrels
like two abandoned, fleeing defeated foes
their crumpling girlish images mesh into mine
refreshing memories now lost half a century)
the group cannot go headless
I choose to walk out on the conflict
to stand and face this turbulent, fearful age
the schemes and oppressions
              of the British colonial government
where the century’s loudest clamour was raised
before the students’ puzzled eyes, I hold my hands high
with this weak flesh
a kind of sacrificial expression
I walk toward these mercenaries
I walk toward the hot smoking barrels they hold
I walk toward purgatory
– Building the MRT Tracks –
outside the house, outside the expressway
highrise buildings and all the civilised construction
accompanied by an unrestrained sound
of continued building
building history, building
of concrete and reinforced pride
the bloodline of a leonine nation
huge palm fronds piercing the clouds
the note sounds unendingly
spread south to north, west to east
such a rugged character
building the MRT tracks, rich in time and space
each section of track pulsing
each cylinder overlaid
      with unparalleled confidence
9 June 1986
first published 13 June 1986 in Lianhe Zaobao • Nebula
– City –
the city wakes from sweet morning dreams
the yellow streetlamps rub sleepy eyes
and corridor lights doze
at rest, red night lights warning flying planes overhead
as neon’s glow is suspended in the rising light of dawn

 

the HDB flats sown, then renovated every five years
on hard earth, the sound of pile drivers can hardly wait to ring
the jackhammer rushes to join the chorus
the lights have faded, but the birds
     in the branches have yet to open their mouths
the long waves of sound sink heavily into earth and skin
there where our Indian compatriots drum and sing
at the corner of the community centre,
and someone contends with the city’s main tune
for the sake of something called Asian cultural values
in the bold morning
giving a final pull
14 November 1988
first published 8 December 1988 in Lianhe Zaobao • Art City
Continue reading
Related posts
Dan Ying – 梳起不嫁 (translated as “Combing Up, Never to Marry” by Shelly Bryant)
December 4, 2017
Xi Ni’er – 加冷河 (translated as “Kallang River” by Shelly Bryant)
November 27, 2017
Chua Chee Lay – 同一片天 (translated by Shelly Bryant)
October 2, 2017
Poetry, Translation

Dan Ying – 梳起不嫁 (translated as “Combing Up, Never to Marry” by Shelly Bryant)

梳起不嫁

淡莹
柔柔披在肩上的
岂只是乌黑水亮的秀发
是炫丽闪烁的青春啊
从唐山逶迤到南洋
蕉风拂过,椰雨淋过
那匹玄色动人的瀑布
千里一泻至小蛮腰
袅袅娜娜,摇曳生姿
多少汉家郎的心弦
多少好男儿的遐思
都被一一牵动
    一一撩起
六月初九,麻雀啾啾
啼亮了晨光
万物睁开双眼
发现世界依旧美好
怎会料到,样样
美好依旧的这天
掌中小小竹篦
一梳就梳起了
今生今世的岁月
梳掉憧憬和浪漫
梳走汉家郎
    好男儿的
无限深情,万般眷恋
一篦一篦,梳得
如此整齐,一丝不苟
如此利落,决不含糊
连刹那间的回眸
都是冰清玉洁
三千缕情愫
自六月初九开始
被紧紧绾在脑后
顺溜、密实、服贴
再也不能随意飞扬
不能招风、不能妆扮
凡触及它的,眼神
无不伤痛,目光
无不黯然、惆怅
为何把灿烂的
灿烂的二八年华
梳成漫长寂寞的道路?
为何把似水的
似水的少女情怀
梳成午夜梦回的叹息?
为何把少年家的爱慕
梳成终身的遗憾?
为什么?到底为什么?
佛祖,观世音,目善眉慈
在莲花座上,静静
倾听不嫁少女的心声
为了唐山破败的家园
为了继承香火的弟兄
为了逃避为人妻
        为人媳的未知命运
你毫无怨尤
以一双纤纤素手
你心甘情愿
以一辈子孤清
换来亲人的丰衣、足食
决定梳起那天,你说
庙宇的钟声特别脆亮
烟飞烟灭中,尽是爹娘
兄弟们亲切的笑靥
你说,你心里充满喜悦
果真是这样吗?
果真永远不后悔吗?
岁月峥嵘,五十年
在尘埃、油垢、污水中
悠悠流逝,无恨,亦无爱
你胼手胝足
为远方的家人、侄儿
盖起一栋又一栋房子
如今,夕阳老去,晚风渐起
你是那截快燃尽的蜡烛
这些手足,这些身上
有着或亲或疏血缘关系的人
会在头上,赐你
一块瓦?脚下
赏你一寸土吗?
当年,跪在神灵前
欢天喜地,全心全意
梳起不嫁时,那颗
令人动容的美丽孝心
可曾想到,半个世纪后
如何梳理缭乱的愁绪
是不是越梳越愁?
越梳越乱?终于
乱得一片凄凉
乱得不堪细诉,更
不堪回首
作于1980年代末
收入淡莹诗集《发上岁月》,1993年
The English translation of this poem was first published in the programme notes of A Melody named Memory, an event on October 7, 2017 as part of The Arts House’s Poetry with Music series.

Combing Up, Never to Marry   

lying softly on the shoulders
is it only shiny, raven-black hair?
it is dazzling, flickering youth
meandering from Tangshan to Nanyang
a rustling banana breeze, a drizzling coconut rain
the mysterious waterfall
purged over thousands of miles to a slim waistline
delicate and slender, swaying
how many heartstrings from the Han household
how many sentiments of a good man
all have a single effect
     – each in turn lifted
ninth day of the sixth month, the sparrow chirps
crying in the morning light
as everything begins to open its eyes
to find the world still beautiful
how can it be
that the day is still lovely
small bamboo comb in the grasp
the present age
combing out the longing and romance
coming out the good man
     of the Han household
infinite affection, all-embracing love
every stroke, combed
so neat, so clear
looking around in this moment
all is cold and clean
three thousand strands of affection
starting from the ninth day of the sixth month
tightly bound to the back of the head
smooth, dense, neat
no longer free to fly
unable to attract the wind, unable to dress up
where it is touched, the eyes
none without pain, bright eyes
all saddened and melancholy
why comb this brilliant
this bright age of sixteen
down this long lonely road?
why comb sentiments
this girlish sentiment
into sighs of midnight dreams?
why comb the love of the young man
into a lifetime of regret?
why? tell me, why?
Buddha, Kuanyin, eyes of kindness
in the lotus position, silent
listening to the voices of celibate girls
for the sake of dilapidated Tangshan homes
for the sake of the brothers who must carry on the family line
for the sake of not becoming a wife
     the uncertain fate of the daughter-in-law
you have no resentment
with your slim hands
you are willing
to live a lonely life
in exchange for sufficient clothing and food
the day you decided to comb your hair up, you said
the temple bells were especially crisp
smoke drifts, full of father and mother
and brothers’ kind smiles
you say your heart is full of joy
is that true?
have you really never known regret?
an age towers, fifty years
in dust, grease, sewage
long past, with no hate, no love
callouses on your hands and feet
for the distant family, a nephew
building house after house
now, the sun setting, the breeze starting
you are a fast-burning candle
will these brothers, these people
with blood ties or without
grant to you
a tile? beneath your feet
an inch of ground to give?
that year kneeling before the gods
joyful and wholehearted
comb up, never to marry
so moving, that filial piety
did you imagine half a century later
how you would sort through the melancholy
is it more sorrowful the more it is combined?
does each stroke not bring more chaos? at last
the chaos is desolate
unsettled, even more
an unrelenting pain
written in the late 1980s
from Dan Ying’s The Tales Behind the Hair, 1993
Continue reading
Related posts
Wu Mu (Teo Sum Lim) – 新加坡组曲 (translated as ‘Singapore Suite’ by Shelly Bryant)
December 11, 2017
Xi Ni’er – 加冷河 (translated as “Kallang River” by Shelly Bryant)
November 27, 2017
Chua Chee Lay – 同一片天 (translated by Shelly Bryant)
October 2, 2017
Poetry, Translation

Xiangyun Lim – a translation of ‘State of Phobia’/恐惧症 by Tang Jui Piow/陈维彪

Xiangyun Lim has a particular interest in translating contemporary works from the Chinese diaspora. Her works can be found in Living in Babel (Canopy), The Creative Literary Studio, and is forthcoming in Poem. Having grown up in Singapore, Xiang has lived in Seattle, Barcelona, Taiwan and United Kingdom. She is one of the recipients of the Singapore Apprenticeship in Literary Translation (SALT).  She can be reached at https://tweedlingdum.com.

 

State of Phobia

 

Train home:

A middle-aged lady sits, heavy

with plastic baggies of

guotie

 

“Smells good right? You want one? Cannot,

got fine. Fine how much money ah?

 

You know, we used to live in Sembawang, it was

a slice of kampung life,

a village of unending chatter

a village moved

into newly built flats. But

 

it is quiet where I stay now. No one talks.

‘Don’t speak to strangers,’ my son says.

‘Don’t be nosy.’ So

I stay silent.

 

(Doors open and

close. Train

moves on.)

 

Do you know? It’s so quiet where I live.

I want to move to Yishun. Nearer to my sister.

There’s this hill, once you see it,

soon you will get off the train.

Many urns on this hill.”

 

You say,

One could spy eagles then

wings spread

soaring in circles

 

You say,

Once it rained for so long

rivers of ashes seeped

into soil, flowed

onto roads

 

Continue reading
Poetry, Translation

Xi Ni’er – 加冷河 (translated as “Kallang River” by Shelly Bryant)

加冷河

希尼尔
有一条河
静静流着

之一

就这样踌躇地流着
一条河,舒展龙爪
自北回南,向两岸扩张
日日夜夜,呜咽低吟
在先祖的记忆里
坚持一种流动的肤色
多少梦里唤他回去
多少日子,夹带两岸泥沙的深愁
水位的升涨
随汗水血泪的盈寡而漂动
潆洄中迟滞里寻找出路
不曾有一泻千里的雄姿
一条河,历史告诉他应该倒流
以泥土的颜色
日夜奔成一片希望的远景
那河,曾经在我脚下在我心中
属于过去也属于记忆
没有苇白的两岸依然肥沃依然
辉煌我的长河呵
灌我,沐我,那河
小时候不知道将它砌好围起
一任它摊开奔腾向南海
一去不回的旧梦
洸洸不安的河水
每洄汨一段,即盘聚成泥沼
河水就此回溯
自赤裸的童年,鱼虾的水乡
萎缩成一脉孤藤,曲伏在小小的地图上
史书的末章,静静
低咽
太息
不幸呢还是大幸,河的浅滩
整个历史的根曾在这里驻扎
加冷人的足迹印过
武吉士人漂泊的身影停留过
先祖的渔网撒过
莱佛士舰队的余波掠过
东洋武士刀的血在这里
洗过
如今,不曾留下
一丝痕迹
昨夜,一架架重吨的机械
在河之涘,在水中央怒吼
在时光的隧道里
为你换胎,为你整容
那粗糙的铁腕
千百回折将你引渡
不舍昼夜,沿两岸朝八方
赐你新生
向苦海

之二

小小雨后
抛锚在桥上
多少年了!来来往往
不曾停车暂追思。后方
后方该是头石狮
前面有碧水蓝天
浪静风平,独添一道人造虹
而昨日,两岸的风景不是这个样子的
昨日,我们靠在栏杆吃烤番薯
左边有满船橡胶,驶向南益栈
右边有舯舡堆满货箱,从大华仓库出发
我们蹲在岸边放线收线
从晌午收到黄昏
从人手田米收到寄小读者
我们骑在石狮上拍小六毕业照
三元半的相机留下一叠朦胧的记忆
譬如红鸡蛋与粗藤条
譬如三个五与公仔书
譬如拉辫子与放蟑螂
譬如东方红与圣歌班
譬如斗争与争斗
譬如饿与不饿
譬如该与
不该
那更早呢
更早的时候
涨潮时我们网黑纹虾退潮后捉指甲蚌
中午十二点胶厂的钟声,有人
吃饭有人上学去
我们唱刘三姐吃稀米绿豆汤
光着屁股沐浴河上玩烂泥巴游戏
有一天黑牛党的人匆匆来过又匆匆离去
有一天一把大火把我们的童年烧得干干净净
我们流着稚子泪
祈求下雨
雨下在昨日的心头,今天的桥头。河上
桥的两岸,野草萋萋
石墩两边,渔舟不再
凭栏,该回想些什么?
车水马龙,是桥上的车辆
桥下,浓浊的河水,涂上一层七彩的油渍
流水,依旧顺着从前的方向流去
流光,在我额前发霉。举目四顾
我的后方,武吉士村只剩下几根残柱
前方,有滨海城,向我招手
我去不去呢?
河畔,有张石椅
带有雨水与尘埃,让我坐下
静静回想。这河
曾经有最长的绿岸,曾经
有我最初的梦……
作于1986年10月27日
收入希尼尔诗集《绑架岁月》,1989年
~
Shelly Bryant’s English translation of this poem was first published in the programme notes of A Melody named Memory, an event on October 7, 2017 as part of The Arts House’s Poetry with Music series.

Kallang River

There is a river
flowing quietly
– One –
flowing so hesitantly
a river, dragon claws extended
from north to south, its banks spread wide
day and night, its low sob
in the memories of our ancestors
sticking like the colour of skin
how many dreams call him back
how many days, deeply entrenched
in the sediment on each bank
water level rising
with each drink of sweat and tears
a whirlpool swirls, looking for a way out
never seeing a thousand miles of majesty
a river, history telling him that it should return
to the colour of the earth
day and night, becoming a scene of hope
that river, beneath my feet and in my heart
belonging to the memories of the past
without reeds, the whitened banks remain fertile
my glorious river
irrigate me, wash me, that river
in my youth I did not know to build a wall around it
once it is allowed to move out into the South China Sea
it never returns to its old dreams
turbulent river
each whirl turns a muddy disk
the river returns
from the naked youth, home to fish and shrimps
it shrinks into a solitary vine, a song creeping on a tiny map
the history book’s final chapter, silently
whispers
at rest
misfortune is still fortune, misfortune or fortune
the roots of an entire history stationed there
the footprints of the Kallang people
the drifting shadow of a Bugis man
the fishing nets of our ancestors
Raffles’ fleet swept past
the blood from the Japanese warrior’s blade
all have been cleansed here
today, leave no more
a trace
last night, a heavy machine’s frame
in the river, amidst the water’s roar
in the tunnel of time
making big changes for you, a complete facelift
that rough iron wrist
thousands of twists and turns leading you
night or day, along these banks and outward
– giving you new life –
to the bitter sea
– Two –
after a light rain
anchored to the bridge
so many years! coming and going
never stopping for a minute to think. Behind
behind is a stone lion
before green waters and blue skies
soft current, calm breeze, solitary man-made rainbow
and yesterday, the scene on both sides so different
yesterday, we leaned on the rail, consuming sweet potatoes
on the left a boatful of rubber, sailed southwards to thriving warehouses
on the right, a tongkang full of boxes started from the UOB Bank warehouse
we squatted on the shoreline releasing and retracting the line
from noon till dusk
from ABCs to PSLE

 

we ride the stone lion for a photo of our P6 graduation
a cheap camera leaves behind a stack of hazy memories
such as red eggs and coarse rattan
such as Triple 5 cigarettes and comics
such as pulling braids and throwing cockroaches
such as Oriental Red and hymn class
such as struggle and conflict
such as hungry and not hungry
such as ought
and ought not
but what about earlier
an earlier time
at high tide when we caught black shrimps and fingernail clams at tide’s ebb
at noon the rubber factory bell sounds, some
ate and some went to class
we sang of Liu Sanjie and eating green bean soup
bare-butted bathing in the river and playing in the mud
one day members of the Black Ox Party rushed over, then hurried away
one day a fire burned, purging our youthful dreams
we shed tears
and prayed for rain
rain fell on the heart of our yesterdays, and
the bridge of today. On the river
the bridged banks, the lush weeds
stone pier on either side, the fishing boat here no more
leaning on the rail, what should we recall?
the bustle of cars on the bridge
beneath the bridge, the thick waters
coated with a rainbow of grease
flowing waters move toward the past
flowing time grows mouldy before me. Look around
behind me, only a few columns of Bugis Village remain
before me, Marina City waves to me
should I go?
on the riverside, two chairs
with rain and dust, let me sit
and quietly recall. This river
was the longest green shore, and here
lies my first dream…
27 October 1986
from Xi Ni’er’s Kidnapped Years, 1989
 
 
 
Continue reading
Related posts
Wu Mu (Teo Sum Lim) – 新加坡组曲 (translated as ‘Singapore Suite’ by Shelly Bryant)
December 11, 2017
Dan Ying – 梳起不嫁 (translated as “Combing Up, Never to Marry” by Shelly Bryant)
December 4, 2017
Chua Chee Lay – 同一片天 (translated by Shelly Bryant)
October 2, 2017
Poetry, Translation

Xiao Shui – two poems

Xiao Shui, born in Chenzhou, Hunan in 1980, has a degree in law and Chinese Literature from Fudan University. His published collections include Lost and Found, Chinese Class, and Chinese Mugwort: New Jueju Poetry.

肖水:1980年生于湖南郴州,先后就读于复旦大学法学院、中文系。出版诗集《失物认领》《中文课》《艾草:新绝句集》。

 

Translators:

Irene Chen is a translator, writer, editor from Harbin who enjoys reading, writing and listening to good stories.

Judith Huang is a writer, editor, and translator from Singapore who also illustrates postcards. She has a huge soft spot for bunnies.

 

Edited by Chen Bo, Kassy Lee.

 

 

离魂异客

 

那年他七岁,父亲倒在家里,他拿起电话,并不惊慌。

画家母亲后来改嫁一位退役将军,而他依旧选择通过自残逃避兵役。

他从韩国大田来。他在出租车上突然吻我,又淡然地像石头从石头上蒸发。

终于要告别中国,在机场的酒店里,他决定再体会一次陌生人的快乐。

 

Wandering Soul

 

He was seven that year, when his father fell down at home, he picked up the phone, not panicking at all.

His mother, a painter, remarried a retired general, while he chose to avoid enlistment through self-mutilation.

He came from Daejeon, South Korea. In the taxi he gave me an unexpected kiss, then became distant again, like a stone evaporating from a stone.

Finally leaving China, in an airport hotel, he decided to once more experience the thrill of a stranger.

 

 ~

 

末日物候

 

那时候我们一家住在库区,父亲是附近林场的伐木工,

母亲经营着小杂货店,她经常要去县城进货,有时候回来晚了,

渡船开到湖心,会停掉马达,静静飘着。岸边漫山遍野都是白鹭,

被淹没的民居偶尔从水底露出来,上面挂满了湿滑的水草。

 

 

Doomsday Phenology

 

Back then my family lived near the reservoir, my father a lumberjack,

my mother a small grocer, her trips into town to restock would sometimes keep her late,

and when her ferry reached the center of the lake, the engine switched off, we would quietly float. Countless egrets engulfed the shore, while the flooded houses would occasionally emerge, covered in soggy weeds.

 

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Poetry, Translation

Scott L. Satterfield – translation of ‘Bamboo Rill’ by Tang Shunzhi

竹溪记

 

予嘗遊於京师侯家富人之園,见其所蓄,自绝徼海外奇花石无所不见,而所不能致者

惟竹。 吾江南人,斩竹而薪之;其为園,亦必购求海外奇花石,或万钱买一石,千钱

买一花,不自惜;然有竹据其间,或芟而去焉,曰 【毋以是占我花石地】,而京师人苟可致一竹,辄不惜数千钱;然遇霜雪,又槁以死。以其难致而又多槁 死,则人益贵之;而江南人甚或笑之,曰【京师人乃宝吾之所薪】!呜呼!奇花石诚为京师与江南人所贵;然穷其所生之地,则绝徼海外之人视之,吾意其亦无以甚异於竹之在江以南。而绝徼海外,或素不产竹之地,而使其人一旦见竹,吾意其必又有甚於京师人之宝之者,是将不胜笑也。语云 【人去乡则益贱,物去乡则益贵】。以此言之,世之好醜,亦何常之有乎?

予舅光禄任君,治园於荆溪之上,徧植以竹,不植他木。竹间作一小楼,暇则与客唸啸其中;而间谓予曰【吾不能与有力者争花石之胜,独此取诸土之所有,可以不劳力而蓊然满园,亦足適也,因自谓竹溪主人,甥其为我记之】。

予以谓,君豈真不能与有力者争,而漫然取诸其土之所有者;无乃独有所深好於竹,而不欲以告人歟?昔人论竹,以为绝无聲色臭味可好,故其巧怪不如石,其妖豔绰约不如花,孑孑然有似乎偃蹇孤特之士,不可以谐於俗;是以自古以来,知好竹者绝少。且彼京师人亦豈能知而贵之,不过欲以此鬥富与奇花石等耳。故京师人之贵竹,与江南人之不贵竹,其为不知竹一也。君生长於纷华,而能不溺乎其中;裘马僮奴歌舞,凡诸富人所酣嗜,一切斥去;尤挺挺不妄与人交,凛然有偃蹇孤特之气,此其於竹必有自得焉;而举凡万物可喜可玩,固有不能间也歟!然则虽使竹非其土之所有,君犹将极其力以致之,而后快乎其心;君之力虽使能尽致奇花石,而其好固有不存也。嗟呼!竹固可以不出江南而取贵也哉

吾重有所感矣!

 

  • 唐順之

 

Bamboo Rill

 

I have strolled in the gardens of the capital’s titled and wealthy, and seeing what is collected there – not one rare plant or stone from distant borders across the seas is lacking – only the bamboo cannot be had. We south of the Yangtze cut bamboo for kindling; for the garden we also purchase rare plants and stones from abroad, some spending countless sums for a rock, a fortune to buy a single flower, all without regret. Yet if there is bamboo standing in the midst some would hack it away saying, “This will not occupy my bed of flowers and stone“. But if in the capital people are able to obtain a single bamboo, then the sum of several thousands is not regretted, ever knowing that upon the first frost or snow it will wither and die. Men greatly prize the fragile and unobtainable, yet those from the south would even mock them saying, “So the people of the capital prize our firewood”. How sad! Rare plants and stones are indeed prized by those of the south and the capital, but were their place of origin plumbed and men from those distant borders across the seas look upon them, I believe they would think those less wondrous than the bamboo south of the Yangtze. And in faraway lands across the seas perhaps no place grows bamboo, so I believe those strangers upon suddenly seeing bamboo would invariably prize it more greatly than those living in the capital, and both would laugh without end. It is commonly said, “A man away from home is worthless, a thing away from home is precious”. In view of this, how can there be constancy among people’s likes and dislikes?

My uncle, a gentleman holding the Guanglu position, cultivates a garden on the banks of the Jing stream, everywhere planting bamboo and not other trees.  Among the bamboo a small pavilion is set to pass moments of leisure with guests reciting verse and singing within. On occasion he spoke to me,  “I can not strive with those of influence in the surpassing of plants and stone, yet only by gathering what is native to this place I need not labor and my garden flourishes thusly; I am complete. In this way I am styled Master of Bamboo Rill. Nephew, you should write down such words for me”.

I replied, “How in fact are you unable to compare with the influential by conveniently gathering what is native to the land? It is not that you alone have a deep affection for the bamboo, but rather are unwilling to pronounce so to others? Long ago men discussed the bamboo, considering that being void of pretty color and fragrance it was not liked; and as its wondrous strangeness is unequal to stone, and its guiling beauty and charming delicacy unequal to the flower, yet it stands forth as a gentleman of pride and independence, aloof from the vulgar. In this, from antiquity to the present, an absolute few have known how to appreciate the bamboo.

And those of the capital, how can they understand and value bamboo, merely wanting to use it as they would a rare plant or rock to vie in display of wealth? Thus as people from the capital prize it, and people south of the Yangtze  denigrate it, their failure to understand the bamboo is one and the same. You sir, grew up surrounded by sumptuous circumstance and are able not to become dissolute in its midst; fine clothing, stables, squires, maidservants, singers and dancers, all those things many wealthy men greatly desire you deny;  especially do you steadfastly refuse reckless intercourse with others. In manner stern, aloof and unique, for this do you take pleasure in the bamboo, and all those many things that men fancy and like cannot by nature stand among the bamboo! Even if bamboo were not native to this place, you sir would do utmost to gather it here and then take pleasure in it;  you, sir, by might can gather together strange plants and stone yet your pleasure would not be found in their midst.

How sad! Before, the bamboo could not be taken from the south but taken now because is it prized. I have thoughts upon thoughts on this.

 

  • Tang Shunzhi (1507-1560)
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Poetry, Translation

Scott L. Satterfield – translation of a poem by Wang Anshi

松间

 

偶向松间觅旧题

野人休诵北山移

丈夫出处非无意

猿鹤从来自不知

 

  • 王安石

 

Among the Pines (On Being Recalled to Office)

 

Among the pines chancing upon old inscriptions,

Ignoramuses stop crowing my remove to northern mountains.

The man now comes forth not without purpose –

such as apes, cranes, never could understand.

 

  • Wang Anshi  (1021-1086)
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November 20, 2017
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August 25, 2017
Poetry, Translation, Uncategorized

Chua Chee Lay – 同一片天 (translated by Shelly Bryant)

With deep interests across literature, visual arts, culture, education and digital technology, Chua Chee Lay’s literary writings reflect his diverse influences and span across modern poetry, prose, song lyrics and short stories. Chua holds a PhD in East Asian Language and Literature from the University of Wisconsin. A linguist, educator, award-winning poet and children’s book writer, he is also the Chief Editor for several books and series, including Keeping My Mandarin Alive: Lee Kuan Yew’s Language Learning Experiences (Chinese, English and China Edition) and Journey of Our Young, a Young Writers Project by the Ministry of Education.

 

同一片天

——为2013年国家图书馆全国阅读运动“读吧!新加坡”而作
蔡志礼
混沌天地
缓缓地张开
沉睡千年的眼
浩浩沧海
渐渐凝成万顷桑田
似曾相识的飞燕
来自天上来自人间
来自同一片天
青涩少年
改朝换代后
早已风霜满面
抬望眼啊
皆是不轻弹的英雄泪
洗也洗不尽的怨
所有悲悯所有爱怜
来自同一片天
不同肤色
不同的语言
不一样的祖先
命运嬗变
上天要我们紧紧相连
赤足走在赤道边
一样阳光一样雨露
来自同一片天
不能再叫
梦沉淀搁浅
不能再叫
悲情继续蔓延
撒下心愿
全情灌溉用爱耕心田
仰望渺渺云河边
明月微笑星光点点
来自同一片天
摊开浩荡的历史长卷
翻阅盘古开天的容颜
任豪情无限壮志伸延
让心与心手和手相嵌
我们拥有同样一片天
祸福与共
直到永永远远

The Same Stretch of Sky

written for the 2013 National Library Board “Read! Singapore” campaign
a world of chaos
slowly opening
eyes that have slept for a millennium
vast sea
gradually condensing millions of miles of mulberry fields
deja vu
coming from earth to heaven
from the same stretch of sky
sentimental youth
after the regime change
faces already covered with frost
lift your eyes
aren’t these the flickering tears of a hero
and the resentment that can never be purged
all the compassion
all the sympathy
all the affection
from this same stretch of sky
different skin color
different language
different ancestors
Fate’s evolution
– heaven wants us tightly intertwined
barefoot on the equator
the same sun
the same rain
from this same stretch of sky
never again to allow
dreams to founder, stranded
never again to allow
sorrow to continue to spread
scattering the dream
love fills the irrigation channels
cultivating the heart
watching the river of clouds above
the moon smiles in the stars’ twinkling
coming from the same stretch of sky
spread the scrolls of the chronicles
read of Pangu opening up the heavens
with all our lofty ideals
let heart and heart
hand and hand be joined
we all have this same stretch of the sky
our shared good fortune
now and forever
(Reprinted with thanks to The Arts House, Singapore)
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Poetry, Translation

Chow Teck Seng – 出入停车场 (translated into English by Yong Shu Hoong)

Singapore-born Chow Teck Seng writes poetry primarily in Chinese. Frequently contributing to literary journals, anthologies and the Chinese press in Singapore and abroad, he has won awards such as the Singapore Literature Prize (2014) and Golden Point Award (2009). His poems in English translation are found in & Words: Poems Singapore and Beyond (2010), Union: 15 Years of Drunken Boat, 50 Years of Writing from Singapore (2015), SG Poems 2015–2016 and the online journal, Poetry at Sangum. They have also been adapted as short films by students of Lasalle College of the Arts in 2017. A former lecturer (in Chinese-language literature) at the National University of Singapore and National Institute of Education, he is currently pursuing a PhD at Cambridge University.

 

出入停车场*

  

车子持续倒退

到位、无回、不悔

不能够有发光的青春碎片

火箭降落了

回忆开走了

柏拉图像飞走的伞

停车场常伪装为一枚句号

习惯系上了安全带

预备在车程中观赏一段周而复始的连续剧

雨刷的动作让我以为这是一出怀旧电影

预感是影印出来的大海

眼神是指南针

望后镜中的目光终于接近最熟悉最普通的温柔

不是错位,不能忘记回过身

 

原来停车场亦不是逗号

明天和旅程不会重复

街灯和拉上的手控刹车器轻声告诉你

停车是一道暧昧不清、赤裸的分号

停顿的微光和下车的脚步声

连身裙似的把错落情节依次缝起

 

下雨的停车场像停尸间

送走的尸体刚走掉的幸福

 

 

Entering/Exiting a Carpark

By Chow Teck Seng

 

The car keeps backing

into position, no return, no regret –

no longer possessing the shiny shards of youth.

The rocket has landed.

The memory has wandered off.

Plato, like a flyaway brolly.

The carpark frequently disguises itself as a full stop.

Habitually buckling up the seatbelt

preparing to enjoy a repetitive miniseries during the journey –

the wiping effect makes me think of this as a nostalgic film.

Premonition is a xeroxed sea.

Between the eyes, the needle of a compass.

Within that rear-view glance, finally a most familiar and mundane tenderness.

Not a dislocation, but unable to forget ever turning back.

 

So the carpark is also not a comma.

The next day, as well as the journey, will not repeat.

Streetlamps and the pulled handbrake softly inform you

that a car, stopping, is an unclear and naked semicolon.

The taillights and the sound of alighting footsteps

stitch up the misaligned scenes like garment seams.

 

The carpark, in the rain, is like the fleeing

happiness of a corpse that has just left the mortuary.

 

(Translation by Yong Shu Hoong)

 

* previously published, without the English translation, in Chow Teck Seng’s Poetry of You and Me (Lingzi Media, 2012)
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Poetry, Translation

Yong Shu Hoong – The Path of Least Resistance (translated into Chinese by Chow Teck Seng)

Yong Shu Hoong has authored one poetry chapbook, Right of the Soil (2016), as well as five poetry collections, including Frottage (2005) and The Viewing Party (2013), which won the Singapore Literature Prize in 2006 and 2014 respectively. His poems and short stories have been published in literary journals like Quarterly Literary Review Singapore and Asia Literary Review (Hong Kong), and anthologies like Language for a New Century (W.W. Norton, 2008). He is the editor of anthologies like Passages: Stories of Unspoken Journeys (2013), as well as Here Now There After (2017), which was part of The Commuting Reader series commissioned for the #BuySingLit movement. He is one of the four co-authors of The Adopted: Stories from Angkor (2015) and Lost Bodies: Poems Between Portugal and Home (2016).

 

The Path of Least Resistance

 

Sit back, relax… unclench the fists.

It’s peace of mind we’re paying for –

and we’re paying a lot – when we

entrust the task of navigating these

unacquainted roads to an assigned

driver-for-hire. But this hardly

justifies our trust in the system; or

is it a collective resignation to fate?

Fate, as in the game of chance,

or divine will that we assume will

always be to our advantage. Breathe

in and out, as our van weaves in and

out of traffic flow. We’d like to think

the driver knows what he’s doing,

though he doth tootle on the horn

too much, especially when he’s trying

to warn any car that gets in his way

and needs to be overtaken. It seems

one false move by one of the many

stakeholders could spell disaster, yet

everything hangs in balance. Faith,

I tell my agitated heart, faith! Let

nature – the human kind included

– take its course, as man and car meld

into a single deity, all-seeing, that

rips us through the slaughter of sun

and sheets of rain, passing road-

hogging tuk-tuks along mist-shrouded

winding roads… before providing

in these verdant hills and plantations

an elixir for the violence of our pursuit.

 

 

 

通往无碍之路

 

坐下,放轻松…握紧的拳头松开

为了安心 就用钱来买方便
却买出个代价  这是我们
到陌生地  把驾驶工作 交托

某一随机安排租车司机   的结果 这还

真辜负了大家对体制的信任 或说
这只是种集体宿命行为?
命运  一种或然率的游戏

抑或 一种我们总误会  会天从人意
的天意    来 来  深吸一口气

再呼气   小包车在车流中骄纵

蛇行   我们本该信任

身为司机  当知其所当为  即使

他的连环追命喇叭  按得着实

过多  而且是为肃清自己前行车道  防止

任何挡路、意欲超车者介入  仿佛

警告其他公路使用者  千钧一发

错误  将导致他们的灾难       信任
我告诉自己亢奋的小心脏  要信任
任一切  顺其自然   自是那种

人为的自然——人、车将

天人合一    成仙成佛  仿佛  人在做

天在看  我们如何穿透雨  穿过夺命的阳光

穿过所有在蜿蜒路上挡道的嘟嘟车

九死一生后   再为我们的横行霸道

用葱葱郁郁之山峦与稻田
豁然指引出   一条救赎之道

 

(Translation by Chow Teck Seng)

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