|Hong, two questions, one observation, and many thanks.|
-- the Bei Dao page you linked to notes:
Searching for a fresh poetics, many of China’s new writers of the Seventies experimented with "free verse" in a hermetic, semi-private language characterized by oblique, oneiric imagery and elliptical syntax. That linguistic style, in which subject, tense, and number are elusive and transitions are unclear, came to be called "menglong shi," or "misty poetry."
The idea of subject, tense and number being unclear strikes as something difficult to translate into English -- is this right (is my syntax elliptical)? If so, can you give us an example where a stanza or two leaves these attributes unclear . . . ?
I also wondered about the hinge of Chinese poetry on the characters. The slight differences [HK, Taiwan, PRC] in official orthography -- does this matter with the Misty Poets? I imagine that the sonorities of regional dialects are not the carrying force of the poems, but the personal voice inside the head that speaks the words.
Is that right? Are the Misty Poets read out loud in Cantonese and in Mandarin, to standard effect?
I really like this stuff in English translation. How does it cross that linguistic divide?
-- I could have used nostalgia plain without its not so obvious cognate as pain and sickness of heart -- a pathological longing for yesterday (e.g., arthralgia, neuralgia, pining away for the the Good Old Days), but I find we sometimes forget that English words once sharp are now blunt.
I'm glad I managed to express an aspect of your reaction in my meagre English, Hong! These became touching, painful poems on publication, but even more so in the aftermath of 1989. No less so today. Very powerful stuff. When that distant day comes and the Party falls in China, these poems will perhaps be brought on stage for the occasion (the June ones for example)? -- or do I mistake their importance in Chinese letters/civics? The surely carry a wallop on the page.
Good stuff, thanks again -- those with the occasional O-ist distaste for emotion might find these poems hopelessly fluid and dreamy and thematically diffuse . . . but a close attention serves up emotion to whack home the point. I really really like this stuff.