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Review Essays of Academic, Professional & Technical Books in the Humanities & Sciences


Chinese Poetry

Unlock by Bei Dao, translated by Eliot Weinberger and Iona Man-Cheong (New Directions) by the internationally acclaimed Chinese poet-in-exile. Bei Dao, the internationally acclaimed Chinese poet, has been the poetic conscience of the dissident movements in his country for over twenty years. He has been in exile since the Tiananmen Square massacre of 1989. Unlock presents forty-nine new poems written in the United States, and may well be Bei Dao's most powerful work to date. Complex, full of startling and sometimes surreal imagery, sudden transitions, and oblique political references, and often embedding bits of bureaucratic speech and unexpected slang, his poetry has been compared to that of Paul Celan and Cesar Vallejo: poets who invented a new poetry and a new language in the attempt to speak of the enormity of their times. The sixth book of Bei Dao's work published by New Directions, Unlock has been translated by Eliot Weinberger, the distinguished essayist and critically acclaimed translator of Octavio Paz and Jorge Luis Borges, in collaboration with the historian Iona Man-Cheong and the poet himself.


Wind at the ear says June
June a blacklist I slipped
in time

note this way to say goodbye
the sighs within these words

note these annotations:
unending plastic flowers
on the dead left bank
the cement square extending
from writing to

I run from writing
as dawn is hammered out
a flag covers the sea

and loudspeakers loyal to the sea's
deep bass say June




Taste the unnecessary tears
your star stays
alit still for one charmed day

a hand is birth's
most expressive thing
a word changes
in search of its roots

read the text of summer
the moonlight from which
that person drinks tea
is the true golden age
for disciples of crows in the ruins

all the subservient meanings
broke fingernails
all the growing smoke
seeped into the promises

taste the unnecessary sea
the salt betrayed



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