you are supposed to be preparing your translation
class. but, here you are at it again. driving at the philosophy of it
the senselessness of it that somehow makes sense. ‘did you write about it?’

ups and downs, ups and ups’. ‘right now i’m getting beyond the point
explicity’ ‘which doesn’t mean that it’s not good’. ‘coming to terms
with it takes me 15 years, this loneliness, this solitude, in which you think
you live a death, in which you are constantly hankering after some sort of contact
of recognition, of voices at the ears’. ‘in the end, what matters is the text, not
those who short-list you or award you or criticize you or slot you in here and
there’ ‘nijinsky says: criticism is death’ ‘remember rilke’s letter to the young
poet?’ ‘last month i wrote 40-odd poems, some work, others not quite, and 6 days into
this month i’ve already done 16 poems, such as this one i’m finishing when you ring’
‘read it to me’ ‘i’m attaching notes here about spending two weeks in two countries
but it’s not till i actually started the poem when i realized that i’d spent three winters’
‘read it to me’. poem read. ‘you know, i no longer care about the need to
communicate; i’d rather die in opacity or semi-it if you like, this world too well-
connected for the dead’s comfort. i’m into otherworldly linkages. and i’ve finally
come to terms with this real, real hard thing.’ ‘i’ve got a cold, a very bad cough. let
me check if 13th’s okay, oh, no, peter and teresa are coming. 20th’s we are going to
castlemaine. 12th? let me check. yes, that’ll be fine. but we won’t talk about that; it’s a
bit superstitious, i know’

What Can Poetry Do About This?

“They tied the husband up on the second floor{mosimage}
and stripped his wife naked in front of him
both of them in their early thirties
they then gang raped the wife
who was three months into her pregnancy
after that
they threw the wife, with nothing on
out the open window
who landed in the middle of the street below
and died instantly among the spectators
the husband went insane afterwards”

the Chinese from Indonesia told me the story
with not a single adjective
that he saw with his own eyes
on 14 May 1998
the day his shop was pillaged in Jakarta
and the day he saw it all happen as he was standing in the dead lane
with an iron bar in his hands
his wife and daughters locked inside his house
his eyes dry
his voice wet with tears

Author: Ouyang Yu

Ouyang Yu came to Australia at the age of 35, and, by 57, has published 65 books of poetry, fiction, non-fiction, literary translation and criticism in English and Chinese languages, including his award-winning novel, The Eastern Slope Chronicle (2002); his collection of poetry in English, The Kingsbury Tales (2008); his collection of Chinese poetry, Slow Motion (2009); his book of creative non-fiction, On the Smell of an Oily Rag: Speaking English, Thinking Chinese and Living Australian (2008); his book of literary criticism, Chinese in Australian Fiction: 1888-1988 (2008), and his translation in Chinese, The Fatal Shore (forthcoming in 2012). His second novel, The English Class (2010), won the Community Relations Commission Award in the 2011 New South Wales Premier’s Literary Award, as well as short-listed for the 2011 Christina Stead Prize for Fiction, the 2011 Western Australia Premier’s Awards and Queensland Premier’s Awards. Ouyang Yu was nominated one of the Top 100 Most Influential Melbournians for the year 2011 as well as the Top 10 most influential Chinese writers in the Chinese diaspora. Ouyang is now professor of English at Shanghai University of International Business and Economics.

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