CHINESE POET VISITS FIT, MAKES METAPHOR OUT OF OYSTERS

The Chinese poet Wang Jiaxin came to FIT yesterday to read from his work and discuss the pleasures of versifying, and of translating and reading poets from around the world. Wang has been called “one of the most important contemporary poets in China,” but Hue is happy to note that he looks almost like a regular guy.

He gave talks and readings, and described what it was like growing up during the Cultural Revolution. In the ’80s he was the editor of a prestigious literary magazine in China, but after the Tiananmen Square tragedy he was relieved of that post (the university had allowed some students to participate in the protest).

Wang said to “pay attention to details” because “poets never give you anything directly.” He described the pleasure of reading Emily Dickinson—“I like her much more than [Walt] Whitman,” he said. He described Dickinson’s poems as “the fruit of longing…very deep.” He read a poem about her, and also this one, which Hue liked a lot:

OYSTERS

Party’s over. On the seaside dining table
a few oysters left,
large, unopened.

Heading back in the car, someone says
“The ones you can’t open
Taste best.”
No one laughs,
no one considers what it means.
At night the surf sounds heaviest.
Through dark pine woods
our car weaves onward.

(Translated from the Chinese by Diana Shi and George O’Connell.)

Hue suspects there’s a metaphor there, and is going to leave it in its shell.

Watch a video of Wang reading at Berkeley with poet Robert Hass here.

Wang was invited to FIT by Jean Amato, an associate professor of English and Speech and a specialist in literature of China and the Chinese diaspora. Wang’s visit was sponsored by the department.

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