No. 74 (Autumn 2010)

At Once Beyond and Within Reality and History:
        Shang Qin's Subversive Strategies
By Wai-lim Yip

TO HIS FELLOW-POETS, Shang Qin was a poet of poets from the very beginning. He sculpted every word very much in the spirit of Edgar Allan Poe—as, for instance, in his construction of 'The Raven'—highlighted by Charles Baudelaire: 'no one point in its composition is referable either to accident or intuition—that the work proceeded, step by step, to its completion with the precision and rigid consequence of a mathematical problem'(1) and in that of Du Fu 杜甫 (712—770): 'I would risk death groping without rest until I find this startlingly eye-opening word.'(2) Every turn of words is a manoeuvre to make his readers attentive to the cut and turn of events, visual or psychological, at every step. I, for one, was, like a fan, following very closely all his publications from the late 1950s through the 1970s, when we worked together with other poets of like mind to bring about what can now be characterized as Taiwan modernism.

Here, I would like to begin by reading a short poem little noticed in Shang Qin studies, 'Wind', a piece I have always regretted for not having included in my Modern Chinese Poetry: Twenty Poets from the Republic of China, 1955—1965,(3) in which I highlighted some of his most powerful poems.


—It had been a torrential river here.
—You mean this thrown-about wilderness?
—In one night all the water oozed away, gone.
—Only in one night?
—Eh, only in one instant.
From the sudden silence swell waves and waves of white reed flowers. ...


(1) 'The Philosophy of Composition', in Selected Writings of Edgar Allan Poe, ed. Edward H. Davidson (Boston: Houghton Miifflin, 1956), p. 454.
(2) This is a free transatlio of 語不驚人死不休 in which the 'startlingly eye-opening word' phrase attempts to incorporate the fact that this is often the keyword or 'eye of the poem' 詩眼.
(3) Deeply convinced by the fruits of these poets, I began, as early as 1963, to translate their poetry into English, covering the best works from several poetry societies: Xiandai 現代 [Modern], Chuangshiji 創世紀 [Epoch], Lanxing 藍星 [Blue Stars] and Li 笠 [Bamboo Hat].

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