Sunday, August 17, 2008

REAPPEARANCE (Chinese-English): Poems by Hsu Chicheng-- A review

BOOK REVIEW: Dr. R.K.SINGH


Hsu Chicheng. REAPPEARANCE. (Chinese-English). Trans. Yang Zongze. Publishers: The Earth Culture Press (USA). Chongqing City, P.R.China, 2008, pp. 153. Price: US$ 15.00. ISBN 978-0-9637599-6-5/A.061


Getting old is not only natural but also a blessing from God. It is an opportunity to rejuvenate oneself by re-living with hope in life. Hsu Chicheng, a renowned contemporary Chinese poet, writer and translator, with an oeuvre of 15 books, including eight poetry collections, stands for aging gracefully. A specialist in reading and writing, and widely translated in Greek, Japanese, English and Mongolian, Hsu looks at the aged and aging respectfully.


There are people over 50 who feel more like 35, or even less. Hsu Chicheng, at 70, confidently looks for “another world” and “another spring” as “a just born”. “I am only a baby,” says the retired academic. He feels free: “I have got rid of the fetters of time and watch.”

I find the poet inspiring as he is not discouraged by the age he has reached. Rather, poetry makes him young; he tries to do or get better by not stopping his creative faculty from thinking and dreaming just as he keeps “climbing a mountain” or “having a stroll in spring” or “waiting patiently” or “remasticating again and again”.

The bilingual poet and special editor-in-chief of The World Poets Quarterly , Hsu Chicheng makes aging an enriching experience. As a poet of hope, he observes life a la natural cycle and rhythm:

“Is it time for you to get off work?
Yet you look back again and again
What and whom are you reluctant to part with?
….
Look! The sun
Is coming with its strong rays
Like the surging waves
In Yangtze River…”

(‘The View in a Winter Morning’
and

“The collapse of witner, a tyrant
To welcome spring’s arrival
That day
The world will be fully filled with
Sunlight, flowers and joy”

(‘A Hope in Winter’)

and

“Yes, she is busy indeed

Yet she doesn’t feel tired and works day and night
Always appearing joyful, beaming with smile
Her best wish is to see
All things on earth come back to life
The growing, blossoming…”

(‘Spring is Busy Now’)

The poet seeks to live afresh, making sense of the contemporary life, naturally, joyously, and talking, singing, running or walking fast like a Youngman, or even dancing like a drunk person. His poems, as Hsu acknowledges in the preface to Reappearance, bespeak a return to youth and childhood:

“We raise our heads and overlook, expecting another world
We raise our heads and overlook, expecting another spring.”

(‘Reappearance’)

He turns spiritual as he declares:

“When spring comes and the chance appears,
I will turn into a butterfly, flying gracefully
Into a bright flower of poetry.”

(‘Turning into a Butterfly’)

Another striking aspect of Hsu Chicheng’s poetry is the expression of social awareness. He is deeply rooted in his native consciousness as a Taiwanese and, despite the winds of change, he follows his own way: “I only persist in my own ideal/ I am not a migratory bird/ I love this land” and “I will never give in.” He sounds tense by the pulls of political changes and the pace of communication revolution just as he seems convinced that the reality is not what is real.

As he confronts the new realities facing Taiwan, Hsu Chicheng expresses his anger: “Those politicians…/ Have taken away/ All the benefit of spring/People have to sink into the abyss of suffering.” With the disposition of a fighter, Hsu wraps his social concerns in nature imagery and makes poetry a means of protest against the nightmarish existence, sustained by swindlers, plunderers, criminals, murderers, corrupt officials and schismatic politicians et al. He ironically asks: “How could it be like this?” Yet, he is confident: “Taipei always is the starting point of revival” and “Happiness and richness will surge.”

It seems the pressure of globalization and socioeconomic changes vis-à-vis the political identity of the Taiwanese litterateurs made Yang Zongze choose Hsu Chicheng’s poems for rendering into English. Hsu deserves to be more widely known and poet-translator Yang Zongze appears textually quite subtle and effective in communicating the Taiwanese poet’s world-view, which is rich in images of nature and society and seeks to uphold humanity and justice. Kudos to Yang’s stirring and empathetic labour of love!



Dr. R.K.Singh, Professor & Head, Dept of Humanities & Social Sciences, Indian School of Mines University, Dhanbad 826004 India

The review appears in Indian Book Chronicle, Vol. XXXIII, No.9. September 2008, p. 15.

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