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Reappearance (Chinese-English) – Poems by Hsu Chicheng – A Review
Hsu Chicheng. reappearance (Chinese-English). Trans. Yang Zongze. Publishers: The Earth Culture Press (USA). Chongqing City, PRC, 2008, p. 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 reviving with hope in life. Hsu Chicheng, a famous contemporary Chinese poet, writer and translator, with a work of 15 books, including eight poetry collections, stands to age gracefully. A specialist in reading and writing, and widely translated into Greek, Japanese, English and Mongolian, Hsu views the elderly and aging with respect.
There are people over 50 who feel more like 35, or even less. Hsu Chicheng, 70 years old, confidently seeks “another world” and “another source” as a “new born”. “I’m just a baby,” says the retired academic. He feels free: “I removed the chains of time and clock.”
I find the poet inspiring because he is not deterred by the age he has reached. Rather, poetry makes him young; he tries to do or improve without hindering his creative faculty to think and dream just as he continues to “climb a mountain” or “walk in the spring” or “wait patiently” or “ruminate over and over 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 according to a natural cycle and rhythm:
“Is it time for you to leave work?
Yet you look back again and again
What and who are you reluctant to part with?
Look! the sun
Comes with its strong rays
Like the rolling waves
In the Yangtze…”
(“The View on a Winter’s Morning”
“The collapse of a witness, a tyrant
Welcome the arrival of spring
The world will be completely filled
Sunshine, flowers and joy”
(“Hope in Winter”)
“Yes, she is indeed busy
However, she does not feel tired and works day and night
Always appearing joyful, beaming with a smile
Her best wish is to see
All things on earth come to life
The growing, blooming…”
(‘Spring is Busy Now’)
The poet aims to live again, feeling the contemporary life, naturally, joyfully, and talking, singing, running or walking fast like a young man, or even dancing like a drunken man. His poems, as Hsu acknowledges in the preface to Reappearance, herald a return to youth and childhood:
“We lift our heads and overlook, waiting for another world
We lift our heads and overlook, waiting for another spring.”
He becomes spiritual as he declares:
“When spring comes and opportunity presents itself,
I will become 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 consciousness. He is deeply rooted in his native consciousness as a Taiwanese and, despite the winds of change, he follows his own path: “I just persist in my own ideal/ I’m not a migratory bird/ I love this country” and “I never want yield.” He sounds strained by the pulls of political change and the pace of a communications revolution just as he seems convinced that reality is not what is real.
As he faces the new realities facing Taiwan, Hsu Chicheng expresses his anger: “Those politicians…/ Took away/ All the benefit of spring/ People must sink into the abyss of suffering.” With the disposition of a fighter, Hsu wraps his social concerns in nature imagery and turns poetry into a means of protest against the nightmarish existence perpetuated by fraudsters, robbers, criminals, murderers, corrupt officials and schismatic politicians et al. He ironically asks: “How could it be so?” However, he is confident: “Taipei is always the starting point of revival” and “Happiness and wealth will grow.”
It seems that the pressure of globalization and socio-economic changes against the political identity of the Taiwanese literati made Yang Zongze choose Hsu Chicheng’s poems to translate 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 support humanity and justice. Kudos to Yang’s moving and empathetic labor of love!
Dr. RKSingh, Professor & Head, Department of Humanities and Social Sciences, Indian School of Mines University, Dhanbad 826004 India
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