Sunflower in the Sun

Do you see?
Do you see that sunflower in the sun?
You see, it didn’t bow its head
But turned its head back
As if to bite through
The rope around its neck
Held by the sun’s hands.

Do you see it?
Do you see that sunflower, raising its head
Glaring at the sun?
Its head almost eclipses the sun
Yet even when there is no sun
Its head still glows.

Do you see that sunflower?
You should get closer to it.
Get close and you’ll find
The soil beneath its feet
Each handful of soil
Would ooze with blood.

by Mang Ke

© Mang Ke. Translation © Jonathan Stalling and Yibing Huang.

This week’s poem is taken from Push Open the Window: Contemporary Poetry from China, forthcoming from Copper Canyon Press in Summer/Fall 2011, and reprinted by permission of Copper Canyon Press.

The anthology, Push Open the Window: Contemporary Poetry from China, is edited by Qingping Wang. The translation co-editors are Sylvia Li-chun Lin and Howard Goldblatt. You can learn more about the new anthology here.

Notes courtesy of Copper Canyon:

Mang Ke, whose real name is Jiang Shiwei, was born in 1950. He began writing poetry in the 1970s, when, with the poet Bei Dao, he launched the literary magazine Today. He has published half a dozen collections of poetry, including Worries, Sunflowers amid Sunbeams, Time without Time, and What Day Is It Today? He has also published one novel, Wild Things, and a volume of essays. His works have been translated into several foreign languages. He lives in Beijing.

Translators’ biographies

Jonathan Stalling is an Assistant Professor of English Literature at the University of Oklahoma, specializing in Transpacific poetry and poetics, and is the co-founder and Deputy Editor-in-Chief of Chinese Literature Today. Stalling is the author of Poetics of Emptiness (Fordham UP), Grotto Heaven (Chax Press) and the forthcoming books Yíngēlìshī 吟歌丽诗 (Chanted Songs, Beautiful Poetry): Sinophonic English Poetry and Poetics (Counterpath Press, 2011) and Winter Sun: The Poetry of Shi Zhi 1966–2007 (University of Oklahoma Press, 2011). He lives in Norman, Oklahoma with his wife and children.

Yibing Huang was born in Changde, Hunan, China and inherited Tujia ethnic minority blood from his mother. After receiving his Ph.D. in Chinese Literature from Beijing University, he moved to the U.S. in 1993. He holds a second Ph.D. in Comparative Literature from the University of California, Los Angeles. Under the penname Mai Mang, Huang’s poetry has been published in China since the 1980s. He is the author of two books of poetry: Stone Turtle: Poems 1987–2000 (2005) and Approaching Blindness (2005). He is also the author of Contemporary Chinese Literature: From the Cultural Revolution to the Future (2007), a book that presents case studies of the generation of Chinese writers which spent its formative years during the Cultural Revolution and focuses on their identity shift from “orphans of history” to “cultural bastards.” Huang is currently an Associate Professor of Chinese at Connecticut College.

Copper Canyon Press is a nonprofit publisher that believes poetry is vital to language and living. Since 1972, the Press has published poetry exclusively and has established an international reputation for its commitment to authors, editorial acumen, and dedication to the poetry audience. As the preeminent independent publisher of poetry, Copper Canyon Press fosters the work of emerging, established, and world-renowned poets for an expanding audience. Copper Canyon Press publishes new collections of poetry by both revered and emerging American poets, translations of classical and contemporary work from many of the world’s cultures, re-issues of out-of-print poetry classics, anthologies, and prose books about poetry. Click here to visit the Copper Canyon website.

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