English, Chinese, 2018/04
“With this decades-spanning collection, Mang Ke is now visible to a general western audience, giving us a more complete picture of Chinese poetry during and since the Cultural Revolution. Mang Ke’s poems are radical in their immediacy, exploring the vexed space between public world and private experience, honing in on the gap between with sometimes uncanny directness. He delivers a simple, fact-based blow to Beijing policies in lines like: “My city, your wide eyes in the face of starving children / you are that cold / that dispassionate.” But a more common theme here is the nature of identity, or, to be specific, how we are never precisely ourselves. Such self-alienation appears in an early poem: “sometimes I go shout in the valley / and when the valley sends back my voice / my voice / shocks my heart,” and again in the long final poem in this book: “It’s not me seeing the sunlight / overrun your head like a swarm of bees / my seeing you falling asleep / is not me seeing you fall asleep.” Mang Ke’s work, from first to last, is bold, seemingly simple, yet syntactically unstable, strange. I don’t think I have ever read anything quite like it. We should be grateful to Lucas Klein for the excellent work he has done to make it available.”
“Mang Ke is a genius amongst contemporary Chinese poets. In a dark age, his early lyric poems were unparalleled—translucent, profound, and enchanting. They influenced an entire generation, and without a doubt our style of poetry was his invention.”
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