What we talk about when we talk about poems

On 29th of August our event  “a night of poems and songs” was a great success. As we attempted to bring the popularity of the good/old poetry back to life among the few of us. And we had some really interesting works shared among us.

So what we actually talked about when we talked about poems?

Love, actually.

Love is a favourite topic for artists, writers and poets as we have been talking, writing, singing and dancing about it for centuries.

Interestingly, even though the presenters of our event were randomly scheduled on the day, the works that have been presented in such an order, they tell us love in different level from secret crush of a teenage to selfless love towards  humanity.

#1 Love from a teenager’s heart

一颗开花的树 – 席慕容

A Blossoming Tree – Xi Mu Rong

如何让你遇见我
在我最美丽的时刻
为这
我已在佛前求了五百年
求佛 让我们结一段
尘缘
佛於是把我化做一棵树
长在你必经的路旁
阳光下
慎重地开满了花
朵朵都是我前世的盼望
当你走近
请你细听
那颤抖的叶
是我等待的热情
而当你终于无视地走过
在你身后落了一地的
朋友啊
那不是花瓣
那是我凋零的心

English translation:

May Buddha let us meet
in my most beautiful hours,
I have prayed for it
for five hundred years.
Buddha made me a tree
near by the path you may take,
In full blossoms I’m waiting in the sun.
every flower carrying my hope.
As you are near, listen carefully
the quivering leaves are my waiting passion.
As you pass by without noticing me,
My friend, upon the ground behind you
is not the fallen petals but my withered heart.

This poem is from Taiwanese poet Xi Mu Rong. Idealistic and romantic, Xi is famous for her highly romanticised poetries that often express love through her beautiful writing style. She has influenced generations of young people from 70s and 80s.

“A blossoming tree” is one of the representative works from the poet, it shows a young woman who loves another person dearly and wishes she can turn into a tree planted on the path where he walks by everyday. Only for the chance to see him when he is passing on the way.

This type of love might sounds too unrealistic, however, it is a reflection of the young people’s state of mind when they meet their first love, they are afraid of telling but curious to find out what love is all about. As we all experienced this feeling at some stage of our lives.

#2 A young woman’s wish

致橡树 -舒婷

To the Oak – Shu Ting

我如果爱你
绝不像攀援的凌霄花,
借你的高枝炫耀自己;
我如果爱你绝不学痴情的鸟儿,
为绿荫重复单调的歌曲;
也不止像泉源,
常年送来清凉的慰籍;
也不止像险峰,
增加你的高度,衬托你的威仪。
甚至日光。
甚至春雨。
不,这些都还不够!
我必须是你近旁的一株木棉,
做为树的形象和你站在一起。
根,紧握在地下,
叶,相触在云里。
每一阵风过,
我们都互相致意,
但没有人
听懂我们的言语。
你有你的铜枝铁干,
像刀,像剑,
也像戟,
我有我的红硕花朵,
像沉重的叹息,
又像英勇的火炬,
我们分担寒潮、风雷、霹雳;
我们共享雾霭、流岚、虹霓,
仿佛永远分离,
却又终身相依,
这才是伟大的爱情,
坚贞就在这里:

不仅爱你伟岸的身躯,
也爱你坚持的位置,脚下的土地。

English translation:

If I love you
I won’t wind upon you like a trumpet creeper
upvalue myself by your height
I will never follow a spoony bird
repeating the monotune song for the green shade
not only like a springhead
brings you clean coolness whole year long
not only like a steepy peak
enhances your height, sets off your straightness
even sunshine
and spring rain
No, all these are not enough!
I must be a ceiba by your side
as a tree standing together with you
our roots melt underneath
our leaves merge in clouds
when wind breezes
we greet each other
but no one
can understand our peculiar words
you have your strong stem and branches
like knives and swords
and like halberds
I have my red ample flowers
like heavy sighs
and heroic torches as well
we partake cold tide, thunder storm, fire bolt
together we share brume,flowing mist,rainbow
as if we separate all the time
actually we forever rely on each other
this is great love
loyalty lives here
Love
not only your strong body
but also the position you stand,the earth under your feet

Shu Ting was named as one of the five “misty poets” in China. (Misty poetry is a type of poetry started by a group of young writers in the 1980s). This work showed the realisations of the feminism movement, and the writer is demanding the equal position in a relationship as a woman. A step further than “the blossoming tree”, Shu Ting pictured a woman not only wants love, she also wants her own independent identity and equal opportunity in the society she lives in.

#3 Either life or love – love is life

两只小花狗 - 南无

Two little dogs – Nan Wu

两只小花狗
他们爱吃肉骨头
可是骨头上没有肉
也希望能天长地久
谁说天长地久
一定要汽车和小洋楼
谁说天长地久
一定要门当户对头
你跟我走吧走吧 走吧走吧走吧
我要带你去海角天涯
你跟我走吧走吧 走吧走吧走吧
我要带你去吃肉骨头
你跟我走吧走吧 走吧走吧走吧
我要带你去打酱油
你跟我走吧走吧
走到我们老了
我们葬在村口的最东头
因为能看见朝阳
还能够想起那潮起潮落
因为能看见夕阳
还能够想起你最灿烂的模样

English translation:
Two little dogs
Their favourite food are the bones
even though there are no meat on the bones
They still hoping to be together forever
And who decided for us that to be together forever
We must have a car and a house
And who decided for us that to be together forever
It must be a properly matched marriage
Will you come away with me
I will take you to the edge of the heaven, the corner of the sea
Will you come away with me
I will take you to eat your favourite bones
Will you come away with me
I will take you to buy some soy sauce
Will you come with me
When we old and grey
We will be buried at the east side of the village
Because we can see the sunrise
We remember the flux and reflux of the sea
Because we can see the sunset
I remember the brightest smiles of yours

A lyric from the Chinese band “Nan Wu” (南无乐队), started from 2007, the group is famous for their music achievements to represents the 80s generation (people who were born in the 1980s). Their works mix Chinese culture with western music influences, combine the youth culture and humour together, and the result is some very happy songs, like this one “two little dogs”.

We’ve been told you can not be happy if you don’t have all the necessities to ensure a happy life, what would happen to Romeo and Juliet if they did end up together, without the (financial) support from their family?

This song pictures two little dogs, and their story to be together. It is actually representing a couple, in spite of the social pressures to have all the materialistic possessions, deciding to choose their own fate and  be the owner of their life. This song shows how modern Chinese society expected people to required materialistic possessions such as houses and cars, and have certain social status to be considered suitable to get married. In the idealistic world of this song, the couple abandoned all these perceptions of other people and lived their own life, and just be happy.

The following is a videos of the band performing the song, not the best quality video I can find but since they never had their own official music videos, this was filmed by a fan in a concert.

(Two little dogs – Nan Wu)

The band lead singer Liu Xiang Song (刘相松) also appeared on 2013 CCTV channel TV show “Sing My Songs”.

(The spring is here – Liu Xiang Song)

#4 What I have is a heart of gold

苏轼 - 水调歌头 明月几时有

Su Shi – The Midautumn Festival,Prelude to Water Melody

明月几时有, 把酒问青天。
不知天上宫阙,今夕是何年。
我欲乘风归去,又恐琼楼玉宇,高处不胜寒。
起舞弄清影,何似在人间。
转朱阁,低绮户,照无眠。
不应有恨,何事长向别时圆?
人有悲欢离合,月有阴晴圆缺,此事古难全。
但愿人长久,千里共婵娟。

English translation

How many times will the full moon rise?
Upholding a cup of wine, I ask the blue sky.
Tonight I wonder which year is passing by
In the heavenly paradise.
With the wind, I’d like to go there;
I’m afraid it’s too cold in the sky
With the jade-palace being too high.
Dancing to play with a cool shadow
Is this an analogous to our human world?
The moonlight is over my red corridor,
Looking at my gorgeous door;
Why I’m sleepless, I wonder.
Don’t blame on the moon any more;
Why does the moon turn to be full when we are apart?
People experience sorrow, joy, separation and reunion,
The moon may be dim or bright, round or crescent shaped,
This imperfection has been going on since the beginning of time.
May we all be blessed with longevity,
Though thousands of miles apart,
we are still able to share the beauty of the moon together.

Su Shi (8/10/1037 – 24/8/1101), one of the most famous poet in Chinese history. He has left a huge amount of poems, lyric poems (a type of Chinese poems), articles and calligraphy works. Su Shi lost his first wife after 10 years of marriage, she passed away due to illness. He also suffered from political failures and was unsuccessful in his career as a government official because of his idealistic ideas. Have experienced the sadness of life,  he realised it is the natural force of life that no one can stay together forever, like the moon sometimes in the shadow, sometimes bright, sometimes round, sometimes change its shape.

The ultimate phase of love is to embrace it when it is here, let it go when it is gone.

This poem also made into a popular song “但愿人长久” (May we all be Blessed with Longevity)

(Dan Yuan Ren Chang Jiu – Teresa Teng)

4
(Dan Yuan Ren Chang Jiu – Faye Wang)

This famous poem also inspired contemporary Chinese artist Lin Jian’s 2010 exhibition “Shui Diao Ge Tou” (Moon in glass). In his exhibition, many beautiful women’s faces are painted on giant round glasses. The artist explained that he wants to use this new medium, to understand the old poetry from a new perspective. When looking into the glass, you are not only looking at the woman, you are also looking at your own reflection.

“You see what you want to see.”

                                   – Lin Jian

The picture shows a photo taken at Lin Jian's exhibition: Moon on glass

Lin Jian: Moon on glass

Please find more details about our event on the 29th of August in this video clip, enjoy.

(A short clip of the event – A night of Poems and Songs)

Thanks for all the participants of this event, you made this night memorable and great.

More pictures of the event are coming up…

About the author

Faye Zhang
Faye Zhang

Hi I'm Faye. I'm passionate about Chinese and New Zealand cultures and am currently working and living in Beijing, China. I want to share with you everything I know about New Zealand and China. If you would like to find out more about NZCFS Youth please contact us.

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