Thursday, 10 July 2014

changming: 'y' in best canadian poetry (2014)

just received a message that one of my poems titled 'y' has been selected for inclusion in Best Canadian Poetry (2014) - this is the third time for my work to appear in the yearly anthology. the first is 'china charms: nine detours of the yellow river' (2009), and the second 'waiting' (2012). the former was also selected earlier this year for inclusion in the online anthology Poetry in Voice for canadian high school students. such news is always welcome.

so far i have written about a dozen poems all titled 'y.' while everyone of them has been accepted or published already, half of them seem to be well-received.

although i have been widely published by now (more than 1,000 poems in 870 literary journals/anthologies - many of them are prestigious or well recognized - across as many as 30 countries), i cannot find a single press willing to publish my poetry collections, not even in canada, my chosen country! i often feel the irony strongly, but i know my life is one full of paradoxes anyway.

being an author makes me feel happy most of the time: while i have become used or even indifferent to rejections, i always expect some good news to come, and little happy surprises do fall upon me from time to time!

Tuesday, 1 July 2014

[archived]: Parallel Poems-1 by Changming Yuan ©

To escape from the tyrannical logic
    Of your mother tongue
You wandered, wandering
        Through earths length and breadth
    Subjecting your old self to another syntax
A whole set of grammatical rules
        Strangely new to your lips and tips
    To expand the map of your mind
        Far beyond your home and haven
Yet in the meantime it becomes colonized
        By all the puzzling paradoxes
    Of this chosen language, for example:
        Quicksand can be very slow
        Boxing rings are in fact square
        And a guinea pig is neither a pig
        Nor is it from Guinea
                Like you or me

Bow and Arrow
            (After Longfellow)
For a whole decade of
Delays and detours
You have failed after all
To find the golden bow
Yet you still hold this arrow
Close to your heart
Ready to draw it
As straight as a day dream
At the setting summer sun

Sowing after “Digging”
            (after Seamus Heaney)

Above an empty sheet of paper
      With lines like the thin ridges
In an open fallow field
My snug pen squats
      As if waiting in ambush
Below my window, my fathers shaking shadow
      Is shrinking slowly but surely
Into a focus constantly adjusted
      By the noon sun of spring 
As he scatters some strange seeds
      Over the soil like salted brown rice
He has been preparing since last winter

By god, the old man enjoys sowing
Even more than his old man

My grandfather died at the age of 29
            In a hilly village in central china
He had cast every drop of his soiled sweat
      Onto a field not belonging to himself
It is said that he reaped little in autumn
Nor did he really care about reaping

Like a bridegroom planting his plump sperm deep
      In his brides virgin field on a mid-summer night
I am now sowing, with my pen

Another Impasse

Writing from Vancouver West
To my former friends in China
I always feel hesitant
Whether to or not to use
The first person singular pronoun
As in I do not really think so!

Time and time again, they have
Unnecessarily reminded me of 
The biggest difference in language
Between the east and the west:
There in English you always
Spell your favourite word I
In big bold italic upper case, however
Here we have really rarely
Employed the word even in poetry

In their writing practice (probably too long)
They either drop the pronoun or replace it
With many an impersonal thing like:
The present writer, the writing subject
The unlearned, the uncouth one
The old person/body, the little human/one
The trivial/insignificant/unmentionable
The president/manager/[          ] proper
The person per se, or more precisely:
[Your] inferior, [your] subordinate
[Your] stupid husband/brother/son
[Your] foolish wife/sister/daughter
[Your] humble [          ], or less humbly:
As [your] father/mentor/lord

Instead of standing up for an unmasked person
I should try to remain hidden like a taboo
In Chinese

Towards a Broader Highway

Is it an old bumpkin again
Driving a jalopy ford pick up
Unable to speed up on a highway
Or some mrs billionaire sitting behind the wheel
Of a s8000 mercedes
Too careful with her fancy life
Somewhere in the front?

Surely there is no accident
No police patrol or even a red light
You fuck, you dumb shit, why do you
Have to drive so stupid slow
On such a gray Saturday evening?

You dumb shit, you shouldnt do this, people
eager to press horns on you, to zigzag, to
Switch on and off their highbeams to protest
Against you originating such snail traffic

All of us have to drive at this speed you set
Even tho a red toyota cannot wait to make love tonight
A blue mac to have a good beer all by himself
And a white shadow to meet her death by the weekend

You fuck, blocking this long single-laned traffic
If only I were driving a crazy tank or a frenzy bulldozer
That I can crash your stupid soul, crush your snail car
And clear the way to my destiny in the twilight

Dancing with Crane
            (after May Swenson’s “Sleeping with Boa”)

I show her how to move her steps
But shes much too timid
Worse still, she cannot coordinate with my movements
Although she dances with me, to an unheard melody
Its her own music shes dancing to

She likes the way I hold her
Even lets me kiss her shoulder from time to time
so richly white and velvety
But she always keeps me at bills length
Each time I come closer
She backs off with a glaring scream

What have I done so wrong?
What is in her mind?
Jumping off the stage
She shows her best, which is a scarlet crest
Like plum petals blown onto the wall of west
I beg her to return
So she did, but only to depart from me again

Outside the spotlight
She begins to beat her wide wings against my blue wishes
Her eyes sparkling, as if saying to me
I have my neck and legs
Both too thin and too long to be your partner here
In this cage-like hall
Worse still, shes much too timid


I am the type you are supposed to despise
Smaller in size and duller in personality
More of a herbivore

I speak aloud in tongue
I eat noisily with bamboo sticks
I appear everywhere like locusts
I have recently been wanted by the editing authority
When the sun gets me
I am a dream walker

Now I am sitting beside you
In the same class
So whether you keep your eyes open or not
You can feel my warm shadow
Until we touch down
My breaths will invade
Your private space
My chanting will beat your ear drums
While you pursue your dream
My elbows or knees will occasionally
Touch or even hit yours
When monstrous clouds attack our plane
Youd better remain relaxed
Since it is not a matter of choice

Yet I am the type you are supposed to respect
I had an even happier childhood in nature
Although quite premature
I used to be the most civilized
Mighty and mysterious
I am in papers
I am not a phoenix
No more or less than a fellow traveler
With my own destination

So feel free to do whatever comforts you
We will travel together

The Peril of Watching Too Much TV News
            (After Adrian Mitchell’s “The Perils of Reading too much Fiction”)

If you watch too much tv about what is going on beyond your living room
You go quite mad
Thats what marco polo used to say every time he saw someone
Watching the big well-washed mouth yabaaing in front of a bigger camera
All their reporters and editors, none of them a true fly on the wall
With their freaky bias and nancy ways of looking at others
Selecting and shuffling words and pictures about evil soviets
Demon chinese, civilized lamas, angel-like looters
Humans biting dogs, johns caps on jills heads, and the deer called a horned horse
All of em juggled and tripping over one another in your little fragile brain box
Well, its a bit like unleashing a whole centurys illusions out of the corral
To stampede right over your ears and eyes
All those colored or uncolored lies
Whirling around inside your poor skull
Beating up storms of yellow dust
So overwhelming you cannot see or hear with your own senses
The real other world which is just the real other world
They claim to be the bars helping cage the most ferocious among us
Yet they are more ferocious than the crowned lion preying around in the jungle
Listen what I say is
If you believe everything bbc or cnn reports about their edited worlds
You go quite mad

At the Gas Station
            (After Philip Webb?)

Does this gas
Taste of grain or blood to you?

They say pump
What you dont drink with your mouth

Do all these nozzles
Serving the wrong thirst
Reach out from the same nightmare?

They say its all civilization
So be a vampire

This Busy Life
(After W. H. Daviess Leisure’)

what would our life be if, full of desire
we can from our own hearts all retire

stop counting every shining rusty coin we could make
or selling our dignity, freedom or something even fake

stop trying to have sex with someone ideal
or to kiss, and talk dirty with someone real

stop gathering fame like picking every fallen pine cone
or seeking the autograph from someone better known

stop pursuing the power to influence others
or building the authority belonging to fathers

stop looking for bigger houses, richer foods, and more fashionable clothing
or getting newer hardware or fancier cars even when theres nowhere going

stop pleading Jesus, Buddha, or Ala for a happier after life
or building heaven with earthly prayers said only to survive

Light vs Shadow

Was it the shadow?
Was it the shadow beyond?
Was it the shadow beyond the shadow?
Still fell the thick night,
When the heart blocked the light.

Yes, it is light!
It is light within!
It is light within light!
Loud sweeps the morning glow,
Where the mind has no shadow

No More Hanging On

so long have I longed
to give up all my earthy concerns
like an enlightened Buddhist monk
i am ready to climb up to
the peak of an unknown mountain
where I can build a plain hut
with fallen leaves and branches
where I can feel nothing
but the fresh songs of the forest
where I can hear
the budding of wild chrysanthemums
where I can taste the green wind
caressing the bubbling stream
where I can watch the sweetness of bamboos
shooting from the rocky vale
where I can smell the heavy breath
of tall pine trees and unknown bushes

will earth stop rotating round the sun
because of my humble interruptions?

Yellow Comedy
            (After Benjamin Zephaniah’s “White Comedy”)

Using my yellow tail
I yellow-swam
From the Yellow River
As a yeast of the yellow peril
Against the yellow alert
In yellow journalism

With a yellow hammer
And a yellow sheet
I yielded to the yellow metal
At a yellow spot
Close to Yellowstone

People call me Yellow Jack
Some hailed me as a yellow dog
When I yelped on my yellow legs
To flee from the yellow flu

Speaking Yerkish like a yellow warbler
I have composed many yellow pages
For a yeasty yellow book
To be published by the yellow press

Dont panic, I yell low

The Girl Who Danced with Democracy*
            (After Adrian Mitchell’s “The Boy Who Danced with a Tank”)

It was the same old story
Story of one meets many
Yes the same old story
Story of one meets many
The one is disabled
While the many enjoyed all the powers and freedoms

Like a sampan
Riding on a stormy sea
Against foams of prejudiced justice
Foams of jealous pride
Foams of fearful composure
Foams of hateful fraternity
Foams of selfish altruism
And foams of foams of ignorant knowledge
She was edging forward
Inch by inch
On a little wheelchair
Under breaking waves of quasi-lamas or lama supporters
Waves of frenzy political correctors
Waves of ill-focused professional cameras
And waves of waves of impulsive pinchers and grabbers

You remember how we watched her
Struggling like a strong coral tree
And we knew for that moment
She was more noble-minded than ever we would be
A Chinese girl carried the Olympic flame in Paris
The cradle and capital of our most advanced civilization
Where she danced with democracy

*As the 3rd torch bearer for the Beijing 2008 Summer Olympics, Jin Jing was physically assaulted during the relay in France on 7 April although escorted heavily by the Police.


Another Dilemma
(After David Budbills Dilemma’)

I long for tons of
so I can be a
with all this

What good is my
when I get
in such

Just A Quick Note
            (After William Carlos Williams’s “This Is Just To Say”)

To have
The lock
I had

Keeping Hands Full
You are always grasping, my friend
Says my therapist
You must learn to let go:
Whenever your hands are not full
You want to get hold of something
Or indeed anything
Now a bird in your left hand
And a bunch of flowers in your right
Thats why you are unhappy all this time
Because you do not have more hands
To grasp more things
Like green backs, purple ribbons
tall titles, soft sex and charming children
If you empty your left hand to catch the ribbons
You became unhappy about the departure of the bird
If you put down the flowers to take the greenbacks
You feel unlucky about the loss of beauty
But if you let go
Just let go
Whatever you are grasping
You can get happiness whenever you can
Since your hands are free

Poetry Penning
            (After Charles Bukowskis Poetry Readings)

Poetry penning has to be the saddest damned business to do today:
You melt the letters with the best ingredients you have
Your boldest blood, your tenderest tears and your saltiest sweat
Every piece uniquely heart-made
Packaged with the purest silk of your soul
And priced far below the cost of the little fire in your body
But you can sell it for not a single cent
Indeed, only a few tribesmen and tribeswomen caring most about this archaic trade
Might come and take a casual look
When it is marked free
Like some utensils in a used box put on the road side
Oh yeah, with more wordsmiths than wordwares
More wordwares than hawkers
More hawkers than patrons
How can you expect the miracle of a market niche
For this sad damned business
As more and more patrons turn to raps, heavy metal music
Soaps, chat rooms, computer games, virtual sex
Hot dogs, chilled beers, pot or marijuana
That can entertain every nerve ending
The human body may or may not have besides the mind
So, if you must pen something
Youd best try a story, a screenplay, a slogan or even a spam

What I say is, pen pal
You may well pen anything
But for Christs sake
Not this crap

Just as the shadow beyond the light
Is fictional, and fictional is
The word on the paper or screen
So is this hand also fictional
That writes from the heart of the night?

All the feelings swarmed together
What I meditated, flows
I wonder if this life of mine
Is posthumous before the birth
Of a refracted metaphor?

            (After Jane Kenyon)

You could have been killed
In that accident in 1997
But you did not. You could
Have lost every hard-earned loonie
When the big bubble burst
But you did not. You could
Have failed to realize your boyhood dream
To have your poetry published
But you did not. You could also
Have had to stay in the bed
Unable to eat or piss for three weeks
After the surgery last time
But you did not.

This morning you could have broken
Your newly old legs or arms
On the icy road as you jogged
But you did not. One day
You know, you might become
Much less fortunate somehow

But you will not, because you believe
you have always been lucky

Hamlet: the Play or the Movie
            (After David R. Slavitt)

Who does not love Hamlet,
If they show or perform it again tomorrow night,
Who would not go to watch him?

To be or not to be…we all have this question, mostly
In mind. But with audiences young or old,
The answer is all too clear, at the tongue, ah!

And the world will well remember,
Admire, study, discuss and argue
In every dialect for centuries and centuries.

Not so bad, after all, the poisoned
Wine, the poisoned sword is fatal.
The cries on all sides must be a warm comfort.

We all fall: only a few on a classic stage,
In front of so many

A New Specialty Invents after
Thirty Years of Marriage
            (After Leo Dangle)

yummy, it tastes so good! he exclaimed.

really? she asked.

where did you learn the recipe?
These steamed fish chips are really delicious
With all this shredded green onion and fresh ginger.

well, this is the third time I cooked
it this way. Do you really mean
you like the dish?

of cuz! Why would I want to lie
about the food YOU cook?

well, this is the only thing
i am never sure about you.

are you?!

            (After John Steinbeck)
I often deplore my sons and nephews never felt
The pleasure of scything
There is no telling
Just how many hearts have been uplifted by this simple exercise

The warm wheat like golden flowers cut down, carpeting
The sunlight-framed fields
A plump land of ears listening to the songs of autumn

How neatly the ripeness lies around
The blade cut all the harvest right into the heart
Ignorant the wise e boys who
Have no idea of this stupid but sensational movement

            (After Edward Field)

Everywhere else in the new world, when people meet
They would greet one anther saying
Isnt it a nice day today! Sure it is!

Only in Vancouver will you say, another rainy day, or even
Foul or gloomy, and launch into your complaints and frustrations
Then yawn and become bored as they begin
To pour out their own similar resentments in more detail

Echoing like a parrot, you try to keep yourself less wet
Look, pal, its downpouring again, we got to run…uh…
So you start to flee in opposite directions
Each trying to hide yourself somewhere in a dry corner

As both of you leave the scene in haste
You know you can never remain dry on a rainy day

To Seek Bright Light I Close My Eyes Tight
            (After Dylan Thomas)

Looking around, I only see darkness in sight
All is thick shadow beyond thick shadow
To seek bright light I close my eyes tight

In each dream I have dreamed at midnight
I follow my heart, and closely my heart I follow
The darkest nightmare contains rays of light

Striving, I strive forward with all my might
Against the high flow, the flow that I well know
Looking around, I only see darkness in sight

Right at this site where the time is right
I let go my dream drifting away like a morning glow
Looking around, I only see darkness in sight

Inside, more inside is a door shining bright
I fumble my way slow as if a rough raft to row
To seek bright light I close my eyes tight

Men and women, come down from heated height
Dont you hear the song from soul to soul echo
Looking around, I only see darkness in sight
To seek bright light I close my eyes tight  

Drawing the Dragon

There was a contest
For the most faithful representation
Of yellow loong,
(Or the Chinese dragon)

In England

An inflated Satan
Or was it Sua proper
Came to squat among

Then stroke by stroke, again
It rose right
Each slate of white


            (After A. K. Ramanujans Self-Portrait’)

you sound so similar to everyone
but yourself, and seldom speak to a non-human being
            to conform with the law
            of acoustics
the voice of a street guy
pitch so familiar
yet reluctant to echo
from soul to soul     

Like a Lamp
            (After Grace Nicholss Like a Beacon’)

in Vancouver west
from time to time
you just cannot help yelling, yearning
for your fathers humming
you fumble into musical halls
in pursuit of tunes
soft/hard utterances 

you need this feeling

you need this contact
with origin
guiding your heart
like a lamp
along a forlorn road

Universe Netting

How the nets of this universe
Mend themselves
It is impossible to say
Or if you say to see
That this is what you have
Said. Few crevices in the closet
Of an open mind
Where you rarely see what you say to look at
Though broken
There are nets
Above all


How anyone
Is seen
So murky--
A pond of water
In a storm
Only sunlight might
Polish into a mirror
A lights long line
Or one fellow light
From Longfellow                        

Do Clouds Stop for You

Do clouds stop for you
You dont em
You say move


I           fallen
With your raindrops
You with my sweat

Your shadows pressing
Below you


Blood withers
My body is a pickle
I am bathing it

Yes I am cold-boiling
His stem, veins and leaves
Deeply soaked in my self-assertions

How he absorbed my spirits
From the quasi paradoxes
Of his senses

Till I stuffed
The whole vegetable
With my salty whims

Swollen like an apple
Bare as a twig
His fantasies hydrated

To revive him
Fresh from the brink
I demand to die

            (After Charles Simic’s ‘Watermelons’)

A whole body of teeth
Nothing but teeth

To chew the passing summer

We bite off from you
All the pearl-like memories
Tinged with sunlight

A hard but juicy kiss

            (After Lorna Crozier’s ‘Onions’)

With so many masks
Each getting fresher
Finer, fairer
And closer
To your heart

Your masks are your body
Your body is your face
Is your face your mask
Or your heart itself?

You have never been a forbidden fruit
Not even to Eve

The Fat Fabulous
            (After Gwendolyn Brook’s ‘We Real Cool’)

easy-going, they
gab; they
grin; they
giggle; they
guffaw; they
gossip; they
gyrate; they
goof off; they
galumph; gooey

Chanson by a Chinaman*

ching chong, chinee
chink, chinky, chonky
so was i called a dragon of barbarity
a born rogue holding the laws of truth in deformity
because i ate rats, dogs, slugs and snakes
i began with anything but genes of true humanity

ching chong, chinee
chink, chinky, chonky
so am i made a dead enemy of civility
growing grotesque against values in white reality
because i hate freedom as much as human rights
although i have the right to be a human entity

ching chong, chinee
chink, chinky, chonky
so will i be seen a species of non-conformity
an inflated satan beyond the borders of christianity
as long as im pig-eyed, crow-haired, the farthest other
i must be treated as a real demon only

*A parody on Chanson for Canton (London: Punch, 1858), a telling example illustrative of the deeply-rooted and long-held western tradition to demonize China as culturally the most disparate Other.

Beyond the Blue

there is no borderline
between sea and sky

waves are pushing their colors
up towards the air, bloating
their calls and songs to bold
changing shapes

it is a world within nature
presenting itself, or what
cannot be represented elsewhere

separated from the mind
the frame always trying to capture
a few fish swimming in the waters                                      

Chasing Something Absent

beyond the shadow
you are the presence
of a shadow
that is
rarely the reality
whenever you are
you are not what is present

where you stand
you join the light
and never
the light disperses
to fill in the moments
when your spirit is absent

few others have the impulses
for standing
but you do
to chase something absent

The Black Bird
            (After William Carlos Williams’s ‘Wheelbarrow’)

so little triggers

a black bird
the nexus of antithesis 

foiled with snow

to fly into the vast history of

Getting Newly Old

you can only talk
about what you used to do
and do
what you used to talk about

you shrink in both ways
and both ways are
the only way
to shrink

whats supposed to be hard
softens like a boiled noodle
whats supposed to be tender
hardens like a winter stone

one attempt
on top of another, they say

or, rather, one attemptable night
after another

Above the Water
            (After Lorna Crozier)

the goose has been floating
so long in the lake
its body above the water
becomes a picture, the rest
a rotten stick

the goose above the water
is more graceful than a swan

the goose under the water
is fossilized

in the heart of that lake
there is nothing
but a picture
of a goose-like figure
ever so bold and vivid

Outer Spaces
            (After Lorna Crozier)

the landscape is wildly wide
is thin-colored

conceptions loom above the skyline
impulses swirl near the hills

no wind of feeling is blowing
as the spirit sails on the sea

in the limbo
the whole outside is held
right at the tip of my mind’s tongue

Modern Mandarin-Speaker: Another Parallel Poem

The Chinaman you are
Is not what I heard
Though your speech is still single-syllabled

The Chinaman you are
Speaks a different mandarin now
Changed over time
Like pidgin

Making utterances
Bubbling and boisterous
That might hide
Your local accent

The Chinaman you are
Is not what I hear
Speaks with the same old pronunciation
But a new intonation

Day & Night: A Parallel Poem

The day has no ears
The heart but a myriad
The noises glare
Where life’s grievance begins

The night has no eyes
The mind but a myriad
The shadows collide
When your spirit bites at the light

Surrounding the Artwork: A Parallel Poem

It is understanding that counts in this world
The understanding from the depths of your heart and mine
That is far more helpful to a withering soul
Than honey or money, fame or game
For sexual pleasure can last no more than a few minutes
Wealth can never turn a leaf green in winter
Reputation in full bloom is meaningless once the twig breaks off
And power is only a cold joke to the truly wise
But understanding from a fellow soul can uplift the spirit
Saving it from thinning into nothingness

Suffice it to hope: it begins to communicate
Long before understanding comes along