Monday, 10 July 2017

july updates: changming's lit endeavors

1. on the evening of july 8, my chinese poet friend dr Zhang Zhi, chief editor of World Poets Quarterly (http://theworldpoetsquarterly.blogspot.ca/), contacted me about his intention to base his magazine in a foreign country like canada rather than in his home city chongqing at the strong suggestion made by his readers/contributors/associates. accordingly, he offered to give me the title of 'president' of WPQ. functioning as such only in name, i have no obligations or responsibilities except that i can recommend poems to the magazine on a regular basis or contribute some time as an editor at large. no matter what, this is an unexpected honor, which allows me to have a closer and more formal connection with the multilingual magazine, which is perhaps the world's most widely circulated poetry magazine in print.

2. i got 9 poetry acceptances in may, and 12 in june. really disappointed and frustrating is the fact that sometimes a 'well-established' magazine accepts my poetry but stops operation just when it is scheduled to publish my work. this time is chile-based Southern Pacific Review. last time was scotland-based Glasgow Review. similar cases are those in which my accepted poetry never appears because the magazine changes its editor, who chooses to ignore my work just when the magazine is supposed to publish it.

3. though i cannot write now as much poetry as well as i used to, i am still fortunately able to do some writing from time to time; that means, my Muse has never deserted me yet. as long as life goes on, i hope and even believe there are times when i can write poetry up to my own standard at least. the problem is, i cannot find good enough poetry to read!

4. at the request of dr Zhuo Tongnian, one of the world's most renowned chinese traditional medical doctors alive today, i translated some promotional material for his elite club 'Optimum Health Yangsheng' (http://yang-sheng.com/ ), the original chinese text is extremely challenging, so i have to explore my skills to the fullest extent. i do know if it's satisfactory enough. because of my deteriorating health and my idiosyncracies, i usually refrain from doing any translation work although my thesis supervisor at tianjin normal university highly recommended me as a really good chinese-english translator even 35 years ago. in recent week, i suffered from frequent chest discomfort and chest pain in addition to eye and kneel problems, but dr Zhuo's herbal medecine has been wonderfully effective: right after taking his medicine, i felt no more chest pain.

5. conditioned by my physiological and psychological constitutions, i will concentrate on poetry writing only for the rest of my life. in other words, i have finally given up all my plans and intentions for other kinds of writing.

Friday, 19 May 2017

yuan's work due out in a best of best anthology

yesterday, i received an email informing me that my poem 'awaiting', originally published in halifax-based dalhousie review and included in best of canadian poetry (2012), has just been selected by bcp series editors Molly Peacock and Anita Lahey for inclusion in the best of the best canadian poetry in english: tenth anniversary edition, to appear in july 2017.

needless to say, i am very grateful for this remarkable honour, as well as for the good news. while for me this is as significant as my inclusion in poetry in voice, the national e.anthology for all canadian high school students in addition to best of canadian poetry (2009;12;14), i find it quite ironical that almost all canadian magazines have unanimously stopped accepting my work nowadays although i think i have been writing/submitting as many as good poems to them. more ironical is the fact that a few domestic magazines (namely malahat, fiddlehead, antagonish review, capilano review, exile and prism international)  have persistently rejected every one of my submissions for the past 13 years. with my appearances in 1309 publications (many of them are national leading magazines) across 39 countries, these few canadian magazines treat my work as far below their standards. this simple fact often makes me wonder if they have a strong bias against my poetic work, my literary background or even my cultural identity.

also, i would like to mention that a quite new online magazine called fēlan has published a poem of mine, and had an written interview with me. here are my responses to their questions, due out on 24 may::

Please tell us a bit about yourself.
-          -- A half-blind and heart-deformed guy getting newly old, I have been living a life full of ironies: for example, I got an F for every English test throughout high school in China, but later won a scholarship to accomplish my PhD in English in Canada; I always prefer reading and speaking Mandarin, but writing and publishing in English; hate to talk but make a living by lecturing; love nature but have to live in a city; and need little money for myself but function like a moneymaking machine. Happily, eight years after my elder son got married, I have now finally had Kate Emily Yuan, my first grandchild, the beautiful publication of my best (secondary) creation.
-           
When you create, what inspires you?
-          -- The only unfailing source of inspiration for me is a great poem I happen to read in English or Chinese; as a result, I have written a large number of what I call ‘parallel poems,’ those I write to emulate or respond to the poems I have fallen in love with.
-           
Tell us about the specific inspiration behind one or each of your accepted pieces.
-          -- Inspired by Dana Levin’s ‘Watching the Sea Go’ (Best American Poetry 2005), I wrote ‘Attracted to the Muted Melody of Mountains’ between 3:52 and 4:11 pm on 2 October 2016 to reenact my reading pleasure as well as my love for trees and mountains. (Every writing of a poem is a truly happy experience for me; thus I have a habit of keeping a specific record for each piece I have ever composed.)

What is your medium of choice? Why?
-          -- Poetry is my only medium of choice because it’s the most economical and effective mode of (linguistic) expression, which I feel not only comfortable but also confident with.

How did you first discover your love for creating?
-          -- While still in a Chinese junior high school, I found reading poetry could give me great pleasure beyond words; a couple of years later, I found writing poetry a most enjoyable thing to do, but I was never able to get anything published before moving to Canada.

fēlan is old English for feel. What makes you feel attraction?
-          -- It is beauty in a specific or abstract form, such as a tree, a mountain, a horse, a lovely child/woman, an inspiring poem or a smart idea.

Please feel free to add anything else you think is relevant.
-          -- There are too few really good poems that have been published, especially in bigger-named magazines, while there are too many poetry books out there and too many none-poetic forms of entertainment nowadays.




Saturday, 6 May 2017

may updates: changming's lit endeavours

1/ still able to write quite much poetry in recent weeks, but i feel increasingly worried about the time when i finally run out of poetic inspiration or talent (as the chinese idiom goes: 江郎才尽), actually, since my very first attempt at writing poetry about 13 years ago, i have always had such fear;

2/ during my first banff tour made in aug 2004, i wrote my first poem in english, and then began to be published online or in print. between 16 and 19 last month, i had my second banff tour (with my old mother) and conceived 8 poems, hopefully to be published sooner or later;

3/ got 13 acceptances in april;

4/ yesterday was a busy day for me: released our spring issue of Poetry Pacific (6.1), made the announcement on our 5,000-strong facebook site, my 8,000-strong linkedin site and my twitter, which i have ignored thus far;

5/ my eye problem has been bugging me for a long time. because i have only one (right) eye functioning all my life, i have abused it so much and so terribly that it begins to hurt and shed tears after looking at screen for only 10 or 15 minutes.  so far, no doctors or traditional chinese treatments are of any help, since this is an ageing and natural or congenital problem. to save my worsening vision, i have to reduce my computer time to minimum and decide, as publisher of PP Press, to cancel all book publication projects - i agreed to publish 2 ms two years ago and a third earlier this year for one reason or another, but recently after much hesitation, i finally released them all back to their authors. i feel really sorry, even guilt about this withdrawal, yet my increasing lifelong fear about becoming blind is more unbearable than this sense of guilt.

(how i have always wished for a normal pair of eyes so that i could have learned more computer skills, and naturally done more and better about PP and our PP Press even if all is basically a one-man's show!)

simply because of this fear and suffering, i sometimes want to change Poetry Pacific from a biannual publication to a yearly one if my health situation gets from bad to worse, but i will try to hang on...


Saturday, 1 April 2017

all my crows...

among all animals i have written about, the crow is my most favoured subject matter, probably because it is so common that we can hardly distinguish one from another in physical appearance, just like myself, but who knows what is the inner reality in each and every one of them?

[the bulk of this chapbook was accepted early in 2016 for publication by barometer pressures press, but released back to me because the publisher supposedly stopped all her literary operations later last year]


---------------------------------------------------------------------


Crows


By


Yuan Changming





Table of Contents


1/  My Crow
2/  Calls of a Crow
3/  The Black Bird
4/  The Crow and the Butterfly
5/  My Crow, My Other Life
6/  Truncated Truths (5): My Crow
7/  Crows in the Sunlight
8/  White Crow: a Parallel Poem
9/  Wintry Vision
10/ Winterscaping: Crow vs Snow
11/ My Crow: A Martyr of Truth
12/ The Crow Cornered
13/ The Lifestyle of a Crow
14/ The Human-Headed Crow
15/ Natural Confrontation: Crow
16/ My Inner Crow
17/ Crow’s View
18/ The Art of Origami
19/ Oriental Metaphysics
20/ C.R.O.W.
21/ Birds of Varied Feathers: A Confucian Vision


My Crow

As an ancient Chinese saying goes
Crows everywhere are equally black
But this one in the backyard of my heart
Is as white as a summer cloud
I have fed him with fog and frost
Until his feathers, his flesh
His calls and even his spirit
All turned into white like winter washed

My crows wings will never melt
Even when flying close to the sun


The Calls of a Crow
           
How many times
Have you lain in thick darkness
Imagining a white crow
That you wish to see
Or rather to be

Not until the other morning
Did you hear a wild bird crying
Like a persistent knock
At the door of your heart

Beyond your curtained window
Beyond your curtained dream
It was a crow hammering all its white yaws
Right into your soul
Resonating with your truer selfhood


The Black Bird

so little triggers
off

a black bird
the nexus of antithesis 

foiled with snow
light

to fly into the vast history of
gray


The Crow and the Butterfly

you like the crows in your backyard
other birds are much less plain
but they fly too high
or too far for your heart
stranded here

you envy the butterfly in your frontyard
The most beautiful
thought also most lonely
As the spring sets
under her floral wings


My Crow, My Other Life

Every morning, even before I open
My eyes, the little doors of the cage
My crow cannot wait to flutter out
Into the light-washed heavens
Striking its transparent wings into beating

Every night, even after I put
The cage back inside my cozy house
The bird still glides close to the moon
With its wings feathered with spirits
Forgetting to return home

Sometimes I wonder why
Day after day, night after night
It refuses to settle softly in its cage
Like a domesticated parrot

Were I it, would I?

Or you, once the cage broken
Would the bird return
Coo itself into sleep, dreaming

Of celestial freedom?



Truncated Truths (5): My Crow

Each crow you have seen
Has a quasi white soul
That used to dwell in the body
Of one of your closest ancestors
He comes down all the way just to tell you
His little secret, the way he has flown out
Of darkness, the fact both his body and heart
Are filled with shadows, the truth about
Being a dissident, that unwanted color

Hidden in your own heart is there also a crow
Not blacker than his spirits
But much more so than his feathers



Crows in the Sunlight

Soon after their dreamless roosting
The crows on the boughs begin to look up
Some ready to fly, some to land
Beyond the darkest moments of last night

Disturbed by their calls, a solitary squirrel
Climbing down the tree, crossing the fence
To a pasture no greener than the leaves
But there is certainly more sunshine
More photosynthesizing, under the golden film

As I walk past, neither the crows
Nor the squirrel bothers to notice my presence
Why should they be startled away? It is me
Trespassing a new territory between day and night
Where the crows hide their night-dyed feathers


White Crow: a Parallel Poem

You have never seen a white crow
You have never hoped to see one
But you have made this white enough:
Youd rather be than see such a crow


Wintry Vision

Two little crows
Popping up
From nowhere 
Try to
Establish themselves:
Two truths
On the skeletal tree top
Yawing fiercely
Towards the sky, the wind, the buildings
The fields and the entire afternoon
All so fluffy white
In jade-toned snow


Winterscaping: Crow vs Snow

Like billions of dark butterflies
Beating their wings
Against nightmares, rather
Like myriads of
Spirited coal-flakes
Spread from the sky
Of another world
A heavy black snow
Falls, falling, fallen
Down towards the horizon
Of my mind, where a little crow
White as a lost patch
Of autumn fog
Is trying to fly, flapping
From bough to bough


My Crow: A Martyr of Truth

your heavy wings used to be
feathered with light whims
your black feathers used to be
white as your pure spirits
but your throat was so often
choked with dark truths, and
knowing too many of them
has made you infamous

you cannot be distinguished
from one another, but you can
tell all humans apart, even their shadows
as you keep announcing unwelcome truths
you hope to redeem every lie
in a snowy world

Is telling dark truths always so boldly that has
Blackened your whole being inside out?



The Crow Cornered 

Still, still hidden
Behind old shirts and pants
Like an inflated sock
Hung on a slanting coat hanger

With a prophecy stuck in its throat
Probably too dark or ominous
To yaw, even to breathe

No one knows when or how
It will fly out of the closet, and call


The Lifestyle of a Crow

Instead of pecking around on the ground
For grain or gold to satisfy your hunger
You keep flying all day long, trying
To fetch feathers stuck in muddy history
Twigs far beyond Adam’s continent, and
Rice stems from summer fields, with which
You long to build a permanent nest
High on the top of the tallest Douglas fir
Where you can live closest to heaven

But you may be shot down by a hunter
When flapping towards divinity


The Human-Headed Crow
            (An ancient artifact displayed in Jinzhou Museum)

That human-headed bird
Flapping its wings against
Foreign visitations must have been
Either possessed by the spirit of
My previous life
Or winged by the body of
My next being; otherwise
It would never bother to
Look up at me

As it flies into the same legend
About the yellow crane
All its feathers fall down
On my sandy mind, like meteorites
With all their secrets hardened
From an other universe


Natural Confrontation: Crow

A wounded, fledgling crow
Yaws invisibly
Above its shadowy voice
As if to convey the message
About the darkness of tomorrow night
To the whole world, where a heavy snow
Has just started to fall, falling
My Inner Crow

after so many years
            the white crow
    i had been keeping as a pet
            finally flew away
without a single moment
                        of hesitation
through the back window
            blown open
by a gust of wild wind
                        last night

into the storm of
            black snowflakes
    falling down
            right from heaven 



Crow's View

you like to hide your pupils
in the blue of the autumn sky

when clouds collide with each other
you enjoy shining down
like a pair of invisible suns, seeing
the gliding birds above corn fields
the moving shadows of hills
the reflections in the water of an unknown lake
a wild flower blooming by the river bank
a colony of ants busy transporting foods beside an oak tree
a lilac seed blown out of a metal fence
and a vision drifting around a human head 

you saw, you see, you are seeing
even though your eyes are closed 


The Art of Origami

Each time I run short of inspirations
I would try to fold the dull season
Not into a decoration
But into a bird

I always hang it high
Above my head
Like my own spirit
Like my white crow, where I
Can hear the droning complaints of
Each creature over its pain

The pity is, my senses are often too soft
To hold the shape firm


Oriental Metaphysics

No, it was
It is
Not a crow
That has just flown by
In stillness
But a spectre
(in a crow’s shape?)
A whim
(about a crane?)
Or a glyph
(standing for a cuckoo?)
That can actually
Flap away
Neither from your agitated heart
Nor from my meditating mind
Like the butterfly 
In a Zhuangzian dream


C.R.O.W.

C
a Phoenician throw-stick
held high in his right hand
the Egyptian basket
lying far beyond his reach
what was

Meanwhile, what is
the Chinese peasant
trying to do
in his story?

R
residing near their summer resort
through her entire year
after their marriage, (for better or for worse)
russian author catherine tries narrating
her bearish story from their wintery perspective
where her major concerns are perhaps
wrapping gershwin's rhapsody
around hieroglyphic spring sprouts


O
a rope loop propped up with hope
to lasso words running amuck

a mouth reshaped, repositioned
to pronounce the roundest vowel

W
pecking around a lion
only the little chick
knows the word's worth
as it writes the worlds' story
with its feet printed on the ground
rather than on a papyrus


Birds of Varied Feathers: A Confucian Vision

Come, come
You peng from the Zhuangzian northern darkness
You swan from the Horacean meadows
You pheasant from under Li Bo’s cold moon
You oriole from Dufu’s green willow
You dove from the Dantean inferno
You phoenix from Shakespeare’s urn
You swallow from the Goethe oak or
The Nerudan dense blue air, you cuckoo
From the Wordsworthian vale, you albatross
From the Coleridgean fog, you nightingale
From the Keatsian plum tree, you skylark
Form the Shalleyean heaven, you owl
From under the Baudelairen overhanging years
You unnamed creature from the Pushkinian alien lands
You raven from near Poe’s chamber door
You parrot from the Tagorean topmost twig
And you crows from among my cawing words

Come, all of you, more than 100 kinds of
Birds from every time spot or spot moment

Come, with your light but strong skeletons
Come, with your hard but toothless beaks
Come, with your colored feathers, and flap your wings
Against Su dongpo’s painting brush strokes

Come, all you free spirits of nature
Let’s join one another and flock together

High, higher up towards mabakoola

---------------------------------------------------

Meeting

Yesterday evening I met an old friend
Of mine, while he looked into my eyes
Without moving his tiny pupils. I felt
His vision as sharp as needles after several
Minutes, I left him without saying a single
Word, he fled into twilight, his shadow
Still as dark as sleek as a bad omen


True Identities of Crows

You’re neither the mystic
Prophet
Nor the common
Fortune teller
As some humans like to believe
In the east or the west

Rather, you are the other selfhood of a fellow
Human, perching on the treetop
Speechless, as if in meditation over
Life, as if among dark prayers

The Crow in the Snow

A baby crow
Just beginning to look for
Food on its own

Pecking around
As quietly
As the snowfall itself

Perhaps to pin its hope for spring
Or to measure the depth
Of winter

The only living creature
Hatched out of white
Bold, palpable as in a Chinese painting


Crows against the Snowfall

Beyond the church
Close to the skyline
Several crows
And myriads of snowflakes
Flapping together

Then flying, flying

The blackness of crows
Was engulfed by the while

While the snow’s whiteness
Becomes frozen
On the painting