Poems by Li Shangyin

BOMB 127 Spring 2014
Cover 127 Nobarcode

The Banquet at River Hall Dispersed, I Return to the Residence Along a Willow Road, Chanting

The spring ode I dared to lightly compose,
its lines, held in the mouth, slipped into a half-empty cup.

Already undone by the river reflecting willows.
More so by plum trees hidden in snow.

So few of us in harmony: futility inevitable.
A rush of grief quickens, then arrives.

From poetry, what answering?
One just feels the white hairs hastening.



Encountering magnificently flavored food, the spleen, stomach not cooperating
Enjoying drink the whole night, then finding the wine vessel empty
Winning at gambling; running out of lamp oil; a difficult search
Being unable to lead a donkey, horse
Ignoring a back itch while a superior sizes you up
Dredging a well where a guy pissed and shit in a hurry
Wearing unreliable clothing
A fan not dispersing flies, mosquitoes
Being unable to parry the affections of a poor relation


Not To Be Underestimated

When traveling on foot: a rundown horse
When hungry: coarse food
A duration of poverty: diluted wine
When thirsty: drinking cold broth
A duration of walking: an inferior seat
When travelling in haste: a small boat
When caught in the rain: suddenly, a little cabin


Translated from the Chinese by Chloe Garcia Roberts.

Li Shangyin (李商隐; 813–858), also known by his courtesy name of Yishan (义山), was a late Tang poet whose works are famous for their lush and obscure imagery. During his lifetime, he held various posts as a low-level government official, and though his poetry and prose were appreciated within certain literary circles, his status as one of the most important poets of his time was not recognized until after his death.

Chloe Garcia Roberts is the translator of Li Shangyin’s Derangements of My Contemporaries: Miscellaneous Notes (New Directions), which was awarded a 2013 PEN/Heim Translation Fund Grant. A book of her own poetry is forthcoming from Noemi Press in 2015. She lives in Boston and is the associate curator of the Woodberry Poetry Room.

Xuanjitu by Su Hui​
Su Hui, Xuanjitu (The Map of the Armillary Sphere). Courtesy of The Chinese University of Hong Kong Press.
Xuanjitu by Su Hui​
Su Hui, Xuanjitu (The Map of the Armillary Sphere). Courtesy of The Chinese University of Hong Kong Press.

(The Map of the Armillary Sphere)

Create a Radical and Memorable Equivalent: Mary Jo Bang Interviewed by Sylvia Sukop

A new translation with contemporary allusions that reflect the boldness of the original.

I Will Erect the New Paradise: A Series of Mistranslations by Ursula Andkjær Olsen & Katrine Øgaard Jensen
Outgoing Vessel3

i will erect the new paradise / i will build and decorate it / LIKE a garden in an outgoing/incoming vessel / with ornamented walls / with a basin in the floor

Originally published in

BOMB 127, Spring 2014

Featuring interviews with Jay Scheib, Matthew Barney and Gaspar Noé, chameckilerner, Zoe Leonard and Shannon Ebnerm, Teju Cole, Etel Adnan, Natalie Frank, and Valerie Snobeck.

Read the issue
Cover 127 Nobarcode