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.

 

Vexing

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.

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A snow lark hovers over the isolated Isle of the Dead A shadow on the beach is an echo of Venus who bestows upon me some ripened red fruit In this isolated moment waves produce a dream that seduces me

from Some Girls Walk Into The Country They Are From by Sawako Nakayasu

Girl C is supposed to be hard at work today but she keeps missing her stops, slipping. As the train falls out of view once again, she returns to her world of desire, instead of the world of transport and commuting and punctuality. She allows herself to float into the passenger car, and her pockets empty themselves and her clothing flies off-screen as per instructions provided one hundred years ago.

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