Portrait: Mr Dreamer of Butterflies After a Long Illness in Bed
by Chen Yuhong
He has wasted away into
a stick of incense
a ribbon of rain
a willow stem
thin like the winter sun
The resilient antenna
of a ladybird
The literal translation of this poem was made by Chenxin Jiang
The final translated version of the poem is by The Poetry Translation Workshop
We loved the playfulness of this delicate lyric and it was a pleasure to translate. The name of the subject, 'Mr Dreamer of Butterflies' is like a nom de plume - except it will have been given to him by his friends, probably other poets or artists in his circle.
There's something very touching about the metaphors Chen Yuhong has selected to describe her friend's condition. It's interesting that this is a woman poet writing about a man. And that she uses the final image of a ladybird to indicate his resilience.
© Poetry Translation Centre 2004-2014