Improvisations on a Poem
by Chen Yuhong
The poem is for a future:
you think of crimson wine - crushing
a slow soaking - seeping
you think of bubbles -
bubbles dodging, floating, shivering
A poem is for the future, but love,
love has to be now:
you think of a cliff -
a melting cliff - you surrender
The literal translation of this poem was made by Chenxin Jiang
The final translated version of the poem is by The Poetry Translation Workshop
The title in Chinese could also mean 'Free Thinking on Poetry' rather than 'a Poem', but we decided to stick with the latter, both because the poem itself refers to a poem in the singular (twice) and because of its light-hearted, playful tone: 'Improvisations on Poetry' immediately sounds portenteous.
After much discussion, we left the gerunds in the first stanza ('crushing', 'seeping', etc) exactly as they are in the Chinese as their 'awkwardness' was an integral part of the feeling of the poem.
Cliffs, as you will know, don't really 'melt': but that was the word in Chinese (the word you'd use for ice-cream melting) and, in Chinese, it also has the feeling of being a dream - in which melting cliffs are quite commonplace, of course.
A delightfully quirky, delicately erotic poem which we enjoyed translating.
© Poetry Translation Centre 2004-2013