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Modern Poetry in China: A Visual-Verbal Dynamic By Paul Manfredi

Chapter 1:  Li Jinfa
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Modern Poetry in China:


Suddenly the claustrophobic sense of the first stanza has given way to an impossibly large and impossibly small spatial arrangement in the second. Again, a sort of “catch me if you can” poetics seems to be involved, foregrounding the power of the author’s imagination to change quickly and radically, as in a dream sequence. The subject of the poem roams from a blade of grass to the empty valley, her sorrows drifting from a flitting bee to leaves falling over a waterfall. And just as the scene opens to this grand natural vista, suggesting a possible release of the “abandoned woman,” the reader finds her left behind, indeed “abandoned” entirely. The omniscient voice reenters the poem, commenting not only on the woman’s physical and psychological state but also on her predicament in increasingly abstract terms:

The abandoned woman’s cares burden her
Fire of setting sun cannot transform the boredom of time
Into gray ash, and fly away through the chimney,
To a permanent stain on the wings of the crow
Settling upon rocks above the whistling sea,
Listening, peacefully, to the boatman’s song.
The old, worn skirt emits a mournful wail,
And paces at the side of the grave,
Never again will warm tears,
Speckle the grassy ground
And ornament the world.