Project Description

Yang Lian


Yang Lian, poet and literary critic, was born 1955 in Bern, Switzerland, where his diplomat parents were stationed. He grew up in Beijing and struggled through the Cultural Revolution, which swept him up at the age of 11. Yang Lian began publishing poetry in China in 1979. His most recent poems, essays and theoretical writings have been collected and reprinted in two volumes as Yang Lian zuopin(1998: Shanghai Wenyi Chubanshe, Shanghai), a work amounting to a total of over 1000 pages. Yang Lian was based in New Zealand until 1993 and became a New Zealand citizen. He worked for a time in the University of Auckland Library, which holds some rare early publications and associated manuscripts. Since 1994, London has been what Yang calls ‘Central Station’ for extensive travel in Europe, the US and Australia. His poems have been published in English in literary magazines in Hong Kong, Australia, USA, Canada, and the UK. His major English-language books include the following: ‘Masks and Crocodile’, translated by Mabel Lee (1990: Wild Peony, Sydney), ‘The Dead in Exile’, translated by Mabel Lee (1990: Tiananmen Publications, Canberra), ‘Where the Sea Stands Still: New Poems’, translated by Brian Holton (1995, 1999: Bloodaxe Books, London). This book was named “Poetry Books Society Recommended Translation” (1999) in the National Competition of Foreign Poetry Books in English Translation, UK and ‘Yi’, translated by Mabel Lee ( 2001: Green Integer, Los Angles).Yang Lian currently lives in London and continues his writing career. He is married to the novelist Liu Yo yo.

Ten Years
Translation by Mabel Lee

Time passes like a fish swimming towards its own flavour
Cliff not under your feet Years
Emptier than a word Sea wall
Sharp nipples suckling the storm
Rocks are not there You are turned like a brass screw and rust
In the armpits of sparkling waves Epitaph of a sunken ship
A name swathed in fish scales
Sloughs off fleshy curves Art of cloistering jellyfish
This blank expanse called water Turns sweet
Is called old Sunlight with the pull of a magnet
Ten summers in your lungs
Trims back The black water level in a haemorrhaging garden
Reflections in the harbour dance upside down
Trying to remember A nature like yours someone had left behind
Gulping down a glass of sour self-brewed beer in the kitchen
Like pouring it into the sink The graduate skeleton spits out
another zero