Poems by Bei Dao
Translated by Clayton Eshleman and Lucas Klein
Zhao Zhenkai was born on August 2, 1949 in Beijing. His pseudonym Bei Dao literally means "North Island," and was suggested by a friend as a reference to the poet's provenance from Northern China as well as his typical solitude.Dao was one of the foremost poets of the Misty School, and his early poems were a source of inspiration during the April Fifth Democracy Movement of 1976, a peaceful demonstration in Tiananmen Square. He has been in exile from his native China since the Tiananmen Square massacre of 1989. His books of poetry include Unlock (2000); At the Sky's Edge: Poems 1991-1996 (1996), Landscape Over Zero (1995); Forms of Distance (1994); Old Snow (1991); and The August Sleepwalker (1990). His work has been translated into over 25 languages. He is also the author of short stories and essays. In 1978 he and colleague Mang Ke founded the underground literary magazine Jintian (Today), which ceased publication under police order. In 1990 the magazine was revived, and Bei Dao serves as the Editor-in-Chief. His awards and honors include the Aragana Poetry Prize from the International Festival of Poetry in Casablanca, Morocco, and a Guggenheim Fellowship. He has been a candidate several times for the Nobel Prize in Literature, and was elected an honorary member of The American Academy of Arts and Letters. At the request of Palestinian poet Mahmoud Darwish, he traveled to Palestine as part of a delegation for the International Parliament of Writers. Bei Dao was a Stanford Presidential lecturer and has taught at the University of California at Davis, the University of Alabama in Tuscaloosa, and Beloit College in Wisconsin. In 2006, Bei Dao was allowed to move back to China. Bei Dao is currently Professor of Humanities at the Chinese University in Hong Kong. In winter 2009 New Directions published his poetry collection, The Rose of Time: New & Selected Poems.
"Clean-voiced lutes and lantern-lit parties on the water have not been
the concern of Chinese poets for over a century, and yet they still seem to
invade the imagination whenever the term "Chinese poetry" is introduced
in English-speaking contexts. This is unfair and a great shame. Just as classical
Chinese poetry, its subject matter and aesthetic precepts, invigorated English-language
poetry in the mid-1900s, the poetry of contemporary China has the power to uncover
new paths of focus for poets today. Former exile poet Bei Dao is by far the
best-known of Chinese poets since 1978, and the quality of his work is recognized
by poets both within China and without. He has spoken as the oracle of the conflicted
zeitgeist of a modernizing China, while his poetics have stepped past the fashions
of his time into new territory.
"Endure," the newest collection of Bei Dao's poetry in English, is a collaborative effort between the poet-translator Clayton Eshleman and Lucas Klein, translator and assistant professor at City University in Hong Kong. The poems the present have been carefully selected to represent Bei Dao's best and most significant work from the 1970s to the present. The English editions take some inspiration from earlier translations, but far outpace their ancestors for clarity and full re-creation of poetic ideas. The volume even includes an appendix that depicts the process of interpretation through an email exchange between Klein and Eshleman. This isn't just an important book; it's a good one."
- Canaan Morse, Pathlight poetry editor Wall Street Journal/CHINA
See Poets.org and Wikipedia for further information
See this link for Eshleman and Klein essay on Bookslut discussing Bei Dao
See this link for Eshleman and Klein discussing Bei Dao translation
This is a special edition by arrangement with New Direction Press, limited to 1200 copies.