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Poetry From the September 2011 issue: Homage


A Beethoven Chronology

贝多芬纪年

On a certain day in a certain month of the Enlightenment
clear skies      light winds out of the southwest
high in the low 70s
Beethoven is born in a bed
on a certain day in a certain month of the Enlightenment
a soap dish tumbles to the floor
the other foot steps into a slipper
Mozart says
keep your eye on this Beethoven
he’s going to rock the world
on a certain day in a certain month of the Enlightenment
“Hello! Good evening!”
“Hello yourself! And where might you be off to?”
for the third time Herr Beethoven is disillusioned in love
on a certain day in a certain month of the Enlightenment
Napoleon returns to France
is crowned by the Pope
the composer catches cold
spikes a temperature of a hundred and two
on a certain day in a certain month of the Enlightenment
a city advisory announces
sewer line repair work on Shangyi Road
all lanes closed to traffic
Beethoven composes the ninth of his symphonies
on a certain day in a certain month of the Enlightenment
at a certain place another functionary lies home sick
at a certain place a theater is completely sold out
Beethoven’s deaf as a post
on a certain day in a certain month of the Enlightenment
the weather is gorgeous     oven toasted bread
a man and wife crawl slowly into bed
Ludwig van Beethoven’s dead

“Beiduofen jinian"  © Yu Jian. By arrangement with the author. Translation © 2011 by Steve Bradbury. All rights reserved.

十八世纪某月某日
晴 西南风三级
最高温度二十一度
贝多芬诞生于一张床上
十八世纪某月某日
一只肥皂盒掉在地下
有一双脚走进拖鞋
莫扎特说
留心这个贝多芬
他将要轰动世界
十八世纪某月某日
“您好!晚安!”
“您好!上哪去?”
贝多芬第三次失恋
十八世纪某月某日
拿破仑回到欧洲
教皇为皇帝加冕
贝多芬患感冒
体温三十九度
十八世纪某月某日
市政府公告
尚义街今日修下水道
禁止一切车辆通行
贝多芬创作第九交响乐
十八世纪某月某日
某地一职员病休在家
某地一剧院客满
贝多芬双耳全聋
十八世纪某月某日
好天气 供应烤面包
一个男子和他老婆上床睡觉
路德维希•凡•贝多芬逝世

1984年1月8日

© Yu Jian




Yu JianYu Jian

Yu Jian was born on 8 August 1954 in the southwestern Chinese province of Yunnan. With the outbreak of the Cultural Revolution in 1966, his schooling was interrupted, and his parents were forced to leave home to undergo "re-education." In 1969, at the age of sixteen, he became an apprentice in a factory north of the city and worked as a riveter and welder. Influenced by his father's interest in classical Chinese poetry and aided by frequent power failures at the factory, Yu Jian became a voracious reader. At the age of twenty, Yu Jian began writing his first poems in free verse. In 1980, when university education once again became a possibility for young Chinese people, Yu Jian passed the entrance examinations for Yunnan University, becoming a student in the department of Chinese Language and Literature. He became known as a student poet and was an energetic literary activist, helping to establish several literary clubs as well as edit various publications. His big break came in 1986 when China's most prestigious official poetry magazine, Shikan, published his poem "No. 6 Shangyi Street." He later published the controversial long poem File Zero in 1994, then turned to prose and short poems, publishing a collection of travel sketches and impressions of daily life in 1999 under the title Notes from the Human World. He began his long poem Flight in 1996 and finally published it in 2000.

Translated from ChineseChinese by Steve BradburySteve Bradbury

Steve Bradbury lives in Taipei, Taiwan, where he edits Full Tilt: A Journal of East-Asian Poetry, Translation, and the Arts.