Admirers of the poet Luo Fu (洛夫) were planning to hold a special recitation of his work in May as part of Asian Heritage Month. MARTY Award–winning poet Anna Yin told Pancouver that the annual free event will be held over Zoom, mostly in Mandarin, by members of the Driftwood Club.
However, it has since been rescheduled to June 17 at 7 p.m. Pacific daylight time. This will ensure that people in Canada can celebrate next month’s opening of Luo Fu’s Literature Memorial Hall in his hometown in Hengnan County in the Chinese province of Hunan.
According to Yin, the person in charge of the museum will join the Zoom call to talk about the facility.
According to Yin, his masterpieces include “Death of the Stone Chamber”, “The Wound of Time”, and “Driftwood”.
Luo Fu lived in Vancouver from 1995 to 2016, where he founded the Driftwood Club for Chinese poets and artists in the city. Late in life, he returned to Taiwan, where he died in 2018 of respiratory complications at the age of 89.
In an article in Freefall magazine, Yin noted that Luo Fu’s poetry expressed “grim humour, sharp insight, and linguistic play all informed by modern Chinese culture, politics, and philosophy”.
“While translating the renowned late Chinese modern poet Luo Fu’s poems into English, I constantly thought of ‘The personal is political’ in a larger sense,” Yin wrote. “I was stunned by his arresting images and symbols. His grief of ‘the clock, / is constantly / killing itself…’ reminded me of inevitable tragedies in history and inspired me to write ‘The Great Cold’ and other poems.”
Yin was Mississauga’s inaugural poet laureate from 2015 to 2017. She told Pancouver that she has translated one of Luo Fu’s poems, “Picking Teeth”, for this year’s event. You can read it below.
People of the world
All are coolly and quietly
Picking their shiny teeth
With the fresh toothpicks
White and clean
A gang of Ethiopian vultures
Flying up from a field of corpses
And landing on sparse dead branches
Leisurely line by line
Also pick their beaks
On thin ribs
One after another
(Below is the original Chinese poem by Luo Fu.)
In the past, Yin has translated Luo Fu’s “Twelve Ways of Reading Poetry”. You can hear the Chinese and English versions in the video below, which was posted on YouTube in 2021.
Yin also shared one of her original poems with Pancouver. She wrote “Emily Carr and Her Monkey ‘Woo’ ” in English and Chinese. The Chinese version was published in Epoch Poetry Quarterly (Taiwan) this spring.
Emily Carr and Her Monkey “Woo”
In a pet store, penetrating golden eyes of
a Javanese macaque gazed at you, her tiny body
in a green-brown pelt shivering in the corner.
Furious at her bullies, you scooped up that baby ape;
in your beaten-up old pram, loaded with other pets:
dogs, cats and birds, you carried her home.
Clothing the monkey and naming her Woo,
you embraced her as your child.
Whenever you painted, Woo sat on your shoulder,
transfixed by west coastal forest landscape your brushes
created, fired with your wild kindred spirit.
The once-young orphan girl, then middle aged, alone
and astray, brave and independent, rejected
by artists’ inner circle, you found consolation
and liberation in wild nature and your family menagerie.
Woo became the main theme of your sketches
in the memoir of your animal family―
her name was the last word you uttered.
In the Royal BC Museum, I gaze at your masterpieces and wonder
how you depicted totem poles and towering trees with a reverential eye,
so that magical forces could rise up with their massive voices
and fierce emotions to sweep over us…
A strange familiar feeling surrounds me, as if you were
an avatar of Monkey King―his mighty image leaps into my mind.
Had you time-traveled to kingdom he founded: Flower-Fruit Mountain?
Perhaps the rising energy, natural vitality, the carefree happiness
and the remote transcendence is universal everywhere and eternal?
You, also a rebel, not belonging to your imperial family,
fell in love with the Indigenous people and arts.
Like the mighty monkey, no mountain is too high,
no trouble too difficult, you too strove and prevailed;
both rebellion and liberation found a home with you.
While in the Chinese legend a fastening ring was forced
onto Monkey King, you tied one on to avoid messy hair.
Did you teach Woo to paint to free her spirit?
Did you brag that Woo, who recused your dog, was better than a human?
I wander in the art gallery, mesmerized
by your art and my own thoughts.
The sun is setting, trees’ shadows through the window
are cast on me. Gradually I see my own
climbing on the window
together with your portraits’ reflections.
Time, art, and displacement have brought us all together―
like in your paintings, energy and emotion,
the earth and the sky, now we become one.
Is it not true, we share the same ancestor, the one from Africa?
Perhaps at the very beginning, all lives come from one single cell
or something unknown from our similar mythos?
How about no beginning and ending?
How about death being another beginning?
Are we part of the whole, each in the other？
Every particle in the air floats with the breath of continuity,
every color in the painting is integrated with dynamic possibilities.
I take a deep breath and turn around again.
I see something is vast and timeless.