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Former Vancouver poet Luo Fu will be celebrated posthumously by the writers group that he founded

LuoFu
Prolific poet Luo Fu lived in Vancouver from 1995 to 2016.

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.

“Scholars and literary friends from all over the world are welcome to join us,” Yin declared.
Luo Fu was born in 1928 and moved to Taiwan in 1949. Five years later, he cofounded the Epoch Poetry Quarterly in 1954 with Zhang Mo and Ya Xian. Luo Fu also served as chief editor. In addition, he wrote 37 collections of poems, with some of those works translated into English, French, Japanese, Korean, Dutch, Swedish, and other languages.

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.

Anna Yin
Poet Anna Yin has translated some of Luo Fu’s work into English.

Picking Teeth

At noon

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.)

剔牙 /洛夫

中午
全世界的人都在剔牙
以潔白的牙簽
安詳地在
剔他們
潔白的牙齒

 

依索匹亞的兀鷹一群
從一堆屍體中
飛起
排排蹲在
疏朗的枯樹上
也在剔牙
以一根根瘦小的
肋骨

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”

I.

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.

 

II.

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?

 

III.

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.

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Charlie Smith

Pancouver editor Charlie Smith has worked as a Vancouver journalist in print, radio, and television for more than three decades.

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We would like to acknowledge that we are gathered on the traditional and unceded territories of the Coast Salish peoples of the xʷməθkwəy̓əm (Musqueam), Skwxwú7mesh (Squamish), and Səl̓ílwətaɬ (Tsleil-Waututh) Nations. With this acknowledgement, we thank the Indigenous peoples who still live on and care for this land.