Tuesday, September 28, 2010

German, American, and Chinese Poems (Community)

I've walked passed the Goethe-Institut in Chinatown many times (see an earlier post), but usually I keep on walking. A few days ago, something caught my eye: these posters displaying German, American, and Chinese poems. These posters are part of "Time Shadows," an annual competition that features poems from each culture. The theme for 2010 is "Community."

This Chinese poem by a poet from Taiwan is entitled 望夫石 ("Husband-Gazing Stone"). The German translation states that this poem concerns "die Legende von der Ehefrau, die so lange nach ihrem verschollenen Ehemann Ausschau hielt, bis sie sich in einen Stein verwandelte" [the legend of a wife who kept watch for her missing husband for so long that she transformed into a stone]. You can read the poem and its English and German translations at this website.

I found this excerpt from the work of an American poet particularly interesting. This poem, entitled "Locals," reminds us that all of our ancestors ultimately come from "somewhere else," displacing whoever was there before. The poem offers an insightful commentary on the ever-shifting nature of  community and the constant migration of people over time and space. The final 2 stanzas in the original English text read as follows:

Bedouin-Brython-Algonquins; always there
before you; the original prior claim
that made your being anywhere intrusive.
There, doubtless, in Eden before Adam
wiped them out and settled in with Eve.

Whether at home or away, whether kids
playing or saying what they wanted,
or adults chatting, waiting for a bus,
or, in their well-tended graves, the contented dead,
there were always locals, and they were never us.

See this website for the entire poem in English, plus translations in Chinese and German.

For a poem from the "Time Shadows 2009" competition (the theme was "City Life"), see this earlier post or this website.

No comments:

Post a Comment