If I could sing well enough—or play acoustic guitar, for that matter—I would sing Xi Chuan’s early lyric poems in a quiet studio with a swept parquet floor. A single lightbulb or a candle burning. Enormous shadows on the walls. Pot of cold black tea on a small table. Photographs of unadorned scenes from modern life: a power outage, a nurse’s youth dissolved by acid, a man pacing the room late at night. The title poem, “Notes on the Mosquito,” alludes to ironies existing between the collectivist ideal of proletariat rule versus actual bourgeois realities, a political motif in both his pre- and post-Tiananmen writings.
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