Bei Dao’s Note for the International Poetry Nights Hong Kong 2011

The following is Bei Dao‘s “Note from the Editor,” which I translated for the International Poetry NightsWords & the World anthology:

Poetry exists between the word and the world. With the key of language, poetry unlocks the world from its state of concealment. As Heidegger pointed out in Poetry, Language, Thought, “Truth, as the clearing and concealing of what is, happens in being composed, as a poet composes a poem. All art, as the letting happen of the advent of the truth of what is, is, as such, essentially poetry.”

At present, we are experiencing a retreat to human civilization’s last line of defense—ours is an era void of spiritual direction, an era of lost cultural value and ideals, an era ridden with linguistic garbage. We live amidst separate jargons: scholarly jargon, businessmen’s jargon, political jargon, and more; but at the same time, what has greatest currency is the language of entertainment, the language of the internet and the new media, and in the internet age of so-called globalization, vulgar and elegant meld to form a common pact, simplifying humanity’s linguistic expressivity.

What, then, can poetry do? This ancient term takes on a particular significance today. With this in mind, the theme of the 2011 International Poetry Nights in Hong Kong is Words & the World.

We have invited ten international poets and ten Chinese-language poets to join our international poetry festival. In addition to a bi- or tri-lingual pocket-sized selection for each invitee, we have also produced a multilingual anthology containing work by all our poets. In editing these two publications, I have been joined by Professor Gilbert Fong, Dr. Shelby Chan, Dr. Lucas Klein, and Ms. Amy Ho. On behalf of all of them, I extend our sincerest thanks to the poets and translators, as well as to the friends and members of the organizing committee, without whose assistance none of this would have been possible.

If you’re in the Hongkong area, I hope to see you there!

1 thought on “Bei Dao’s Note for the International Poetry Nights Hong Kong 2011

  1. And in related news, here’s an interview with Clayton Eshleman, with whom I translated a selection of 31 Bei Dao poems (ENDURE, Black Widow Press, 2011):

    In addition to CE’s discussion of our translation process and a comparison of our work with David Hinton’s earlier version, they bring me in at the end to contextualize Bei Dao’s view of contemporary writing, for which I excerpt the above statement.


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