Art Talk with Xi Chuan

On the first of November the National Endowment for the Arts posted an interview between Xi Chuan and Katie Schulze, conducted in English over email while Xi Chuan was on a reading tour in the US promoting Push Open the Window (the NEA partly funded the anthology, as part of its five-year literature translation initiative). Xi Chuan’s answers again demonstrate the breadth and depth of his poetic mind. Here’s perhaps my favorite moment:

NEA: Which one of your poems is the most significant to you—in terms of subject, or the evolution or your work, or some other criteria?

XI CHUAN: A series named “Salute,” finished in 1992. 1989 abolished my method of writing poetry. Prior to 1989 I had many model poets that I tried to follow. Later, I found that these models were not enough for me to express myself. I almost stopped writing between 1989 and 1992; there was a crash in my heart, so I started writing notes. In 1992, I wrote “Salute” and it started with notes to vomit emotions/experiences about dark things that happened between 1989-1992. After I wrote this poem, I changed absolutely. Before I had an “I” in my heart; later I found [that it was multiple] “I’s” and not “we.” I found that all these deceased people live in my heart.