The new issue of the Kenyon Review has just launched, a special feature on “Literary Activism,” coedited by Rita Dove and John Kinsella–and in it, Xi Chuan’s poem “January 2011 in Egypt” 2011年1月埃及纪事 in the online edition. Here are some lines:
Eight thousand years after its founding the people are in a backwater earning too little always hearing about others making too much.
The piss stench of mules drifts through the alleys. Trash covers the wilderness.
Corrupt politics can’t manage the trash covering the wilderness; it can only keep the grand hall clean.
The midlevel official making E£500 a month and the doctor making E£150 a month demand change.
The youths banding together to vent their anger and despair don’t know each other. Vent first, then we’ll see.
So the smoke from burning tires rises from three sides of the temple,
choking the gods inside—they proclaim themselves to be aliens so they should get respect and protection.
Anxious foreigners are smoking in the airport waiting area and no one cares.
The Romanian girl who worried about having nowhere to put her feet later disappears in the chaos of the crowd.
Yana, where are you?
Among the rioters looting the flower shop may be one who wants a rose for his beloved.
Whether you can be his beloved depends entirely on whether you’re lucky enough to survive.
The whole looks great. In addition to Xi Chuan, there’s new work by Anne Carson, Robert Hass, Kwame Dawes, and others online, and in the print edition new work by Brenda Hillman, Nathaniel Mackey, and more.
Click here for the feature, starting with the introductions by Dove and Kinsella.