Chinese Poet Li Shumin

Birds Fly to His Ruined Body

by Li Shumin

White cotton eats his limbs
section by section
His face tight
against the red background
He’s taken flight—
but in the end
flown into a huge controlled world
where words river
then choked by mud
On his wounded body flying birds cluster
— he may be still alive
quickening like the summer

translated into English by Tony Barnstone with Ming Di

About the author

Born in Anhui in 1986, at age twelve moved to Kashgar in the Uyghur autonomous region of Northwest China, Li Shumin went to Xi-an for college education in 2004 and started writing poetry that year. She completed her MA in literature at Beijing Normal University in 2012 and presently works as a poetry editor with an independent publisher in Beijing.

Li Shumin’s early poems showed strong influence from her college professor Yi Sha, but she took a different approach in her later work. Her poetry seems to be more shaped by her growing up in the isolated Northwest desert area of China. We hear a private voice that talks about her inner feelings as in “Rain,” a poem about awakening. But she doesn’t solely focus on her own experience; instead, she writes about cities and deserts such as “Strange Kashgar”. Unlike the realistic descriptions from many other poets of the spoken language school, she writes about what she sees in a city – usually a dream-like world.  She sees what it is, what it was, what it implies, beyond and above. In Beijing, she sees a wounded body on the square and birds flying to him, a memory of historical moment in 1989 that she is too young to have experienced personally. Her distinctive voice comes from how she deals with the subject matter. She uses plain words in a controlled structure, she doesn’t offer an opinion directly but presents in a fable-like setting of what she “sees,” creating a surreal world that’s rarely seen in young poets’ writing in China today. (excerpt from the introduction of the author)


About 诗东西 Poetry East West

Chinese-English bilingual magazine (will include more languages), published in Los Angeles USA, printed in Beijing China. ISSN 2159-2772

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