Born in 1976, Zhang Er is a poet, publisher, and curator. His work has been published in numerous important anthologies and journals in China. His poetry has been translated into English, French, and Swedish, and he was an invited participant in Sweden’s International Poetry Festival. He is the author of Imaginary House, and his work was included in the poetry collection Six Poets.
He has organized several poetry and cross-genre art events, such as “The New Poetry Experiment” and an exhibition of the photography of poets Mo Mo and Lai Er (Shenzhen 2011). He also served as poetry curator and writing coordinator for the First Contemporary Chinese Art and Poetry Exhibit (2011, Shenzhen, OCT Art and Design Gallery), the Academic Force-China Central Academy of Fine Arts Teacher-Student Exhibition (2012, Shenzhen), and many other events.
In 2009, he brought the official journal Poetry Forest to Shenzhen and transformed it into a popular publication with an independent editorial and aesthetic bent, publishing a total of 18 issues. He created Enclave in 2012, which combines contemporary art, short stories, essays, images, and art and music criticism in the format of a poetry journal. In 2013, he established the Enclave Publishing House, an independent publisher of literature and art.
Poems by Zhang Er
One day,or forever— my camera lenses grow pinholes
overlooking the world as if in a boundless darkroom.
By the shore,sturgeon fish expose their scales
with tightened bodies. Their bones spur onto a plate,
separate, and then blare in one tune.
Financial scarlet fever curves like silk balls, flirting.
A minor official waves a proletarian weight, tearfully,
making sentences underground, lighting a fire.
After snow, poetry is a mine of words sliding, and rallies a dump.
Your palms sweat, cooling down the residual social warmth.
It smells game everyday. The birds, having left the sky,
craw into the underworld to spread news of death, deforest,
and sermons. They hate each other and fight for the ruling power,
their brows sunken, flickering opportunities for the regime.
Skillfully repeated, people don’t find it mysterious any more.
Look, the night curtain has put on a metal zipper of anti-erosion.
Having gone through mountains and shores, people return
to the prison of silence. Light enters the shark’s belly.
The scare crow keeps running, for his life, like a busboy swinging
his artificial limbs.
He resists silently, making silence out of wind, spoiling the fields with fruits.
His traveling legs give him a staggering grace.
Hardly out of the hangover, he pretends and it makes him tearful.
Tracks retire backward, they don’t easily fall into the trap of Dead Sea.
The train bounces gently, a leap into Mt. Huang or Mt. Hua?
Parting with no known remorse, meeting as if posturing,
an airplane glides through the plains artfully—
Oh, the endless wild fire doesn’t burn out spring ambitions.
Poem of Change
In the far black silhouette,social rouge stirs muddy faces.
A small lane bends, the swaying body gets high
and wrapped tight. In another year, time will reverse. And fortune?
An awkward turtle erects its male part upside down in the rock garden.
Muddy water shadows the abruptness of sighs.The rocker arm in slow motion
slowly turns into an endless end of silence,
recording life’s death.
At night, the subway moves forward, with one side westward,
the fall of occasional order means in the confusing perspective
a macaque peach can have a restless turbulence of heart,
and people call that a kiwi fruit.
* kiwi and “strange” are homophones in Chinese. (– note from translator)
Poem of Mask
in a narrowed lane of a small park.
Golden leaves roll up an old
architecture by one sloping layer,
winding forward along an imaginary space curve.
In the commuting hours after work
are the bare bodies of kapok trees and magnolia.
Buses tail smoke bombs on the bright asphalt.
Old people wear raincoats, astride faded zebra.
Women hold white flags, children paper clips,
nervously walking up down
Up and down with one mind. Supermarkets spin empty
with extreme tacit
in the limited ethics, of a naturally super fresh air.
Every day is an advance! moving forward
to the untouchable lightness.
The rolling gate is pasted with white documents,
black ink dried calmly.
The man with a mask hangs out his boots, as if entering
a no-man’s land, resting,
while the vacuum evaporates his frightful and virtue “air”,
and this is— as poetic as ever!
Translated from Chinese by June Snow