“War, Censorship, Love, Loss”: A Portfolio of International Writing Curated & Introduced by Ming Di

Since yesterday, protests have been breaking out in multiple cities in mainland China against the lockdown. Students from Qinghua and Liangmaqiao cry out “Freedom! Freedom!” I know they are demanding the full meaning of freedom. Not just to get out of home. Not just to travel. But freedom of speech, freedom to vote, freedom to all fundamental rights. I feel helpless and useless as the deadline of the International issue has long passed. What we have here are poems collected weeks ago, not reflecting the current situations.

          It has been a tough time around the world. The war is still going on. The pandemic is not completely controlled. People in Hong Kong are still enduring the political changes forced upon them. Women in Iran are missing everyday… There is hardly any peace anywhere on earth. Earthquakes erupt. Sea level rises, islands submerged. Friends and relatives are dying due to wars, violence, natural disasters, illness, tyrannical dictatorship, you name it, while climate changes are not stopping because of the tragedies and stupidities of human beings.         

          History, mythology, religion, war, poverty, migration, loss, love, feminism, gender issues, family and friendship are some of the themes of these poems which are either in dialogues or in debate—poetic conflicts on the levels of aesthetics or ideologies. Poets fight with words. Politicians fight with weapons and censorship. Poets are people against politicians.          

          Thanks to Arundhathi Subramaniam for collecting and introducing the work by poets from India. Thanks to Tammy Lai-Ming Ho for collecting the poetry from Hong Kong writers. Thanks to all the authors and translators who have contributed to this special issue. I know it’s far from “complete.” I hope Tupelo Quarterly will continue to devote space to international poetry. 

          A few words about the selection of poetry from China. The current poetry scene is the rising of voices from all camps, especially Guanfang (官方) vs Difang (地方), i.e. the institutional/governmental poetry vs regional/people’s poetry. I did not try to avoid any kind of poetry but instead included poets from different sides, governmental and non-governmental, “intellectual writing” and spoken language poetry, academics and working class, majority Han and ethinc “minorities” (see additional poems in the interviews of ethnic minority poets.) But due to limited time and space, not all the conflicts and diversities are presented this time. Looking forward to the future.      

Ming Di

Ming Di has published seven books of poetry in Chinese and one in collaborative translation: River Merchant’s Wife (Marick Press, 2012). She co-translated four books of poetry from Chinese into English including Empty Chairs–Poems by Liu Xia (Graywolf Press 2015) and translated six books of poetry into Chinese including Marianne Moore’s Observations (Sichuan Wenyi 2018). She edited and co-translated New Cathay – Contemporary Chinese Poetry (Tupelo Press 2013) and New Poetry from China 1917-2017 (Black Square Editions 2019.) She received Lishan Poetry Award and 2021 Best Ten Translator Award in China.