Floral Mutter (2020) by Ya Shi, is a bilingual collection of poems in Chinese and English.
A math teacher by day, Ya Shi lives 1,000 miles from Beijing. His short lyrics, wild nature sonnets, couplets, and poetic essays combine iconoclasm and emotions. From poems about rock moths to monks to cartoon cats, his works are unconventional forms of Chinese poetry, and dedicated to the independent spirit of the people of Sichuan.
Ya Shi was born in 1966, grew up during the Cultural Revolution and studied mathematics at Beijing University. He embarked on his poetry career in 1990, becoming the editor of an underground magazine, winning the prestigious Liu Li’an prize, and publishing several collections of poetry through official and unofficial channels.
Cryptic Poem: YA SHI
The cardiac bang bang of literary fame and the bruising after,
you bang bang bang, I bruise for no reason at all.
A good guy, perched on the excavator, extends its metal arms
and the moment of exposure, of shame
condensed into a twinkling, lasts almost forever!
The summer dew writes back, says you’re still not cryptic enough.
Fury has many categories: flattering, pinned in tight bun,
streaming cat piss, unaggrieved, engrossed by the broken soul . . .
Does the glittering system encourage weakness?
The fish bone chorus erupts, it shatters the land but sticks in the throat.
What’s most serious must be prophesied correctly before it happens.
Swashbuckling heroism? Haven’t seen it in ages. On heaven and earth’s
makeshift chopping block, you can use fir, white oak, red pine . . .
Spirit and the flesh, sliced until they’re so lean!
Translated by Nick Admussen
Photographer: Martina Nicolls