Thursday, February 4, 2021

Poetry from a Math Professor in China

 Does our language shape our thoughts?

Professor Ya Shi – a pen name meaning “mute stone” – teaches university-level mathematics in his home province of Sichuan, China, AND he is also an award-winning poet; recently published is Floral Mutter (Zephyr Press, 2018) a bilingual collection that includes the poems in their original Chinese along translation of Ya Shi's work by by Nick Admussen, poet and Asian Studies professor at Cornell University.  Admussen's preface gives us background information about Ya Shi.  Here is his very fine "Sorrow Poem":

Sorrow Poem     by Ya Shi  (translated by Nick Admussen)

Today, on a day in May, a shattering noise. 
At the lakeside, the green mint asks me to sit and practice forgetting.

At the university where the golden snub-nosed monkey took a position,
everywhere the noise of chains, the noise of alphabet-letters.
Is the wild mint really out there?  It's worth doubting.
Who can make great contributions, when the lake surface is covered in mist?

When good schools teach math, they make a diagram of an opposition
between a bizarre cone and primal chaos.  My air conditioner,

in the chest-cavity of the man-made lake, continuously clatters out broken sounds . . .
Peel apart the green mint, the ignorance the vessels inside bubble up,

and I have an endless human history to adorn --
the truth is absent, random plump arms shoot up everywhere;

a fact, a plant's white-hot shame,
if it can really stop the sorrow, well, that'll be a miracle.

No comments:

Post a Comment