MRT Poetry: ‘A Red Pine at Dusk’ by Lin Yu 林彧的〈黃昏的赤松〉

黃昏的赤松

回家的路上,我撥算鳥聲
每滴啁啾都在雕刻著你的寂靜

你伸出的枝枒正準備迎接
黑幕垂降,樹臂要拋扔星斗

轉入晚年的小徑,我知道
黃昏不昏,赤松赤心

A Red Pine At Dusk

On my way home, I count the bird calls on my abacus
Every chirp and tweet carves your silence

You extend your branches in welcome
To the fall of night’s black canvas, your limbs want to toss away the stars

As you turn on to the path of your Autumn years, I know
Dusk isn’t dusky, the red pine has a keen red heart

Lin Yu is a poet from Guangxing in Lugu, Nantou. He was born in 1957 and after a career working in journalism and editing, he returned to his hometown to run a tea shop.

MRT Poetry: ‘The Beginning of Spring’ by Zhan Che 捷運詩:詹澈的〈立春〉

立春

立春,雨把姿勢放軟了
紅日遲遲,還似深冬結痂的傷口
左右搖擺的夢境,有聲音潑啦
看見童年騎在牛背上,從水中走來

The Beginning of Spring

At the beginning of spring, the rain slouches
The sun is sluggish, like a wound that has scabbed in deep winter
The dreamscape sways back and forth with the splish-splashing
I see my childhood years riding on an ox back, walking towards me from the water

Zhan Che (詹澈 (Chan Chao-li) is a Taiwanese poet from Changhua. He has worked on various poetry journals and magazines, including founding Grassroots, and has long campaigned for local farmers’ rights.

‘Summer Stretched Like Gold Leaf’ by Jing Xiang-hai

I liked this poem because it had something of a Ferris Bueller’s Day Off vibe to it and it serves as a necessary reminder that you can’t always play by the rules or take everything so seriously:

Anyway, on with the poem:

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I thought this poem on the MRT was quite nice:

金箔般延長的夏天 鯨向海

彷彿又回到
勾肩搭背吃冰淇淋的學生時代
因為蹺了一堂爛課而感覺
整個夏天
皆被延長了節課的時光,而深深感覺
這一輩子,都因多了這一小時的悠閒打磨
而熠熠生輝

Summer Stretched Like Gold Leaf
by Jing Xiang-Hai

It feels like a return to
Eating ice-cream as students, your arm on my shoulder
Skipping one lousy class made us feel as if
The entire summer
Was stretched out by the duration of that one class, and we sensed deep inside
That this carefree hour had burnished our whole lives
Making them glisten more brightly

P.S. The poem is not a reference to 趴趴走ers, fleeing from quarantine (sorry did I ruin the mood by bringing up the dystopia that is our current reality?).

MRT Poetry: ‘The Forgotten Ritual Site’ by Liglav A-wu 捷運詩句:利格樂·阿{女烏}的「被遺忘的祭場」

被遺忘的祭場

田中第一粒小米鼓漲的時候

電話那端傳來南方部落Ina*的聲音

空氣裡滿滿都是月桃花香

下個月圓時

回來參加Masalu**吧!

*Ina 排灣語,意指母親

**Masalu 排灣語,意指謝謝,在此解釋為豐年祭

The Forgotten Ritual Site

As the first grain of millet bursts out in the field

I hear Ina*’s voice on the phone from my tribal village in the South

The air is rich with the scent of shell ginger flowers

At the next full moon

I’ll go back for Masalu**.

*Ina means “mother” in the Paiwan language

**Masalu means “thanksgiving” in the Paiwan language, here it refers to the harvest festival

Liglav A-wu is from the Paiwan tribe and was born in the tribal village of Pucunug in 1969. She is best known for her essays and reportage on issues concerning aboriginal women and published her first collection in 1996, Who Will Wear The Beautiful Clothes I Wove 《誰來穿我織的美麗衣裳》 She was also worked with Walis Nokan on Hunters’ Culture (獵人文化) magazine. She is currently working as a professor at the Taiwanese literature department of Providence University.

‘Primary Colors of Changing Times’ by Dakanow 達卡閙的〈滄桑的原色〉

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滄桑的原色                                               Primary Colors of Changing Times

所以                                                           So
為了某種無解的陷阱                                For some inescapable trap
我到現在還活著                                        I’m still living now
活著將自己當作一隻獵物                         Living as prey
然後不知名的受傷下去……                       Then suffering nameless wound after wound…

This is quite a melancholy poem from an aboriginal singer/songwriter, poet and actor Dakanow, born in 1965 in Pingdong. He’s released several albums and now lives in Dulan in Taidong County.

‘Door’ by Chiang Hsun 蔣勳的「門」

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門                                                                  Door

開,或者關                                                   Open, or shut

都可以                                                           It can be both
有時候是阻擋                                                Sometimes it obstructs
有時候是歡迎                                                Sometimes it welcomes

進,或者出                                                   Entry, or exit
都可以                                                           It can be both

它真正的意思                                               Its real meaning
只是通過                                                       Is just passing through

This is a nice little poem from author and poet Chiang Hsun (蔣勳). He was born in Xi’an in 1947, and moved to Taiwan with his family in the wake of the Chinese Civil War. He had some involvement with the anarchist movement in France while studying abroad there and supported the democracy movement in Taiwan while working as a professor on his return to Taiwan.

‘Rainy Night’ by Hsieh Wu-chang 謝武彰的「下雨的晚上」

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下雨的晚上                             On a rainy night
看不見星星和月亮                  The stars and the moon can’t be seen
他們也跟我們一樣                  Just like us
被媽媽關在屋子裡                 They’ve been shut up in their rooms by their mother
要等雨停了                             And have to wait for the rain to stop
才可以出來玩                         Until they can come out to play

Although this poem is from a children’s poet, which may explain its simplistic language, I have to admit I’m not a fan of talking down to kids and it’s not my favourite.

Hsieh Wu-chang (1950-) is a children’s author and poet. He previously worked in advertising and as an editor.

MRT Poetry: ‘Planting Rice Seedlings’ by Chan Ping 捷運詩句:詹冰的〈插秧〉

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Planting Rice Seedlings

The paddy field is a mirror
Reflecting the blue sky
Reflecting the white clouds
Reflecting the black mountains
Reflecting the green trees

The farmer plants seedlings
Plants them on the green trees
Plants them on the black mountains
Plants them on the white clouds
Plants them on the blue sky

I liked the simplicity of this poem’s words and the reliance on the concept to get its message across. The childlike tone of the poem suggested something like a nursery rhyme, but I also liked the idea of the unreality of the world as seen through an agricultural viewpoint (through the reflection on the paddy field’s surface) and that though humanity might think they exert control over the natural world, this is illusory as a reflection in a mirror. One could read this another way also, as an admiration for the unending toil of a peasant-farmer’s work and the single-minded urge to survive. 

 

Chan Ping (詹冰) was a Hakka poet born in the township of Zhuolan in Miaoli, Taiwan, in 1921 and was a student of Taichung County Taichung Middle School, set up by local elites such as Lin Hsien-tang and Koo Hsien-jung – the only middle school reserved for Taiwanese students during the period of Japanese colonial rule. He went to study pharmacology in Japan in 1942 at the Meiji Pharmaceutical School in Tokyo. He returned to Taiwan after qualifying as a pharmacist. He opened a pharmacy in Zhuolan before being invited to become a science teacher. He wrote poetry in Japanese during his years as a student at the Taichung Middle School and formed a poetry society called the Silver Bell (銀鈴會) with other students, including poet Lin Heng-tai. The society issued a poetry magazine called Green Grass (綠草). After Taiwan was ceded to the Republic of China in 1945 and the Nationalist Retreat to Taiwan in 1949 use of the Japanese language was heavily suppressed and the Silver Bell was forced to dissolve. After a transitional period of around 10 years, Chan started to write in Chinese and in 1964 he formed the Bamboo Rain Hat Poetry Society (笠詩社) along with Lin Heng-tai and other poets and they published a poetry collection called Green Blood Cells in 1965. As well as being a poet, Chan was a novelist, an essayist, a lyricist and a playwright. He died in 2004. 

 

MRT Poetry: ‘City of Faith’ by Tien Huan-chun 捷運之詩:田煥均的〈信仰之城〉

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信仰之城              City of Faith

除了佛祖和耶穌基督
As well as Buddhism and Christianity
有些神明是挖下水道的阿拉
Some gods dig water channels like Allah
有的是公園裡推著輪椅的聖母瑪利亞
Some are the Holy Marys pushing wheelchairs in the park
鬼很多的所在,神明也多
Where ghosts thrive, gods thrive too
如同陰影總是伴隨著光
As shadow follows the light
光照多的地方妳感到心安溫暖
Where light shines strongest you feel secure warmth
但鬼眾出沒也請無所懼怕
But don’t fear the places where ghosts roam
有時城市的地㡳比地上還亮
Sometimes the city’s depths are lighter than its surface
這便是文明的進展
This is the advance of civlization

MRT Prose: ‘You Can’t Drive into Taipei City’ by Hsieh Kai-te 謝凱特的「開車進不了臺北城」

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開車進不了臺北城                                 謝凱特

那一瞬間,我想起父親背著一袋沉重的家私,裡頭裝著電鑽、鐵鎚等數不清叫不出名字的工具,受雇於出錢的資方,看建築師的藍圖,聽工頭的指揮,把臺北蓋出一座城之後,他像那些風雨烈日下吹曬刻虛的鷹架和綠色圍籬一樣,直至功成身退,訕訕退出城外,讓這些光鮮亮麗的符號進駐城中。

是他蓋起這座城,又被城阻擋在外。

You Can’t Drive Into Taipei City    by Hsieh Kai-te

In that instant, I thought of my father carrying a big bag of his things on his back, with his electric drill, his hammer and countless other tools I don’t even know the name of inside. Under contract from the moneyed classes to build the city of Taipei, he consulted the architect’s blueprint and listened to the instructions of the foreman, before, just like the scaffolding and walls of plants from the building site, weathered by the wind and rain then scorched by the sun until hollowed out, he returns to obscurity, sheepishly withdrawing from the city, allowing these symbols of grandeur to establish themselves there.

It was he who built this city, but he who is held beyond its limits.

節錄自《第18屆臺北文學獎得獎作品集》

This kind of prose always repels me to some extent, although I admire the imagery of the scaffolding. One reason for this is because I always think that overtly political art (with the possible exception of newspaper cartoons) generally comes across as preachy and tends to oversimplify nuanced issues. This was also one of the reasons I really didn’t like a lot of the work of theatre director Wang Molin. Another reason is that it echoes a lot of the political rhetoric of trade unionists and implies a sense of unpaid debt to the imaginary working class builders, mechanics and plumbers that pepper the speeches of Conservative politicians when they’re trying to incite anger against immigrants or intellectuals. The subtext to this is an implication that newcomers to the city and non-working class people are being rewarded at the expense of working class people. This kind of notion is often what feeds the xenophobia and inter-class resentment that featured heavily in both the Brexit referendum campaigns and in the recent US election campaign by Donald Trump.

Despite this, I do have sympathy for the chip on the shoulder view of Taipei that many people from central and southern Taiwan have, as I had the same chip on my shoulder when visiting London from Belfast growing up. Lots of people in Taiwan call Taipei the 「天龍國」 and Taipei citizens 「天龍人」. This is a term suggesting that they are elitist and look down on others. It takes its origins in the term “World Nobles” (Japanese: 天竜人 Tenryūbito) from Japanese manga One Piece and literally means “Heavenly Dragon Folk”, snobby arrogant elites who serve as the world government in the manga.