An Excerpt from ‘Defining Eras’ by John Chiang-sheng Kuo

He hadn’t joined the ballroom society out of interest, but had heard the other guys in his dormitory making a fuss over the teacher’s sexy body, her short skirt and high heels and the way her hips swayed like a snake. It didn’t matter if you could dance, the teacher would let you put your arms around her waist, and show you the steps one on one. The guys at university clearly had nothing better to do, as the next day the society’s classroom was heavy with testosterone, twenty or thirty pairs of eyes all fixed on the teacher’s lithe swaying curves.


There wasn’t the one-on-one instruction that had been promised, and the teacher had a male teaching assistant–a master’s student–who was specifically tasked with dealing with these idle young men. As there weren’t enough girls, the teacher paired boys with other boys, so after the first few classes, the guys had all scarpered, along with their ulterior motives.


Each society had to prepare a performance for the school’s anniversary celebration, but the ballroom society was having trouble finding a boy for theirs, which put the whole performance in jeopardy. For some reason, he was the only boy to have answered the phone call from the ballroom teacher. The teacher asked him personally to rejoin the team for the anniversary party performance. Helpless to resist the teacher’s telephone charm offensive, A-lung put on a brave face and agreed to go back to dance practice.


First, the teacher ran through the choreography and paired up the dancers, then she delegated supervision of practices to her TA. Given A-lung’s good posture, the teacher had paired him with one of the veteran dancers of the troupe so she could help him out as a novice, to bring the performance up a notch.


However, A-lung’s partner was angry at not being given a central role in the performance. It was one thing to lose out to one of the other girls in the dance society, but to have to go on stage with a rookie like him… She hadn’t cracked even a sliver of a smile since they’d started practicing together. If A-lung made an error more than once or twice, she shot him an icy look, as if he had two left feet.

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Luo Fu’s ‘Beyond the Smoke’ 洛夫的〈煙之外〉

煙之外

在濤聲中呼喚你的名字而你的名字
已在千帆之外

潮來潮去
左邊的鞋印才下午
右邊的鞋印已黃昏了
六月原是一本很感傷的書
結局如此悽美
──落日西沉

我依然凝視
你眼中展示的一片純白
(節錄)

Beyond the Smoke

I call your name amid the crashing waves, but it’s already a thousand leagues away

Ebbing and flowing
The left footprint is only afternoon
The right footprint is already dusk
June was originally a book of sorrow
With such a poignant ending
──The setting of the sun

I’m still staring
At the pure white cast in your gaze
(Extract)

Luo Fu (洛夫) was one of the pen-names of Taiwanese poet Mo Luo-Fu 莫洛夫 (originally Mo Yun-duan 莫運端). He was born in 1928 in Hengyang in Hunan (then part of the Republic of China). He changed his name due to the influence of Russian literature. He joined the Navy and moved to Taiwan in 1949. He graduated from the Political Warfare Cadres Academy in 1953 and was assigned to the Republic of China Marine Corps base in Zuoying. He founded the Epoch Poetry Society along with Chang Mo and Ya Xian in 1953. He was later stationed to Kinmen where he met his wife. Towards the end of the Vietnam war he was appointed to the Republic of China Military Advisory Group, Vietnam, as an English secretary. After his return to Taiwan, he graduated in English from Tamkang University in 1973 and retired from the army in the same year. After retiring from the army he started teaching at the foreign languages department of Soochow University, before moving to Canada in 1996 but moved back in 2016 when he was diagnosed with cancer and he died in Taiwan in 2018 after receiving an honorary doctorate from National Chung Hsing University in 2017. He was nominated for the Nobel Prize for Literature in 2001 for his 3000-line poem ‘Driftwood’ (〈漂木〉).

Chen Chuan-hung’s ‘Secret’ 陳雋弘的〈祕密〉

祕密

我多麼想離開
這座擁擠的城市
在夜晚努力長出翅膀來
在每個明天,又怕被當成妖怪
而忍痛將它折斷

Secret

I want so badly to leave
The congestion of the city
That at night I expend great effort growing wings
But out of fear of being taken for a demon on every morrow
I bear the pain of tearing them off

Chen Chuan-hung (陳雋弘) was born in 1979 and graduated with a master’s from the Chinese program at National Kaohsiung Normal University. He currently teaches at Kaohsiung Municipal Girls’ Senior High School. He previously won first prize in the free verse poetry category of the China Times Literary Prize and the literary and artistic creation award of the Ministry of Education in the free verse category, as well as several other literary prizes. His work has been published in newspapers and magazines as well as poetry collections. He has published two volumes of poetry on a limited printing, “Facing Up” (面對) and “Awaiting Confiscation” (等待沒收).

‘Later Years’ by Wu Sheng 吳晟的〈晚年〉

晚年

面對世界
即使仍有些意見
但在庭院大樹下
閒看花開謝草木生長
往往忘了爭辯


漫長的旅途,如此倉促
來不及認清多少世間道理
盡頭將隨時出現
如果還有什麼堅持
我只確知
我雖已老,世界仍年輕

Later Years

Although I still have my opinions
When it comes to the world
Under a tree in the yard I watch
Flowers bloom and wither and plants grow
I’m often so at ease I forget to voice them

This long journey undertaken with such haste
Allows no time to really understand the world
The end could come at any time
If there’s anything upon which I still insist
It’s that I’m sure
Even though I’m old now, the world is still young

Wu Sheng (吳晟) is the pen-name of Wu Sheng-hsiung (吳勝雄), a poet originally from Hsichou (溪州) in Changhua County in Taiwan. He serves as a senior advisor to the Presidential Office. After graduating from the Department of Livestock of the Taiwan Provincial Institute of Agriculture (now National Pingtung University of Science and Technology) in 1971, he taught biology at a junior high school in his hometown. He was awarded an honorary doctorate in literature from National Dong Hwa University in June of 2020. The majority of his work has been modern poetry, although he also writes essays. He also has an orchard in Hsichou named after his mother (純園) which is home to 3000 native trees; he lectures part-time at Providence University.

Chen YuHong – ‘Remembering’ 陳育虹的〈記得〉

Remembering

The sea
Continues to smile
The buoy of memory moves amid the mist and coral

Slowly on the beach
A tern writes the first line
I write the second

Some Autumn
Words

記得


繼續微笑
記憶的浮標在霧與礁石間移動


沙灘緩慢
燕鷗寫下第一行字
我寫了第二行

一些秋天的

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.