By Bei Dao b. 1949 Bei Dao

Translated By David Hinton

a sower walks into the great hall
it's war out there, he says
and you awash in emptiness
you've sworn off your duty to sound the alarm
I've come in the name of fields
it's war out there

I walk out from that great hall
all four directions a boundless harvest scene
I start planning for war
rehearsing death
and the crops I burn
send up the wolf-smoke of warning fires

but something haunts me furiously:
he's sowing seed across marble floors

"Sower" by Bei Dao, from Forms of Distance, copyright © 1993 by Zhao Zhenkai. Used by permission of New Directions Publishing Corp.

Source: Forms of Distance (New Directions Publishing Corporation, 1993)

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Poet Bei Dao b. 1949


Subjects War & Conflict, Social Commentaries, Money & Economics

 Bei  Dao


Bei Dao is the nom de plume of Zhao Zhenkai, widely considered one of China’s most important contemporary authors. His poems have been translated into more than 30 languages. In English he is represented by numerous collections of poetry, fiction, and essays, including The August Sleepwalker, Old Snow, Unlock, Landscape over Zero, Midnight’s Gate, and Waves, which have been internationally acclaimed for their subtlety, . . .

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Poem Categorization

SUBJECT War & Conflict, Social Commentaries, Money & Economics


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Originally appeared in Poetry magazine.

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