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The Boundary

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I want to go to the other bank

The river water alters the sky's colour
and alters me
I am in the current
my shadow stands by the river bank
like a tree struck by lightning

I want to go to the other bank

In the trees on the other bank
a solitary startled wood pigeon
flies towards me

"The Boundary" by Bei Dao, translated by Bonnie S. McDougall from THE AUGUST SLEEPWALKER, copyright © 1988 by Bei Dao. Translation copyright © 1988, 1990 by Bonnie S. McDougall. Used by permission of New Directions Publishing Corp.
Source: THE AUGUST SLEEPWALKER (New Directions Publishing Corporation, 1990)
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The Boundary

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  • 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, innovation, and eloquence.

    In China in the 1970s and ’80s, he was a leading member of the loosely associated avant-garde movement Ménglóng Shi Rén, or “Misty Poets,” so-called for the abstract language and obscure meaning in their poems. Much of his early work, as well as that of other “Misty” poets, appeared in the influential underground journal that he co-founded in 1978, Jintian (Today). The journal was banned after two years of publication, and in 1989 Bei Dao was exiled from China for his perceived...

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