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  4. Pastoral by Bei Dao

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wolves of music weave their way at a run
hawthorns wheeze with clandestine laughter

turning a new leaf, tide's out
young ship-captains high up on balconies
look far away through telescopes

east and west
a single fruit cut into halves

beneath a tree grown from the pit I once spit out
I've hung nets to
trap birds, and waited how many years

"Pastoral" 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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  • 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 influence on...

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