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New Year

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a child carrying flowers walks toward the new year
a conductor tattooing darkness
listens to the shortest pause

hurry a lion into the cage of music
hurry stone to masquerade as a recluse
moving in parallel nights

who's the visitor? when the days all
tip from nests and fly down roads
the book of failure grows boundless and deep

each and every moment's a shortcut
I follow it through the meaning of the East
returning home, closing death's door

"New Year" by Bei Dao, translated by David Hinton with Yanbing Chen, from LANDSCAPE OVER ZERO, copyright © 1995, 1996 by Zhao Zhenkai, Translation copyright © 1995, 1996 by David Hinton with Yanbing Chen. Used by permission of New Directions Publishing Corp.
Source: LANDSCAPE OVER ZERO (New Directions Publishing Corporation, 1996)
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New Year

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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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