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Moon Festival

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Lovers holding pits in their mouths
make vows and delight in each other
till the underwater infant
periscopes his parents
and is born

an uninvited guest knocks at my
door, determined to go deep
into the interior of things

the trees applaud

wait a minute, the full moon
and this plan are making me nervous
my hand fluttering
over the obscure implications of the letter
let me sit in the dark
a while longer, like
sitting on a friend's heart

the city a burning deck
on the frozen sea
can it be saved? it must be saved
the faucet drip-drop drip-drop
mourns the reservoir

“Moon Festival” by Bei Dao, translated by Eliot Weinberger and Iona Man-Cheong, from Unlock, copyright © 2000 by Zhao Zhenkai. Used by permission of New Directions Publishing Corp.
Source: Unlock (New Directions Publishing Corporation, 2000)
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Moon Festival

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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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