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Time Like a Fallen Horse

In honor of the protest, which was especially relevant this year, we bring you this sharp and powerful poem by the Chinese poet Bei Ling. It comes from The International Issue, number 27. Farewell 2011.

Bei Ling

Translated by Willis Barnstone and Denis Mair

Bei Ling was a writer in residence at Brown University. Although he was not at Tiananmen Square in the spring of 1989 during the pro-democracy protests, he was censured in absentia by the Chinese government for his calls for democratic reform. While at Harvard in the mid-1990s, Bei Ling founded Tendency, a literary journal and press of dissidents and writers-in-exile in the Chinese language. Tendency has also been involved in the translation of non-Chinese dissident writers into Chinese, such as the work of Vaclav Havel and Wole Soyinka. He also founded the Independent Chinese PEN Center. In 1999, Bei Ling returned to China to promote and disseminate an issue of Tendency. On August 11, 2000, Bei Ling and his brother were arrested in Beijing for illegally printing and publishing the foreign literary, humanistic journal Tendency. The arrests prompted immediate international protests. PEN International and the writers Susan Sontag, Arthur Miller, Nadine Gordimer, Czeslaw Milosz, Seamus Heaney, Günter Grass, Kurt Vonnegut, and Homero Aridjis called for their release while defending the freedom to publish and urging Secretary of State Madeleine Albright and President Clinton to intervene. Bei Ling and his brother were released on August 25.

Time Like a Fallen Horse

When time like a fallen horse
Bursts open, one instant a lifetime
The gigantic horse’s head
Wind . . . fetters its throat

All faces are facing apocalyptic times
Pull together, a kiss resembling steel
Last cleansing in a dry night
Riddle, penetrate the whole body

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Posted in From The Vault, Poetry

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