Future, Present, & Past:

~~ Giving itself latitude and leisure to take any premise or inquiry to its furthest associative conclusion.
Critical~~ Ready to apply, to itself and its object, the canons of reason, evidence, style, and ethics, up to their limits.
Traditional~~ At home and at large in the ecosystem of practice and memory that radically nourishes the whole person.

Oυδεὶς άμουσος εἰσίτω

Friday, December 10, 2010

"An awkward and diligent poet"

There is nothing to say in honor of Liu Xiaobo that would not run the risk of being cloying. What can one add to international accolades for a scholar, poet and activist, and helpless (or at least, helpless-feeling) indignation at the thugs bureaucrats who keep him in a concrete box?

But I would like to cite some words by his wife, the poet Liu Xia, also under house arrest in China. This, from the statement she sent when Liu Xiaobo was awarded (again, in abstentia) the 2009 PEN/Barbara Goldsmith Freedom to Write Award, is equally appropriate for the Nobel Prize for Peace:
I have not come to view Xiaobo as a political figure. In my eyes, he has always been and will always be an awkward and diligent poet. Even in prison, he has continued to write his poems. When the warden took away his paper and pen, he simply pulled his verse out of thin air. Over the past twenty years, Xiaobo and I have accumulated hundreds of such poems, which were born of the conversations between our souls.... I understand, however, that this award is not meant to encourage Liu Xiaobo the poet, but rather to encourage Liu Xiaobo the political commentator and initiator of Charter 08. I would like to remind everyone of the close connection between these two identities.
A couple of posts ago, I wrote: the fundamental issue is deeper than economic or ecological meltdown, whether or not these come. The deep question, as regards human choices, is not what will happen?, but who will you be when it happens? Liu Xia's tribute to her husband is all about his answer. The Nobel committee can add nothing to the dignity of that response, and the government jailkeeper can taken nothing away.

One Letter Is Enough
by Liu Xiaobo, tr. Jeffrey Yang

for Xia

one letter is enough
for me to transcend and face
you to speak

as the wind blows past
the night
uses its own blood
to write a secret verse
that reminds me each
word is the last word

the ice in your body
melts into a myth of fire
in the eyes of the executioner
fury turns to stone

two sets of iron rails
unexpectedly overlap
moths flap toward lamp
light, an eternal sign
that traces your shadow

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