Poetry

Anna Yin: “The Path” 

 

The Path

The door to her room is closed;
there is a whole world there.

He knocks on it for the first time
and retreats with a note—
Stranger, how I wish
a star will guide my sailing.

She folds his note into
a paper crane. Night falls. Hung
by strings, he sees its wings
up in the air.

The second time, he leaves
his hat at the door.
A rose fragile and pale inside
dies slowly.

She gathers the petals and mounts
them on her mirror.
The dawn light glows on them
like sun-wheels.

The third time, he brings
a long white scarf—
waves from an open ocean.
In silence, the door opens.

Blindfolding each other,
they enter the room.

 

 

通往她房间的门关上;
那里有着整个世界。

第一次轻叩,他
留下一张纸条 –
陌生人,我多么希望
星星一颗带我去航行。

她把他的字条折叠
成仙鹤。夜幕降临。他
看到羽翼由线牵引
展向空中。

第二次轻叩,他
留下草帽在门口。
玫瑰一朵,娇嫩苍白
渐渐在其中凋谢。

拾起花瓣,她张贴在
镜子上。
曙光照亮它们
就像太阳车轮。

第三次轻叩,他
带来一条白的长丝巾 –
扬起大海的波纹。
静静地,门开了。

蒙上彼此的眼睛,
他们走了进去。

 

 

From Inhaling the Silence (Mosaic Press 2013), available for order here.  

Published with permission of the press and first published in Cha:An Asian Literary Journal (Issue 20); the Chinese translation above is by the author.

Listen to the poet reading her poem in English and in Chinese, here and here.

 

Anna Yin was  Mississauga’s Inaugural Poet Laureate (2015-2017) and has authored five poetry collections. Her sixth book, a collection of translations of the work of 56 poets, “Mirrors and Windows” (Guernica Editions) will be out in 2021. Her poems/translations have appeared at Queen’s Quarterly, ARC Poetry, New York Times, China Daily, CBC Radio, World Journal and Poetry East West etc.  Anna won the 2005 Ted Plantos Memorial Award, 2010/2014 MARTYs, 2016/2017 scholarships from West Chester University Poetry Conference, three grants from Ontario Arts Council and 2013 Professional Achievement Award from CPAC. She performed on CBC Radio, Rogers TV, TalentVision TV and at Parliament Hill, Vancouver, Philadelphia, Austin Festival and in China. She has hosted many National poetry events and teaches Poetry Alive workshops. Her website: annapoetry.com  

 

 

Poet’s Note

I always wonder how to enter one’s inner world. For me, relationship and spirit are very mysterious. I believe that intuition and trust play important roles. Many of my poems in this book find their own ways to me; what I do is to open the door and feel blessed.  For more, please read an interview on THE TORONTO QUARTERLY. 

 

Commentary by Rebecca Foust, Poetry Editor

National Poetry Month is a good time to reflect on the wonderful work Amanda Moore and I have been fortunate to feature on Poetry Sunday over the last few years, more than 300 columns and poems. This April, and in Aprils going forward we plan to revisit columns published during our tenure, allowing the work of these phenomenal poets a new place in the sun and offering us the opportunity to revisit our thoughts and commentary in light of current circumstances. Whether you are a new reader or have been following from the beginning, we hope you will enjoy these reprises and will check out the deep archive of Poetry Sunday columns that Women’s Voices maintains here.

For National Poetry Month 2021, we are reprising columns by Asian American writers to recognize and celebrate the substantial contributions of Asian American Pacific Islander communities to our culture and also to acknowledge the recent racist killings in Atlanta and the precipitous increase in anti-Asian hate crimes in the United States in the past year. In revisiting these extraordinary poems and poets, we lift up their voices and stand in solidarity with them. Join us each Sunday in April to look back at work we’ve previously featured and to imagine the voices to come. Additionally, visit Stop AAPI Hate for more information on active ways to support the Asian American Pacific Islander Community.

“The Path” first featured in Poetry Sunday on 9/17/17 with an in-depth craft analysis that you can read here. This time around, we are happy to be adding audio files of the author reading the poem in both English and Chinese.

I loved this poem then and still love it now for the sense of magic and mystery it invokes. In the Toronto Quarterly interview cited in the Poet’s Note above, Yin says “I feel the universe not only calls our longings and meditations but also draws us to the mysteries beyond.” As in fairy tale and myth, a hero (“he”) undertakes a seemingly impossible task in order to prove his ardor for a beloved (“she”), and as in those old stories, three times is the charm. All the gifts left by the “he” here—love-note, white crane, hat, dying rose, and white scarf—evoke a wide and open range of metaphorical interpretations, including ones that allow the poem to be read as an ars poetica, or a poem  “that explains the ‘art of poetry,’ or a meditation on poetry using the form and techniques of a poem.” [Poetry Foundation]

Another source of appeal for me is the poem’s modern, more feminist viewpoint in the way that it rejects the gifts of traditional courtly romance (billet-doux, a flower) in favor of a simple white scarf used to bind the eyes of both lovers, so that they may enter the mystery together, at the same time and on an equal footing.

Again in the interview above, Yin acknowledges the influence on her work both of tradition, for example the poets Li Po and Tufu, and also of a more contemporary sensibility: “I like to use images to suggest mood and feeling; it came so naturally to me because this way of writing has existed in Chinese traditional poetry for a thousand years. But I do open it up with a western style of direct and simple narrative.”

“The Path” may appear simple, but its ending moves me, every time. If you want to go deeper, the original Poetry Sunday column examines Yin’s careful,  delicate work with meter and rhyme to create the discursive and haunting patterning and tonal effects that strongly support the poem’s overall atmosphere and meaning. Fairy tale, love poem, ars poetica—“The Path” is all of these and more, and we are pleased to have a chance to present it again to readers today.

 

Rebecca Foust is the author of three chapbooks and four books including ONLY, forthcoming from Four Way Books in 2022, and her poems are widely published, in The Hudson Review, Narrative, Ploughshares, Poetry, Southern Review and elsewhere. Recognitions include the 2020 Pablo Neruda Prize for Poetry judged by Kaveh Akbar, the CP Cavafy and James Hearst poetry prizes, a Marin Poet Laureateship, and fellowships from The Frost Place, Hedgebrook, MacDowell, Sewanee, and West Chester Poetry Conference.

 

 

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