The August Sleepwalker is one of the best known works of Bei Dao a Chinese dissident Poet of the
mid-20th century, currently reinstated as a professor at a university in Hong Kong. The Poet’s pen name,
Bei Dao means “Northern Island”, his given name is Zhao Zhenkai, he was born in 1949 and is from the
lower Yangtse River valley region. The poetry takes in the influences of classical Chinese poetry, the
West and the brutality of the corrupt, conformist China of the mid-1900’s. The poetry is experimental,
against oppression propelling Bei Dao and his associates into protests that fell the government of
Mao Zedong and the “Gang of Four” in 1976. Considered dissidents, their poetry publications were banned.
This the second Book of Poetry This Writer has reviewed by Bei Dao, the first being Forms of Distance.
The poetry, a dream world celebrating love and calmness against a dark backdrop of nightmare in cruelty and violence. Spinning New Age synergies, the Poet creates imagery based in nature, as if the worship of beauty within the conundrum of power struggles, creating mythologies as if escaping into skyclouds. This poetry is against oppression, a dialogue in humanism and non-political communication. The free verse pared in style is lyrical with little punctuation and syntax. The poetry soars into profound spaces despite the violent undertoad, not unlike the profound elements of a more elaborate Haiku. Often surreal, enigmatic and in broken thought forms, the poetry may borrow from the Western Modernist tradition, yet in it’s originality could be considered a precursor to the New Age.
The dense mist has painted each tree trunk white.
In the long loose hair in the stable
Wild bees whirl. Green flood water
Is just the dawn blocked off by the embankment.
On this morning
I forgot our ages.
The ice was cracking and on the water
Stones retained our fingerprints.
True, this is spring.
Pounding hearts disturb the clouds in water.
Spring has no nationality.
Clouds are citizens of the world.
Become friends again with mankind.
In the background is a love affair, personal life weaves with the nothingness and Zen of existence to present flowers of poetry that bear witness to a chronology, a diary of days, a photo in time. The essence of the poetry in profound nature imagery reaches inside, captures glimpses, the magic of a place of magic, China as magic, the place of needs met, peace and happiness, a positive mythology. How mythologies grow, become archetypes, are known, the Poet known as archetype, the water bearer the bringer of positive change.
Let’s go –
Fallen leaves blow into deep valleys
But the song has no home to return to.
Let’s go –
Moonlight on the ice
Has spilled beyond the river bed.
Let’s go –
Eyes gaze at the same patch of sky
Hearts strike the twilight drum.
Let’s go –
We have not lost our memories
We shall search for life’s pool.
Let’s go – The road, the road Is covered with a drift of scarlet poppies.”
A triumph of the soul despite adversity, a celebration of light and love despite the violence of the rain in the monolith. Dialogues in peace through poetry, The August Sleepwalker by Bei Dao.
Available @ Amazon Canada. www.amazon.ca.
Available @ Amazon United States. www.amazon.com.
Available @ Amazon U.K. www.amazon.co.uk.
Genre: Poetry, New Age