5 Reviews on Chao’s Poems


2014-12-05 08:58:38  巢圣Chao  所属诗集  阅读1096 】

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Review of Chao’s Poems

by Yizhi Chen

Disclaimer: Poetry is said to be the pebble thrown to the lake, ripples trembling,
passionately or gently—— the response is up to the lake. This does happen when I’m
reading the poems, and I believe what I feel is—— only myself.

When reading Chao’s brief poems, I always have a feeling that I was suddenly
thrown to another planet, vacant and ethereal, and I can stare at the earth,
observing, hearing the sighs of people on earth, clearly.

And the earth, indeed, is blue. The poet’s lines flow melancholy and reflectively,
portraying love, hate, death and birth in an alien, penetrating way. In the poem
Love, conflicts appear straightforward, in a plain and simple way:

When he thought of her
he smashed into the door
When he thought of her
he smashed up the floor

Whenever he thought of her that day
he smashed her or something
until the next morning he woke up
the house was found so ruined
without her

After all the smashes, what left lingering in the air seems to be a sense of
emptiness and regret. A similar theme can be found in Rings Interpreted. The
metaphors for Ex-rings on the fingers of ex-partners are impressive. The ex-rings
are described as “ a kind of memory of historical record”:

like youngsters
of some tribes
preserving the skulls
of people they have killed
to mark their manhood

From which, I sense the cruelty and a kind of primitive instinct contained in our
modern relationships. These lines also inspired me with a thought: Maybe human’s
various ceremonies are actually no more than an indication of our vulnerability, as
we need symbols and marks( like a ring, or a necklace, etc.) to hold together
fragments of memory. Trying to explain the lady “whose hand swinging with three
rings” in a lighter way, the poet give us another metaphor:

the lady's rings
are like the Aussies
leaving their radios or TVs on
when nobody is in
to keep burglars away

The unusual figurative expression allows me to dart a look at the hollowness of
people’s faded relationships. And again, I think the lines reveal how we defend our
vulnerable spiritual selfs with the shield of ceremonial materials.

Love is one of the most poetic emotions we have, and it’s poetic mostly because of
the indispensable dramatic elements a relationship entails. “ These violent delights
have violent end, and in their triumph die, like fire and powder, which, as they kiss,
consume.” (Romeo and Juliet) Many poets focus on the violent elements of a
relationship, as those elements are powerful and provocative, and so are good
writing materials. But these poems dug into human’s weakness, meditating on the
emotional aftermath and the memorial ceremony of the fire-powder-consumption,
the post-consumption period, and offered readers a new perspective to observe
love&hate relationship.

And birth is also something more than a symbol of hope. The poem of Birth is quite
unique:

The moment I was born
I smelt blood
So did not cry
The silence
Startled my exhausted Mama
Who thought
I must have been born
Mute or dead

The silence is still here
Well preserved
I never dared to tell Mama
The moment I was born
I thought
She was dead

I thought it was unbearable to force a kind of awareness of blood and death upon
an infant, unbearable even in an imaginative poem, but this kind of enforcement of
distorted images, the images that are so different from what we know as correct,
also, in the other hand, set me thinking, pondering on the macro meaning of birth in
human society. Is birth the beginning point of later generation’s encroachment on
the vitals of their ancestors? Were we born to claim the territory of our
predecessors, regardless of the fact that they are still breathing? And if it’s true, it
doesn’t happen because of any evil purpose or immoral pursuit. It’s simply natural
cycle, ever-repeating. This inborn destructiveness of everyone gets me, especially
when I think of my current aggressiveness and the senility I am not able to
circumvent. SHE was not dead, but will, and is dying.

No matter what, the stress of this poem still lies on birth when all the climaxes start.
Another poem is there for us to talk about dying and fading, A Game of Life:

Every day I went into my dream
To dig a bit of a pit
Till one day I could recline within
Then every day
I began to cover myself a bit
With soil and sand
Till one day
I could only see a small hole of sky
And still a pair of hands was watched
To come every day
And cover a bit
No more
No less

It’s not a real physical death, but the burying of one’s spiritual self. A pit in the dream can be solitude, but safe, and sometimes it’s the only place one’s soul can rest assured. Bit by bit, a self in reality may cease to exist, while another self consciously getting caught in a web of one’s own spinning. The dream is a cocoon,it may give birth to a butterfly, or suffocate one. Dylan Thomas once wrote: “ Do not go gentle into that good night, Old age should burn and rave at close of day; Rage, rage against the dying of the light.” Although A Game of Life literarily depicts a very tame way to cringe into the darkness, it somehow arouses my awareness of “ do not go gentle into that good night”. By illustrating the subservience of “I” to the fading of vigour, these lines are flashing like a warning to me, telling me: “ Do not go gentle…”One thing I like about poetry is that it has far more margin for readers, than novels and other literature forms. And these brief poems I have been talking about gave me a chance to dig out my own thoughts and beliefs, to which, I may owe a salute.



Chao’s Metaphorical World

by Yizhi Chen

Metaphors are like a skin to the poet, through which he feels the world. In the poems, various eccentric and inspiring metaphors are entangled with strands of thoughts, giving out vibes, leading one into spiritual zones, one after another: some gloomy, disconcerted, others serendipitous, tranquil…However, a metaphor can be very personal, just like a special joke shared between lovers, with a vague and private punchline that other people can hardly understand.

But the metaphors used by Chao, although sometimes perplexing, arouse strong feelings. John Keats once talked about reading a poem. He said, “ the point of diving in a lake is not immediately to swim to the shore, it is to be in the lake, to luxuriate in the sensation of water. You do not work the lake out. It is an experience beyond thought.” There are many possibilities about a metaphor, and the most enjoyable part in poems is the experience of exploring, the feeling that comes naturally, in an overwhelming way.

In Dream of a Metamorphoser, intensive pain and defiance can be felt through the lines.

there I was on the roof
I was about to land
when spears and swords
thrust up

a piece of paper
looped down
by a window

bald heads
were bleeding
beneath a shaver

Bald heads were bleeding beneath a shaver. The scene can be easily visualized and the words are penetrating, depicting extreme pains and sense of cruelty. The“spears and swords” are against the flying “metamorphoser", depriving freedom of him by killing him. The whole poem was surreal, but it awakens readers’ rebellious heart. Whose free will, spiritual tranquility and the pure original self can be intactly preserved in the cruel reality? The painful images remind us of all the similar experience of being attacked and tortured by the reality. The empathy of us are
aroused. When seeing these lines, one can feel the striking vibes of the words,aggressive and heartfelt. The last part of the poem is as follow:

a rainbow
whistled across the sky
and that is my blood vessel
pulled out

My pulled-out blood vessel is a rainbow whistling across the sky. The scene is brutal, savage but also has a strong sense of reverence entailed. The pulled-out vessel means a thorough destruction, but the rainbow is as hopeful as a spiritual rebirth. Among all the possibilities about the meaning of the poem, an image of a fearless martyr stands out, looming large in my mind, who is suppressed but still rebellious and brave, as if he is holding onto a torch, tightly, regardless of the fact that the torch can never sparkle in the dark, windy earth.

Metaphors in the poet’s poems not only give us soaring visions and powerful,pictorial thoughts, but also enable us to go deeper on our road of exploration— the exploration of meanings and imaginations. In Experiment in Australia, the whole poem is a metaphor:

I locked the clock
in the drawer
then tried to listen


The action of locking a clock into a drawer is in itself very symbolic. It’s like trying to be an onlooker of time. The common sense is that we are all swimming or struggling in the torrent flow of time, all involved in the “ tick, tock, tick, tock…”.However, the poet’s “experiment” gave us a chance to pull ourselves out of the current, spiritually, and to observe the time.

a tick was heard
bursting into my ear
a sudden crack
of an egg

silence
peeled off
time began to shuffle

With the first tick, like a crack of egg, we witnessed the birth of time, silence falling down in pieces and the time begins to move ahead. All the lives begin at the birth of time.

a dragging sound
became a march
treading
on my heart

From a dragging sound to a march, time starts slow but accelerates to a quick speed in a short period of time. At the beginning of our life, days passed slowly.

Time was like honey, flowing too slow to arouse any fear of wasting it. So we always shouted, “ To kill time”. Then it is gradually noticed that time begins to march forward in an unstoppable way. The “ march treading on my heart” reminds us of the fearful sound. Time is running out, and our vulnerability exposes itself in the marching footsteps of time. The simplest combinations of words in the poem are able to create endless connections in one’s mind.

I saw a coffin
moving out of a tomb
carried
by ants
instinctively
I opened the drawer
finding the face
of the clock
deathly
pale

Our existence has come to an end; not even coffin can help preserve any form of our existence. The coffin is doomed to become empty and light, announcing the meaninglessness of human’s mourning ceremony. Time is still treading, over body after body, claiming victory all the way, laughing the last laughs. The experiment fails, as it should be. We wanted to lock time in a drawer, to stay in a fixed time. But no one has ever succeeded in doing so. By locking time in a drawer, we only found the clock, “deathly pale”, suffocated from lack of air. Time never stays.

In Chao’s poem, one can become captivated with, sometimes even addicted to exploring the possibilities of various metaphors, challenging the depth of one’s imagination. Although metaphors in the poems are seemingly surreal, the exploration helps readers get nearer to what’s real. Just like what Marc Chagall said— “ All our interior world is reality, and that, perhaps, more so than our apparent world.”



Chaos raised by Chao’s

by Wanxin Li

Chao’s poems are just like refreshment for me. He seems so good at challenging the regular feeling towards ordinary events, spotting the vibrant factors in a gloomy scene or pointing out the dark side on a exultant celebration. His reflections on nature, culture and human nature are the most featured and enlightening topics for me.

As for nature, I’m obsessed with the poem Rainy Night particularly:

In the rainy night
the world is nothing
but a crushed confusion

yet when I listen
it begins to glisten

It intrigues me due to its adorned depiction, underlying writing skills and visual attraction. In terms of language used, it describes a view of rainy night requiring several senses. In the first part, visual sense is used to present the covering darkness in such a rainy night, with thick dark clouds flowing in the deep blue sky, the boundary between the heaven and the earth disappearing, everything in void. In the second section, auditory sense is utilized to show an image of pouring rain, tapping sound on the ground and windows, grumbling distant thunder. Although it’s kind of weird to say “listen the glistening” at first sight, it can be easily understood as “the sound makes the city seem filled with vigor under the shroud of rain”. Moreover, there appears an end rhyme in the end of the poem in “listen” and “glisten”, which is a sublimation of the whole poem.

On the emotional side, it readily arouses an echo in my heart. I personally love rainy nights so much, and firmly believe that a cup of coffee, a piece of absolute music and dim light are a perfect combination for writing with unending inspiration on a rainy night. I’ve learned before that the reason people love raining is that they feel placid and protected indoors when listening to the rain outside, and that is why I used to jot down all my sentimental thoughts on such a rainy night as if I had finally found my muse. However, what this poem surprises me is that it conveys a positive attitude towards rain through the word “glisten”, rather than the regular feeling people share that rainy day is a time for depression and mourning. It’s like refreshment for me because I’ve never thought that raining can also mean a “rebirth” which clears away dusts accumulated for a long time and fuels the world with energy and vigor once again.

As for culture, Chao also develops some sharp points. As he has lived in Australia for many years, it seems that he can penetrate straight through the surface of western culture. In the poem The Halloween, he says:

the darkest psyche of Americans
in the howl and prowl of ghosts

the horrible hollow of human hearts
the halloween harrowing homo sapiens

condemning them to the dead
and the beautiful land to Hades

When it comes to “Halloween”, the first things that occur to us must be children dressed in bizarre costumes playing trick-or treat in the neighborhood, adults rejoicing in the Halloweencarnival with scary paintings on their face and acting like zombies, vampires, etc. However, this poem of Chao’s expresses totally different emotions to Halloween, the festival we commonly regard as filled with laughter and craziness.

The poet uses a bunch of negative words like “darkest”, “horrible hollow”, “condemning” and “Hades” to unveil the dark side of human when celebrating Halloween. It easily brings us back to the old Dark Ages, when people were considered ignorant and controlled by the Church. In this poem, “homo sapiens” is used here to form a sharp contrast with those ignorant people, which is quite ironic because those wise people have made Halloween to condemn themselves to hell.

Perhaps as an outsider in a foreign country, Chao has witnessed the changed intention for celebrating Halloween, from mourning the dead and guiding them to rest in peace to shops and stores selling a wide variety of relevant products and bustling sights brimming with streets. He thinks people nowadays celebrate Halloween due to their hollow of hearts, who have born so much pressure from everyday work and study that they are in urgent need of a way to release themselves. And there come the festivals, such as Halloween. This reminds me of one of my favorite lyrics, going as “Loneliness is a carnival to one while a carnival is loneliness to all”. The poem delivers us a shocking blow, dragging us from heaven down to hell, waking us up completely and leading us to reflect on what we’ve done to the traditional culture.

As for human nature, he beavered and badgered in the Bible, having seen through some basic properties of humanity. In The Child and the Man, it goes:

Flourishing with her hands
the child is crazy about the stars
awarded by her teachers

The man is keen on the morning star
arising in his heart
which is his teacher and light

This is a natural change of a human inner pursuit. A child counts on material rewards, happy with holding entities in hand. As we grow older, our thought goes deeper through the surface and we are no more easily satisfied with material. A mature adult will courageously chase his dreams filled with energy and passion to fulfill his spiritual hollow, in spite of how much wealth he’s been holding.

I’m especially impressed by words like “crazy about” and “keen on”, which equally explain the extent on which human beings in different phases of life cling to their pursuits.

It’s commonly recognized that animals and babies do not have perspectives on anything ambient. However, as Chao expresses, no matter how ignorant a creature may be, even as the lower organisms, it also has certain pursuits in their lives such as reproducing offspring determined by genes.

In light of the status quo in our society, I think maybe Chao just uses children in analogy to those immature people who only regard earning money to perfect their life as the most primary thing they have to do. They are obsessed with material life but unaware of their hollow of hearts. They may seem to own a shinny and fulfilling life from their appearances, but who knows they sometimes spend so much time sitting on their costly coach, looking around in their luxuriant but empty villas, and abruptly realizes they have no dreams to chase, no ambitions to carry out. They are pathetic. And I believe that is why Chao has written this poem, to alert us to focus more on our spiritual desire which can lead us to light rather than material life which drags us to corruption.

Except these three, there are a wide range of topics waiting for us to explore, to contemplate and to supplement. After all, life encompasses infinite topics.



Chaos raised by Chao’s 2

by Wanxin Li

Chao's poems show how aware he is of the fragility of our hopes and aspirations, yet he is also aware, precisely because of their fragility, of how precious they are.
  -------Andrew Taylor

There is a leaf, flying and fluttering here and there, having a taste of the beauty and nature of the world wherever it reaches. Chao is that leaf. His poems lead us readers to follow his spiritual journeys from the discoveries of natural sceneries, the penetration of cultures, the significance of religions, to mental activities of human beings, from the elementary to the profound. We follow his poems as if we are following ourselves. In A Chinese Immigrant, he writes:

Days have twirled
uncountable
rounds

like a zero
speeding
around his head

his life so faint
he grabbed

wrinkles of time
for support

sighs arise
in smoke

a body
of shadow

The poem is describing the twisted and melancholy state of mind of a Chinese immigrant. It is made up of six stanzas, which can be divided into three layers. The first includes the first two stanzas, illustrating how the immigrant feels about the outside world. For him, days were meaningless, like a zero. Days were only a group of increasing numbers, twirling in infinite rounds. The word “uncountable” reveals a kind of helplessness, helplessness towards the isolation from his motherland, towards the loneliness and disability to blend in a foreign society. A Simile has been used here to visualize the days, a zero which is also like a circlet tightly binding his brain. The second layer runs from the third to the fifth stanza, which is rather dynamic, depicting his negative actions in detail. The word “faint” leads the whole layer, rendering a sense of desperation towards life. “he grabbed wrinkles of time for support” sounds like he regards time as the last straw, grabbing it so firmly that time has been turned into wrinkles. The last layer is the sublimation of the whole poem, “a body of shadow”. A shadow, an image without entity, without heart and soul, only exists when there’s light. In Chao’s view, the immigrant is like a leaf far away from its root, a body without heart while at the same time there seems to be a slender hope inside him, maybe the hope for going back to the motherland or for well adapting to the new environment.

Chao uses this poem as a wake-up call for the flock of people pursuing their American (or other) dream, including me. There are so many Chinese striving and struggling only for the purpose of living a decent life overseas, enjoying others’ compliment and flattering. But they haven’t thought of what they really need and what they’ll encounter in an unfamiliar nation, the culture shock, the discrimination or anything else. This poem is included in Experiment in Australia, a correspondence to the tendency that a growing number of Chinese are emigrating to Australia. It’s just like they are urgent to go there for establishing a higher social identity, only to find that it’s totally not the way they expect to be, who are only filled with hollow. The poet must have also experienced the same feeling, and after having learned about his life, I’m pretty sure this is the reason why he gave up his reputation in another continent, and desired so desperately to go back.
As a poet, Chao also delineates his inner feelings of inspiration, of the power of words so vividly. As The Echo of Words goes,

At night
when I touched my bed

words stirred up
like wasps

Scribbles
itching measling
and the skinny
paper

Eyes
bloodshot

mor
ning

It reproduces the mental activities the poet experienced with a stream of consciousness technique when recounting his actions and his senses. In the second stanza, He compares the stirring words with wasps, which is a very proper simile. When wasps are disturbed by people, a large swarm of them will rush to you just as words rush to our mind. The verb phrase “stirred up” implies the sharp change of the poet’s state of mind, from tranquility due to late night to riot led by the sudden inspiration. The third and fourth stanza reveals a kind of stream-consciousness-technique, with a few independent words such as “scribbles”, “itching measling”, “skinny paper” and “eyes bloodshot” following one another. It’s actually coherent, with these words each depicting a series of consecutive reactions to inspiration and forming a lively scene. He scribbled because he anxiously wanted to write down all the afflatus he’d got; itchy measling seemed to show up because the words long accumulated in his body were vociferating to come out; the paper was becoming more skinny because the poet had materialize his words of mind on paper with the magic of words; the eyes were bloodshot because he was so absorbed in the charm of words that he had forgot to rest.

And it is well that the last stanza should be my favorite. It is a rather innovational way to separate a word in different lines according to its number of syllables. The little pause between this word “mor-ning” is really gorgeous, leaving enough space for readers’ imagination. It’s like a whisper from the nature to inform the poet that morning has come, or it’s like what the poet said. But it’s also tricky to interpret in what tone he said this word. Was he disappointed with the loss of night and the loss of inspiration? Or was he satisfied because he had jotted all his inspiration down? It’s all up to you.

This poem reminds me of an idiom---“The distinction between poets and ordinary people lies in that whether they will write down what has come to them.” It’s true that inspiration is quite fair, but whether it can be made best use of is based on the response to it. How many of us thought we could remember what suddenly struck our minds without recording it and then left it behind? It is the power of words, the power that urges you to change those abstract quaint ideas into real words. Except a pair of eyes to spot tiny beauty, we also need to own a pair of hands to record our inspiration.



Metafore

----How I read Professor Chao's poems

by Jiaxin Lun

Firstly, let me explain my title. When I watch the Italian movie Il postino (the postman) I learn this word, metafore, which means metaphor. In the movie, the famous Chilean poet Pablo Neruda said that the most important thing in writing a poem is about metafore, once you know how to make it you know how to write poems. The leading role of the movie, Mario Ruopplo, a postman who doesn’t have much education soon learned how to make a metaphor. For instance, he said to the girl he loves: your smile is like the butterfly flying upon the water. So now, let’s take a look at this sentence. How does metaphor work? Butterfly itself has nothing in common with a girl’s smile. However, when butterfly flies upon the water, ripples will appear there. Then how do ripples look like a smile? Because a ripple is something subtle but very beautiful and so is the girl’s smile.

Now that we know what is metaphor and how to make it. Let’s look inside the poems of Professor Chao's book Out of Chaos and how he uses metaphor in his works. What I want to share first are his poems about full-stop, exclamation marks and question marks. Those works are very lovely because he gives life to the dull literal symbols. For example, he compares comas as tadpoles and they swim in the sea of weeds which of course refer to the words. But the most brilliant part is that he compared himself to a frog. So let’s find out the inner relationship between him and the frog. He himself has nothing common with the frog. But in writing those words and creating those comas, he becomes the mother of the commas. As a result, he becomes the mother of tadpole, in other words, a frog. How lovely it is! However I think the metaphors in the Exclamation Marks are more amazing and inspiring:

These years
Exclamation marks are getting rare
Writers like archaeologists
Prefer to uncover
Extinct passions
For historical sake

Sometimes when there does occur
An exclamation mark
It’s like a dagger
Stabs your hearts

By comparing those writers who are unwilling to use exclamation marks to the archaeologist, he reveals the fact that nowadays many writers are short of passion in their writing and therefore the works of theirs are not that touching and somewhat boring. When there is an exclamation mark appearing in their works, it seems so awkward. I like his idea that passion is extinct. and is like an ancient relic which has disappeared for a long time. This poem becomes very expressing through the free use of metaphor. Most importantly, it arouses our attention to common phenomenon and stimulates our deep thought.


After seeing into the poems which make lifeless punctuation become lively and vivid, let’s see how he make the living things even more interesting. Here are a few works about natural beauties. For example, The Child and I, The Butterfly and I and Spring. All these works are very short but very delighting. In The Butterfly and I, he compares himself to the tree shadow which was blowing back and forth by the wind created by the butterfly’s wings quivering. The way he compares the motionless things into motional things actually magnifies the subtle beauty of the mother nature. The ways he praises the living creature and beauty are simple but delicate at the same time. Let’s take Spring as an example:

Light green buds
On the nerve-like twigs
As beaks
Unable to crack
Through eggs

Actually, the whole work is just one sentence of 14 words. But in such a short verse hide three ingenious metaphors. He compares twigs to nerves and eggshells and the buds to beaks. Both chicken breaking out from the eggs and the buds growing out from the twigs are the process how new life come into being. Comparing these two processes together makes the readers feel the atmosphere of freshness and vitality. And the most stunning part of this poem is that it is so short but so expressive and picturesque that after reading it you can not help lingering inside it.

As is mentioned above, Professor Chao is good at making lifeless things vivid and also making small living things become notable. However, what I admire the most is how he makes abstract concept become concrete and tangible. Here is his work Pain:

Touch it like a peal of thunder
Touch it like a bolt of lightning

Make it shock
Make it yell
Make it yield

It’s
Up to you

As we all know that pain is a kind of feeling which has no image and no shape. So how to make it become concrete?The poet compares it to thunder and lightning which is something we are familiar with and we all know the power of them. Thunder and lightning are the most violent and powerful exhibitions of nature which can destroy things and bring severe damage. Meanwhile, the author makes the pain shock, yell and yield. He uses three verbs consecutively which make the poem powerful and imposing. Furthermore, by using these verbs he also makes the pain a living monster which contains huge powers. At last, he uses a short sentence to draw the conclusion. When we are in pain, how to handle it is all up to you.

All in all, Professor Chao is the master of metaphor. By using them skillfully, his verses are not only vivid but very inspiring as well. His works are like rivers which are quiet in the beginning and powerful at the end. You can feel the strong power lies under the tranquil surface of the words. When you touch those words they can reach into your heart and talk to your soul and finally make you enlightened in a second.







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