Shangyang Fang talks about the reality of art and where poetry can meet eternity with our host, Copper Canyon Press Publicist, Ryo Yamaguchi.
Ryo Yamaguchi (00:00): Hey everybody, I’m Ryo Yamaguchi, the publicist at Copper Canyon Press. And you are watching season two of our interview series Line / Break, which goes off the page and into the homes and minds of our beloved poets. I’ve been carrying on the dream, really sharing in the dream of my predecessor from season one, Laura Buccieri, of wanting to see more poets represented on screen, talking shop, answering questions, and taking us behind the scenes of how they do what they do. For today’s episode, I’m really excited, Shangyang Fang and I have been communicating a lot back and forth but this is the first time we’ve really sat down to have a conversation and I couldn’t be more thrilled. Shangyang, welcome to the show, thanks for joining us. How’s your day been going? What have you been listening to this morning?
Shangyang Fang (00:43): Hi, wow. This morning, I have not been listening to anything. Recently, I’ve been listening just to Mozart, and that’s been transforming and magical to me, but that’s that. This morning, I was listening to the birds singing outside the window. Nothing much happened because it’s still quite early, and I wake up late.
Ryo Yamaguchi (01:05): Yeah. Is spring coming there? I mean, you’re in the Bay Area, right?
Shangyang Fang (01:08): Oh yes. The pear blossoms are just ravishing by the roadside, they’re just so beautiful. The other day, I just stopped there for 10 minutes, just looking at them. Yeah, it’s very beautiful, springtime.
Ryo Yamaguchi (01:21): Yeah. But that’s wonderful, I was mentioning before, it’s getting to be spring here a little bit in the desert, although it’s… We have some rain coming through, which is nice, we need the rain. Well, I was hoping before we jump too quickly into things, we like to have folks introduce themselves on the show and so I was hoping you could introduce yourself, your name, any pronouns you want to identify, where you live, your most recent book. Anything else you want us to know?
Shangyang Fang (01:48): Oh cool. I’m Shangyang Fang. I am living in the Bay Area right now. My pronoun is he and his. My recent book is Burying the Mountain published by Copper Canyon Press.
Ryo Yamaguchi (02:01): Yeah, that’s great. Of course, I’ve got it right here for everyone. Yay. I love this book so much.
Shangyang Fang (02:10): Thank you.
Ryo Yamaguchi (02:10): And I love it this time of year, it’s lapidary. I mean, I think it is really in love with the world, at the same time that it’s challenged by it. I’m interested to ask you some questions about that specifically and your relationship to art, of course. I just enjoyed… The Los Angeles Review conversation just came out this morning that we saw with Derrick Austin. I don’t know if you’ve seen it yet or not, but…
Shangyang Fang (02:37): I have not. I always feel embarrassed to read my own interview and look at my own words. And after this book come out, except the readings I go to, I have to read those poems, I don’t read it. Oh, that’s wonderful.
Ryo Yamaguchi (02:56): Yeah. I was really excited, and it gave us a little bit of… It gave me Derrick’s read of your book and just the conversation you had gave me, certainly some ideas, very rapidly though, I was just looking at it this morning before sitting down to talk and stuff. But I do like… Laura really liked to go back, and I want to do that too, and go back in time a little bit before we start talking about the book and everything, to a time when you really first came alive with the arts and the way that she would phrase this and the way I like to phrase it is when you first recognized yourself in a work of art, when you first saw yourself and what that piece was.
Shangyang Fang (03:32): That’s a very hard question, and it’s very beautifully phrased, recognizing oneself. Well, I’m sure there are times I recognize myself in various forms of art, but it’s not usually what I seek for in reading a poem or going to the gallery or listening music. I always think that I have enough of myself in real life, and I just go to art and poetry to not find myself. And I feel I become unrecognizable when I truly fall in love with a piece of work. And at large, the known world, the familiar world is also made less recognizable. I do remember the time when I was very young, a kid, my grandfather took me to a park to see the lotus blossoms. It’s a tradition, when the flowers are blossoming, you go to the park and see them.
Shangyang Fang (04:28): And it’s in summer, the whole lake is just filled with lotuses, enormous and white and pink. It’s so beautiful. And my grandfather, he’s a secret poet. He recited a poem by the Song Dynasty poet, Zhou Bangyan. And well, I can still recite the line. It’s, [foreign language 00:04:51]. Well, the whole thing is a description of Lotus and I don’t know how to translate it. And I think the last line [foreign language 00:05:16] probably means something like it’s cold scent, referring to the flower, it’s cold scent or fragrance flies onto my poem. But the poem doesn’t mention the actual name of the flower, it is so strange and beautiful, I thought. And then when my grandfather recited that to me, I thought, well, the lotus in front of me, my eyes are beautiful enough, but the poem I felt was just more beautiful. It’s describing to me a lotus, I have never seen before.
Shangyang Fang (05:44): Not that it’s an untruthful account of the flower, but it’s really revealing to me some aspect of the flower I did not see and cannot see with this little mind. It changes. I think it changes my perception about that object, that Lotus forever. And I thought it was just magical. Poetry is magic.
Shangyang Fang (06:08): And a similar experience would be, I think in middle school I read a Chinese translation of Federico García Lorca’s poem Romance Sonámbulo, and I was just deeply shaken. I don’t know what it means and what it tried to tell me, but it was creating a world for me to enter where I don’t see myself as myself. I remember the beginning of the poem. How I love you green, I love you green, something like that. The horse, the green wind, green branches, the horse in the mountain, the boat far out in the sea. And there was a line and image that I would never forget after decades reading it. It was something like the moonlight holding the body of a girl, the icicles of moonlight holding the body of a girl upon the water. And it was so mysterious and just changed me in a way. Those are probably some of the earlier moments when I was just deeply shaken by poetry.
Ryo Yamaguchi (07:28): Yeah. I really hear what you’re saying about this idea of like losing the self in a work of art or even an erasure of the self. And I think that’s an idea that’s particularly in the era we live in and especially in the US, that’s really hard for people to grapple with and the whole idea is to codify this self, is to make yourself like this stone statue or something that exists.
Shangyang Fang (07:51): Oh yeah.
Ryo Yamaguchi (07:51): This definition, but I really like this idea of the release of being able to forget about who you are, something in a work of art.
Shangyang Fang (07:59): Yeah. The conversation I had with Derrick on Los Angeles Review of Books, one line I love from his book it was the first poem. The ending line was, “This is how I escape, like a little foam.” And that’s how I feel I’m reading or just throwing myself into the art. That’s how I view.
Ryo Yamaguchi (08:22): Yeah. I’m staring here at this line that I copied from that interview where you say, “Art to me is a reality that hurts less.”
Shangyang Fang (08:28): Oh yeah it is.
Ryo Yamaguchi (08:30): Yeah. Well, and of course, I’m such a positive person and there’s a sense of art as a refuge and protection, but I’m also really enamored with this idea that art is helping you unify yourself with the universe or something
Shangyang Fang (08:47): And absolutely, absolutely. I totally agree with that.
Ryo Yamaguchi (08:51): Yeah. Oh man. Amazing. Well, do you want to read a poem now? Does this seem like a good time? Do you have one?
Shangyang Fang (08:58): Sure. I don’t have one, but I guess I just have to do it.
Ryo Yamaguchi (09:03): This is the best kind of poem, the random poem.
Shangyang Fang (09:06): The random poem. I like that. I’ll read this poem “Tether.”
Ryo Yamaguchi (09:14): Great.
Shangyang Fang (09:17):
The tea is turning cold.
It holds a winter in its mind.
Soon, it will be a mattress
of dead pool and the beetles
will lather their brittle shells
in this blue bathroom.
The birds shall continue sighing,
“I’d rather, I’d rather.”
I write to make myself un-
recognized. Inside the sterilized
window, the spruce
stays, magpies, erased.
The mountains are approaching.
My lines must be
revised, because you
were right: “It’s best to read Russian
novels in winter: it is always
snowing. Everyone is sad.”
Ryo Yamaguchi (09:59): That’s great. The ending is so simple but effective and I don’t know, part of that to me is a result of… I think in this Los Angeles review interview and just elsewhere people talk a lot about ekphrasis with your poetry and that’s something I want to talk about more deeply, but at the moment, just from that poem, I also love to think of you as a nature writer, someone who’s very engaged with the natural world and I’m curious if you organize art and nature as separate categories, or if they blend in your mind, and I’m also interested in how you approach both of them from a material way, there’s so much texture and color. I have one question here that’s just like, “I want to talk about color in your poems.”
Shangyang Fang (10:45): Well that’s so beautifully put and it asks a question I never think about, I never think about really did not put much thought into art or nature. I don’t know my work well enough to answer, but I do think I regard them as just one piece of external reality. It’s just the material that, where I see probably a fragment of me could somehow exist alternatively. That… I don’t know how do I work on them, can you elaborate that question?
Ryo Yamaguchi (11:26): Yeah. Well maybe another way of thinking about this is like some forebears that you’ve gone to, because of course, part of ekphrasis is interacting with lots of other artists.
Shangyang Fang (11:37): Oh, yes.
Ryo Yamaguchi (11:39): I would love one way I thought about having this interview is like, let’s just talk about all the art that you love and that we- [crosstalk 00:11:45]
Shangyang Fang (11:45): Oh, I love that. I love that.
Ryo Yamaguchi (11:47): Yeah. I mean, we could do that, but let me, let me articulate that a little differently, which is what about other writers who write about art that you’ve loved and that you’ve gone to, or if you don’t have that list, just in general, if you’re going to write about a work of art, what are your first steps? What do you do? Do you have to sit with it for a long time? Or…
Shangyang Fang (12:07): Oh no. I think it’s very differently. There’s different poems that does it differently. For example, “Argument of Situation,” I have to imagine the whole scenario. The art is through imagination, the actual piece of art, it does not exist. Now I let the secret out and then for the “Foretaste of Disaster” poem, that painting by Anthony Vandyck, that painting of Icarus and Daedalus, I stood there for half an hour in the museum and just looking at the painting until I just totally forgot about it and I walk out and wrote that poem. My first step would be the mind, how do I interpret and elaborate it? Sometimes I view each painting is, it’s something that’s coming to an end, even it’s showing in its sequence that something is about to happen but that about to happen is where I can put myself, where I can make something else have just like a branching of a different timeline from that painting through my words.
Shangyang Fang (13:26): I start with description, I think that’s always the best place to start by describing the world. By describing, you create a world and after you created that world, you can walk inside it and know what you want to find. I think that’s always the process. I ask my students also to practice ekphrasis writing because interpretation of something else, interpretation of a work of art which is objective, but it’s also a piece of consciousness. That process, I think it always shows how powerful a mind is, how powerful the mind can create, can transform and I always like to do that myself and to my students.
Ryo Yamaguchi (14:17): Yeah. It’s an interesting topic to me recently, because well so the New York… Elisa Gabbert at the New York Times just published a really deep feature on the Auden poem. I don’t know if you’ve seen it, but the-
Shangyang Fang (14:31): Oh no, I have not.
Ryo Yamaguchi (14:32): Oh, you would love it. It’s her whole interpretation of the Musee des Beaux Art, and she looks at all the different paintings and where all these getting influenced from it’s a wonderful piece. But it’s also about writing about art at a time of calamity, that poem is so much about calamity and of course we live in calamitous times.
Shangyang Fang (14:50): Indifference. I mean that poem about suffering, they were never wrong, those old masters, it just begins magnificently and the indifference that is shown, the horse scratching its back on the tree. I remember an image from the poem. Oh dear, it’s speaking a lot about time also.
Ryo Yamaguchi (15:12): This makes me leap to a question that I have for you. This kind of shifting gears a little bit, but I want to talk about the erotic in your poems.
Shangyang Fang (15:20): Oh wow.
Ryo Yamaguchi (15:21): And about love and especially forbidden love, forbidden gay love there’s something about forbidden love in your poems that is both deeply tender and deeply dangerous. And I really wonder about that dynamic and I wonder if you could unpack that a little bit or how you approach love in your poems. Do you consider all your poems love poems?
Shangyang Fang (15:44): No I do not. I do not consider my poems love poems, I hope they are, but I think love poems are the most difficult to write about. And by saying love, it’s all… Often I feel it’s political in a sense because it is the politics about, I think the intrinsic interest is about conflict, it’s always the compromise, it’s always the benefit of one group of certain group of people and there’s conflict going on. And I think a love relationship is in that way. But the reason I don’t think my poem are necessarily love poem because the conflict is not very dramatic. The speaker is always, I think either indifferent or submissive so I do not think that calls to the connotation of love, it calls to the connotation I think of the failure of desire or the incurable loneliness, it’s the existential crisis. I think those poems are quite subtle. They’re not explicit queer poems, gay poems because I think that’s from my upbringing that, where that identity is still oppressed in China.
Shangyang Fang (17:22): I remember, I don’t know if I should say this, but I think I should, when I go back to China in the summer and I was invited to a very prestigious venue of poetry, lecture, reading and so on and so forth. And I was the host, the organization tried to protect me by asking me not to say the word gay, homosexual. And I mean it’s 2022 and I write about those and I cannot talk about them. It’s frustrating and it’s sad because well, in China, it’s very different from here. If you say something like that, you will get consequence and I’ve been told what the consequence would be so it was… And I think I carried that subtlety of how to describe a thing like the Lotus poem describing the Lotus without saying the word Lotus in the poem. And you’re certainly estranged by that notion of either homosexual, erotic that sensibility. I still try to figure that out. I don’t think there’s a solution in this book. I think it’s an ongoing question I’m asking myself and how can I approach it differently.
Ryo Yamaguchi (18:48): Yeah. I perceive this issue as something that’s about freedom and constraint which is something that’s also in craft also in…
Shangyang Fang (18:59): Absolutely. I mean freedom and constraint and I think was it by Borges, who said that censorship is the mother of metaphors?
Ryo Yamaguchi (19:10): Hmm.
Shangyang Fang (19:13): And I think that speaks so much of some of the stuff I’m writing but I don’t want censorship of course, in my work.
Ryo Yamaguchi (19:23): No, of course.
Shangyang Fang (19:23): But there’s a sense where it creates something not to, I’m not saying it’s good, but there’s some creativity comes after the high pressure.
Ryo Yamaguchi (19:37): Yeah, absolutely. This is great. I felt that I wanted to get to that statement in a way, because I feel it, I feel it so much in the poems. It occurs to me, so this leads to another thing I’ve been thinking about and when thinking about when we’re going to talk and everything and I think of you as a traveler, obviously you’ve traveled here from China and you’ve uprooted yourself and you’re in a new home, but you’ve also traveled around the US a lot and also an intellectual traveler. You have a degree in engineering, you were writing a lot of prose when you were in the MFA and you mentioned that sort of thing, and I wonder if you think of yourself as a restless spirit, and also if you think of yourself as restless in the poems, so many poems, I feel could just keep going. I just feel they pull me along forever, you know?
Shangyang Fang (20:28): Well, that’s a great question. I think I was restless now I’m resting. I think some of my new works shows that I’m approaching to an atmosphere of stasis, but I don’t think the poems are static, but I do think I just want to run away. Well from my family also run away by traveling, I’m trying to run away from the place wherever I live for a while, I just try to run away from that and poetry running away from myself. But in the end you will find that at the end of the tunnel that you are running to work to you meet another self that then the whole process seems inescapable.
Ryo Yamaguchi (21:19): That’s amazing.
Shangyang Fang (21:21): I do think… I don’t know, I think I was restless. In recent poems, I tried to counter that in my recent writing, I want myself to rest on something. I want myself just to sit down and look at the thing without… Oh God, I’m sorry, my articulation, I’m trying to form me a thought and English is always frustrating. By keep going the poem sometimes you turn to another phrase, you turn to another image, you turn to another statement that indicates newer thought, you turn to another narrative in the poem, that’s also you are escaping from the previous scenario that the poem is establishing. I think that was my older process of writing.
Shangyang Fang (22:15): Now I just want to sit in that small space that is claustrophobic, that is constraining like when Cavafy sit in the room and writing about the wall and saying that there is this going to be the… When the morning comes, the dawn comes down and the window is shined through. That’s just another tyranny. That’s just another piece of wall. And I think it’s so beautiful and I want to be there for a while. Now I just want to be in that walled place where I have nowhere to run to and I have to find another way, a path that is not visible to me yet.
Ryo Yamaguchi (23:01): Yeah. It’s really moving. It’s really powerful. So many images there that I’m swirl with. I mean that just the idea of running through the tunnel and then only to be meet your next self or something is just a wonderful thing.
Shangyang Fang (23:13): Yeah. And often I hope at the end of the tunnel, it’s the newer self that the Shangyang in two years, but sometimes you find a child who was the Shangyang being traumatized and tormented 15 years ago, you find that self again. And that could be a surprise too, but I think either you find another self through the running I’m different. So in the end, I’m meeting a newer self, no matter what, because I became different. Yeah.
Ryo Yamaguchi (23:47): Yeah. I’m a great believer in that, also then even if what you’re looking at in front of you is an echo of something from the past, it’s still is an echo that comes through that perturbations of time. But the Cavafy line, that idea I feel like I’ve heard that… I don’t know if I’ve heard that line specifically, but that idea of like the Tyranny of Dawn and the repetition
Shangyang Fang (24:07): Oh Yes.
Ryo Yamaguchi (24:08): And stuff. But I’m so curious where I think that, where maybe you think that impulse comes from, I mean, do you think that you have found yourself in a new settled way that has durability and permanence, or do you think that you’re just caught in like a dialectic of freedom and constraint where…
Shangyang Fang (24:25): Yeah. You mean now?
Ryo Yamaguchi (24:29): Now. Yeah, right now.
Shangyang Fang (24:31): Oh dear. Wow. I just think I’m tired. The answer is very simple, I’m tired, but I think after a while I start running again it’s always the back and forth.
Ryo Yamaguchi (24:42): Good. I’d hope so. Yeah. I feel I have to address this with poets these days lately and talking about calamity and this running and things, and I’m just curious what your hopes are for the future, for your own future, for even the future of China and your relationship, going back home or going back to China, that kind of stuff. Just in general, how do you picture the future?
Shangyang Fang (25:09): Oh, that’s a very difficult question. I don’t think I have an answer. Well, I think my old teacher Jane, once told me that it’s always not very hard for poets to write about the present and the past. That’s where the poet draws their sources from. It’s always the most difficult to write about future. And to imagine the future is as difficult somehow. Life and work is very different. Work is a mystery, my work, my writing right now is still mysterious to me as it has always been. And I find that anxious and comforting. Life, I have no idea. I don’t know about it. I’m being torn by the two ideas of trying to stay in United States or going back to China. I do want to make a change somehow in China, I do want to get more people to love poetry.
Shangyang Fang (26:30): I want to teach poetry workshops in China also, but I’m not sure how that would happen. I’m being surrounded by more this time, going back to China in summer. It’s the first time I’ve been surrounded by young poets writing in Chinese about my same age. And I think some of their poems are just astonishing and their energy just moved me. It’s just remind me of myself, because they don’t have a community, they don’t have a real community, the publications of poetry is deeply censored, it often censored the places of the name, whether you can write about that place or not.
Shangyang Fang (27:25): So geographic location sometime is just being erased from the representation in the text. But then I saw them. I was just deeply moved and touched, they believe they are poets like I once believed that I was a poet when I was younger, at that age you feel so faithful to this thing, you feel I can believe I can do something. I’m the next Keats, I’m the next Rimbaud. But then in the end it turns out that by my age, Keats is already dead and then everything vanished. I think I found-
Ryo Yamaguchi (28:08): While Stevens wasn’t publishing until late in his life and there’s different ways to can… That I think. Yeah, yeah.
Shangyang Fang (28:16): That is true. That is very true, but well, I cannot argue about that. That is very true. But the whole process, it makes me feel disenchanted about this term poet, but I’m glad that poetry remains very mysterious.
Ryo Yamaguchi (28:34): Yeah.
Shangyang Fang (28:35): Yeah, for future, I don’t know. I want to have to read more, to write more, to meet more aspiring souls that want to write poems and I do think that by writing poem is a way to change the world. Is one way to do that. Otherwise I wouldn’t be doing this because I was changed. My world was altered by poetry and it’s never the same. I want to keep past that down to many poets who, I think the larger context for example, in China, they don’t have the community, the opportunity to do something like this.
Ryo Yamaguchi (29:20): Yeah. Oh, that’s powerful. It’s fascinating and hopeful to think of you already articulating yourself into being a teacher. Well let me ask that specifically, do you for thinking about the future, do you want to teach?
Shangyang Fang (29:37): I would love to teach that’s also one thing that I was changed by so many of my great teachers. I think we both know Brigit Pegeen Kelly.
Ryo Yamaguchi (29:49): Yes.
Shangyang Fang (29:50): When I was trying to be a poet or trying to write poetry at early age, I applied to, I’m sure you’re familiar with the story I applied to [crosstalk 00:30:00].
Ryo Yamaguchi (30:00): No, but tell us please now.
Shangyang Fang (30:02): Yeah. I applied to so many English majors in American universities and I got rejected from all of them because my English sucked and well, I thought I would give up writing, I would never write again. And then I met Brigit and she said, “Well, you can do this.” And I was like, “Me, I can do this?” And I did and I’m still doing it.
Ryo Yamaguchi (30:27): Beautifully.
Shangyang Fang (30:29): I think that changes me. I think being a teacher can really ignite people and that’s one of my aspiration too. I do want to do that. Pass down this passion for poetry.
Ryo Yamaguchi (30:49): Yeah. And that’s something I feel, I mean here at Copper Canyon, we are, of course, always trying to manage that generational gift that happens through it. And there’s something that, I mean, I’ve been avoiding this question, but I’ll just ask it anyway which is…
Shangyang Fang (31:03): Oh please.
Ryo Yamaguchi (31:05): One part of this, and as we’re talking about this and hearing this fraught confrontation with this idea of a future and wanting to think about the present and the past instead, it leads me to this idea of eternity and the immemorial.
Shangyang Fang (31:21): Oh, wow.
Ryo Yamaguchi (31:21): And I wonder if you believe in eternity, or if that’s what the space of poem creates or…
Shangyang Fang (31:29): Oh, wow. These are huge topics. I think it’s better for me to be asked these questions when I’m 30 years later because I’m worried about, I would say something that I will be embarrassed in future, but I do believe that poetry creates a sense of eternity. One aspect is, well, I’m still reading poems by people who died a thousand, 2000 years ago, that’s one way of eternity that the consciousness can travel through time and space to be present in front of you and I think one thing about eternity is that it’s not constricted to this time space reality we’re living in.
Shangyang Fang (32:18): It’s non linear and I do think that eternity is no difference from the transients, from the brevity. When I think about the haiku poets, year after year on the monkeys face, a monkeys face, or even in Kiilto hearing a cuckoo’s cry I long for Kiilto or what a strange thing to be alive under the cherry blossoms or the world of dew is the world of dew, and yet, and yet. Those moments, it’s so transient, the moments standing under the cherry blossom tree, it only lasts for a week or two or a few weeks that ravishing beauty, but it is eternal. That moment is being locked, that moment is this similar as the Lorca’s moment of the girl being held by the icicle of moonlight upon the water.
Shangyang Fang (33:24): Those moments, I don’t know if it’s objectively eternal, but it is eternal to me because I cannot erase it from my memory anymore and I think it will continue. Yeah. I can’t talk about eternity, but I do think that poetry on and on again, manifests that, I think all this magic is our effort against death.
Ryo Yamaguchi (33:53): Oh yeah. Magic is our effort against death, this is great. Well, I appreciate you indulging my question and I’m glad you did, because that was really amazing just to hear you work through that and to hear all those wonderful Haiku poems really great. Okay. Well, I think this brings us to the poem now, if you feel ready for it.
Shangyang Fang (34:15): Oh yes.
Ryo Yamaguchi (34:18): This is from someone else. This is from a poem you admire.
Shangyang Fang (34:21): Yes. I feel embarrassed reading my work. This is a poem I just love, whenever I’m drunk I just return it time and time again. There are many poems that return to, but this is one of them. It’s a poem by the Polish poet is Zbigniew Herbert. It’s called Elegy of Fortinbras. It’s written from the perspective, the persona of Fortinbras toward the dead Hamlet at the end of the change. Oh, I’m sorry. Okay. I’ll just start.
Shangyang Fang (34:58):
Now that we are alone. We can talk prince man to man
though you lie on the stairs and see no more than a dead ant,
nothing but black sound with broken rays
I could never think of your hands without smiling
and now that they lie on the stone like fallen nests
they’re as defenseless as before The end is exactly this
The hands lie apart The sword lies apart the head apart
and the knight’s feet and soft slippers
You will have a soldier’s funeral without having been a soldier
The only ritual I’m acquainted with a little
there will be no candles no singing on only cannon-fuses and bursts
crepe dragged on the pavement helmets boots artillery horses drums drums I
know nothing exquisite
those will be my maneuvers before I start to rule
one has to take the city by the neck and shake it a bit
Anyhow you had to perish Hamlet you were not for life
you believed in crystal notions not in human clay
always twitching as if asleep you hunted chimeras
wolfishly you crunched the air only to vomit
you knew no human thing did not know even how to breathe
Now you have peace Hamlet you accomplished what you had to
and you have peace The rest is not silence, but belongs to me
you chose the easier part of an elegant thrust
but what is heroic death compared with eternal watching
with a cold apple in one’s hand on a narrow chair
with a view of the ant-hill and the clock dial
Adieu prince I have tasks a sewer project
and the decree on prostitutes and beggars
I must also elaborate a better system of prisons
Since as you justly said Denmark is a prison
I go to my affairs This night is born
a star named Hamlet We shall never meet
what I shall leave behind will not be worth a tragedy
It is not for us to greet each other or bid farewell we live on our archipelagos
and that water these words what can they do what can they do prince
Ryo Yamaguchi (37:29): Thank you, Shangyang. Oh, there’s so much there and so I don’t know, it’s so mournful, but not, it’s so Frank. What do you love about that poem?
Shangyang Fang (37:45): Everything. It’s the poem is everything and I think it’s very important to our time. One has to take the city by the neck and shake it a bit. I think one has to take the world by the neck and shake it a bit and also I think the last sentence that is questioning the notion of empathy, questioning the notion of communication and to that end, I think it’s also what we are doing in poetry. It’s really an important question about poetry, that water, these words, what can they do? What can they do prince? That question is one of the question that just keeps jingling my head. I can never forget about that. And it’s pushing me to go forward. What can they do? I don’t know, but I’m still doing it.
Ryo Yamaguchi (38:40): Yeah. Well, that’s absolutely beautiful. I think we’ll just leave it at that and that just keep doing it, keep pushing forward that’s great. Okay. Well, I’m so glad we finally got to chat and [crosstalk 00:38:57]
Shangyang Fang (38:56): I’m so happy for this chat also.
Ryo Yamaguchi (38:59): Yeah. And there’s so much more, I mean, we barely talked about Brigit and we didn’t talk about Broms at all.
Shangyang Fang (39:03): Oh dear, Brahms. Yes.
Ryo Yamaguchi (39:08): So much more, but for another time, another season, I suppose so just for now, I’m just so indebted and all my thanks for you taking the time and being on the show.
Shangyang Fang (39:16): I’m so thankful for all your brilliant questions because I’m lazy, I would never think about those things had you not asked me those questions. I think after sometimes I feel like after the interview I have to look at myself deeper and just think about these questions that I think it’s always the question that transform people. It’s always, it’s not a statement. It’s the question. So thank you so much for that.
Ryo Yamaguchi (39:43): Yeah, of course. Well, I’m glad I could provoke a little bit of thought. Well thanks again, Shangyang.
Shangyang Fang (39:48): Thank you.
Ryo Yamaguchi (39:50): And we’ll keep reading the poems.