Phoenix – an ekphrastic poem
Evening Poetry Reading and Discussion with Poet Ouyang Jianghe
Drinks Reception at 6:30 pm
Reading & Discussion at 7:00 pm
Close at 8:00 pm
“Phoenix” is a mini-epic ekphrastic poem written by poet Ouyang Jianghe as a companion piece to Xu Bing’s sculpture of the same name. The poem multiplies the complexity of his earlier poems; it is, by his own account, his magnum opus. Synthesizing his earlier concerns of the materiality of language, the Chinese literary legacy, and the role of art in society into a sustained meditation on the theme of flight, it reflects two and a half decades of work refining the “obscure” language of Misty poetry into a vessel for sophisticated philosophical inquiry. The poem, written by Ouyang in 2010 after a silence of almost two decades, is the culmination of his experiment, where in the eighties and nineties he produced a body of poems distinguished by their length, technical intricacy, and high degree of abstraction. He has, in his recent work, taken this project to a new level, writing book-length poems of densely interlinked stanzas rife with wordplay, a fugue-like development of motifs, and the technique of argument by paradox — known in Chinese as beilun (悖論) — employed by the philosopher Zhuangzi (莊子) to capture the illogical logic of Daoism (from the Preface to Phoenix by Austin Woerner).
Ouyang Jianghe’s poem “Phoenix” has been translated into English by Austin Woerner and published into a book with the same title by MCCM Creations & Zephyr Press, with support from the SOMA Project at City University of Hong Kong. Phoenix will be officially launched in Hong Kong at this evening of poetry reading and cultural dialogues. English reading will be conducted by poet Nicholas Wong.
Ouyang Jianghe belongs to the generation of Chinese poets known as the “post-Misty” school, the second wave of poets to emerge in the 1980s in the warming political climate after the end of the Cultural Revolution. His poetry is noted for its “difficulty” — the same word that in English we sometimes apply to poets like Wallace Stevens, Hart Crane, Fanny Howe, and Michael Palmer. Like these poets, he strives toward a sense beyond sense, inventing an idiosyncratic language that reveals its own logic only gradually after reading many of his poems.
Nicholas Wong holds an MFA from City University of Hong Kong. His next poetry collection will be published by Kaya Press. He is a finalist for the New Letters Poetry Award, Wabash Prize for Poetry, and recently, the poetry contests of Tupelo Quarterly and Better: Culture and Lit. New work is forthcoming in Asian-American Literary Review, Bayou, Grist, Minnesota Review and Southern Humanities Review. He is an assistant poetry editor for Drunken Boat.