An Evening of Ouyang Jianghe's 'Phoenix'

It Begins With Metamorphosis: Xu Bing Lecture Series

Ouyang Jianghe at Asia Society Hong Kong Center on August 8, 2014 (Asia Society Hong Kong Center)

HONG KONG, August 8, 2014 — “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 in the '80s and '90s in which 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).

“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 was officially launched in Hong Kong in an evening of poetry reading and cultural dialogue. Poet Nicholas Wong conducted an English reading.

Video: Watch the complete program (1 hr., 18 min.)