This will be my last editorial for Long Poem Magazine and it is with gratitude and inevitable regrets that I now move on. In 2015 I was invited to read at the inaugural Xu Zhimo International Poetry and Art Festival, founded and hosted by Alan Macfarlane, Emeritus Professor of Archaeology and Anthropology at King’s College, Cambridge, and dedicated to bringing together poets and artists from China, the UK and elsewhere. In the Chinese-speaking world, Xu Zhimo (1897–1931) is one of the best-loved of all modern Chinese poets, and school-children know by heart his famous poem ‘Saying Goodbye to Cambridge Again’.1
This crucial invitation re-established the connection I had fostered while teaching English to Chinese boarding students for eight years at an independent school in Ashford, Kent. The following year I was involved in editing the Xu Zhimo Festival Anthology, and in October 2017 participated in the Xichang Silk Road Poetry Week Festival in Sichuan, having met its founder, Jidi Majia, in July.
Jidi Majia was born in Sichuan in 1961 and belongs to the Yi-Nuosu ethnic minority. He is a representative figure among minority poets, Vice President of the Secretariat of China Writers Association and a multiaward-winning international poet whose work has been translated into many European languages. His poetry is steeped in the history, mythology, folklore, customs and songs of his people and, although we are unable to print a previously unpublished translation, an excerpt from the title poem of Rhapsody in Black2 will give a flavour:
Ah black dream, may you soon engulf and dissolve me
Let me vanish under your benign protection
To become grassland and its herds
To become a muntjac or a lark or a fine-scaled fish
To become a firestone, to become a saddle
To become a mouth harp or a mabu or a kaxi-jjuhli3
A major objective of the Xichang International Poetry Week is to promote the outstanding work of the Nuosu and introduce them to a wider international community of writers and artists. We publish two poets from the festival in this issue: Gagik Davtyan, from Armenia, and Xiao Xiao, from Sichuan. Xiao Xiao gave me a copy of her poem ‘Sad Songs from Another World’, which we publish in English and unabridged for the first time. She was one of a small group of young migrant workers who began writing poetry in the early 90s, when millions of workers departed homelands to find employment in an economy developing as a free-market system, and started to write as a means of expressing the dangerous and dehumanising realities of their lives, alongside the yearning for their homelands. These poems preserve their memories of rural life and the spiritual culture of their motherlands, as well as bearing witness to the sufferings they endured.
I am now engaged as an editor for the Cambridge Rivers Press, which is associated with the Xu Zhimo Festival. So, having co-edited Long Poem Magazine for ten years since its inception, it seems time to make a break. Many of our contributors have become good friends, and I hope to see them at future launches. My heartfelt thanks to previous editors Anna Robinson and Ann Vaughan-Williams, to Linda Black my longterm friend and editing buddy, and to Martin Parker our excellent designer. Welcome and thanks to Claire Crowther who joins us with this issue.
Lucy Hamilton, May 2018
- XU ZHIMO Selected Poems, Oleander Press, 2012
- Rhapsody in Black by Jidi Majia, translated by Denis Mair, CLT Books, University of Oklahoma Press, 2014
- Musical instruments used by the Nuosu