如夢令

Li Qingzhao

常記溪亭日暮
沉醉不知歸路
興盡晚回舟
誤入藕花深處
爭渡
爭渡
驚起一灘鷗鷺

 

As in a Dream

Translated by Wendy Chen

Remember that day
spent on the stream,
watching the sunset glaze
the pavilion.

So drunk, we could not find
our way back.

It was late
when we turned the boat around

and caught, accidentally, in the deep
tangle of lotus roots.

Rowing through,
rowing through—

startling, from the banks,
                                                herons.

First published in The McNeese Review


蝶戀花

Li Qingzhao

上巳召親族
永夜懨懨歡意少
空夢長安
認取長安道
爲報今年春色好
花光月影宜相照

隨意杯盤雖草草
酒美梅酸
恰稱人懷抱
醉裏插花花莫笑
可憐春似人將老

 

Butterflies Long for Flowers

Translated by Wendy Chen

Gathering of kin on Shangsi Day

In the endless night,
in an empty dream, I dreamt

of Chang’an
and returning by the old road.

It blazed again with colors,
announcing the spring.

The light of the flowers.
The image of the moon.
Each shone on the other. 

The cup, the plate,
though carelessly filled,
were satisfying.

The wine, the sour plums
fulfilled me.

Drunk again,
arranging the flowers— 

But do not laugh.
Man, like Spring, grows old.

First published in The McNeese Review

Butterflies Long for Flowers.JPG
 

On the process of translation:

The process of translation for me is a process of communication, collaboration, and reinvention. In translating Li Qingzhao’s poems, written almost a thousand years ago, I wanted to remain true first to not only the meaning of her words, but also the spirit. As many of her poems are written in the highly regulated ci form, which contain certain elements with no English equivalent, I chose to be more flexible with form in my English translations to best highlight her vibrant and evocative imagery. Although translations are compromises and interpretations rather than perfect equivalents, I hope my work captures the striking inventiveness and freshness of her language that has sustained itself through generations.

 
 
 Wendy Chen

Wendy Chen

Wendy Chen is the author of Unearthings (Tavern Books, 2018). Her work has appeared in Crazyhorse, Rattle, A Public Space, and elsewhere. She is the recipient of the Academy of American Poets Most Promising Young Poet Prize, and fellowships from the Kimmel Harding Nelson Center and the Barbara Deming Memorial Fund. She earned her MFA in poetry from Syracuse University. Currently, she is co-founder and editor of Figure 1. For more, visit wendychenart.com.

Photo Credit: Wenrui Chen