Flash Cards is a primer of modern Chinese life—constructing a complex philosophical vision from swatches of daily events and observations. As Yu Jian has written about his own work: "It is possible to see eternity—to see everything—in a teacup or a candy wrapper. Everything in the world is poetry."
The JINTIAN [今天] series of contemporary literature features new and innovative writing from mainland China and abroad. Titles in the series are edited by Bei Dao, Lydia H. Liu, and Christopher Mattison.
A collaborative venture between Zephyr Press, the Jintian Literary Foundation, and The Chinese University Press, each bilingual title highlights the ever-changing literary culture of China while simultaneously expanding the English language with a wave of new voices in translation.
YU JIAN, born in 1954 in Kunming, China, is a poet and film director. He began writing poetry in the early 1970s, influenced both by classical Chinese poetry and modern Western writers such as Walt Whitman. Yu Jian is a major figure among "The Third Generation Poets" who came after the "Misty Poetry" movement of the early 1980s.
A Chancellor of the Academy of American Poets, RON PADGETT was named Officer in the Order of Arts and Letters by the French government. In 2009 he received the Shelley Memorial Award from the Poetry Society of America. His translations include The Complete Poems of Blaise Cendrars.
WANG PING's books include two collections of poetry, The Magic Whip and Of Flesh & Spirit, and the cultural study Aching for Beauty: Footbinding in China. Her novel The Last Communist Virgin was winner of the 2008 Minnesota Book Award in the category of Novel and Short Story.
Yu Jian's compassion and ability to nail the thing down with such a grace of temperament is canny and adhesive. Flash, also as in exposed. You want to know more about this world where a middle-aged woman "comrade," speaking Mandarin morphs momentarily into a wolf, where a doe leaps into the heart of the poet but he no longer has "a stream or meadow to keep it there." Are we on Yellow Mountain with the poets of old? Or in lock-down under the fever of the Cultural Revolution & other historic vicissitudes? Yu Jian carries the wisdom and panoramic awareness of a Daoist sage. And Ron Padgett—a major poet whose sympathies are collegial and up for the resonant task—& native born Chinese poet Wang Ping have done an inspired job of transmitting this sharp-edged yet achingly poignant work. In their care, Yu Jian's particular sensibility pierces through a dark age. He also conjures non-human elementals—leopards & tigers & dragons—that roam his subconscious and the landscape of shamanic shapeshifters, as if they are friends of many lifetimes. He admonishes poets to "step out of the crowd/you're the last humans/with a tail."