Verses on Bird

Verses on Bird

by Er Zhang

Translated by Eleni Sikelianos, Leonard Schwartz, Rachel Levitsky and Timothy Liu

Published by: Zephyr Press

Imprint: Zephyr Press

104 Pages, 6.00 x 8.50 x 0.20 in

  • Paperback
  • 9780939010806
  • Published: April 2004


"… a highly developed range that's very beautiful."—Leslie Scalapino

Zhang Er grasps for the spiritual through objects of the mundane, quietly detailing the wonder and desperation that courses through human lives. In these poems, the eye watches the eye so that no facet of our existence remains unexplored. "Zhang Er belongs to the generation beyond lament or anger over the hardship endured by Chinese intellectuals, from overthrown rebellion to construction, from confusion to clarity, from darkness to light (ambiguity to clarity). She walks out of suffering and uncertainty, discovers the loveliness, preciousness of life and self-respect . . ."—(New World Poetry Bimonthly)

From the poem "Verses on Bird":

The river is moving. The blackbird must be flying.
From classical fugues to Romanticism, this effort
Schubert. When storms attack, the nightjar’s cry
Swells. The noble revolution will require great
Sacrifice, yet do not ask me to capture this process on
the black
And white keys, nor to switch to another tone.

I could not find two birds with identical pitch.

With nothing to induce it, innocence makes me walk
Into rushing water as if I were brave. Empty space is great, but nothing
Repeats itself there. Whether I do
Or whether I don’t; from each, the sum of the piano’s voice will rise.
Not to be doubted: bird writes poem, one vowel at a time.

Zhang Er was born in Beijing, China and moved to the United States in 1986. Her poetry, nonfiction and essays have appeared in publications throughout the world, and she is the author of multiple books in Chinese and in English translation. She has also participated in projects sponsored by the New York Council for the Arts and by the Minetta Brook Foundation.