From My Commonplace Book - 56


by Gu Cheng

I built a snowman
at your front door
to stand at my stead, waiting there
in all its stupidity.

Then you buried your lollipop
deep inside its snowy heart,
saying that this little sweetness
would perk it up.

The snowman did not smile,
did not make a sound,
and then the bright spring sun
came to melt him away. . . .

Where is he now?
Where is that candied heart?
A bee buzzes
beside the small puddle of tears.

Gu Cheng (Chinese, 1956-1993) was the son of army poet Gu Gong, a prominent party member. During the Cultural Revolution, when Gu Cheng was twelve, the family was sent to rural Shandong for re-education. In his twenties he joined with other modernist poets to form a group known as the "Misty Poets" and acquired celebrity status. In public he often wore a cut-off leg of a pair of jeans as a hat. He and his wife Xie Ye eventually settled in New Zealand where he taught Chinese at the University of Auckland. "Snowman" is included in the collection Sea of Dreams: The Selected Writings of Gu Cheng translated by Joseph R. Allen.


What lovely poems you find Merry and poets. I am glad to see they escaped the "cultural revolution" for freedom to write as he wished.
Dear Enid, you are always so kind.

Gu Cheng did credit his time living in rural Shandong, during his family's banishment, as important in awakening his interest in nature. Following the Tiananmen Square protests and government crackdown, his poems became more political and yet fragmented and veiled. Frankly, as I made my way through Sea of Dreams, with selections from his books in chronological order, I found his poems increasingly difficult to understand. This early poem "Snowman," is, in its simplicity and childlike charm, uncharacteristic of his work as a whole.

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