Red Rhythms by Margaret Garrett



At the square before Big Wild Goose Pagoda
the crowds jostle and careen
into spring flowers, boom box thumps,
dancer's rumps, and snaking traffic.

One night master Xuanzang, who anchors
the southernmost corner of the square,
quietly steps down from the stone terrace
and hides himself in Ci'en temple.

Translated by David Allen Sullivan
and the Chinese Poetry Co-Translation Collective


Xiangying, from Xi'an, Shaanxi province, China, is a graduate of XISU, and works has been published in 普遍立射的年 the New Century Poetry. He was awarded a prize for excellent original poetry in the Xi'an youth poet seminar and the Xinlu poems reading contest.

David Allen Sullivan’s books include: Strong-Armed Angels, Every Seed of the Pomegranate, a book of co-translation with Abbas Kadhim from the Arabic of Iraqi Adnan Al-Sayegh, Bombs Have Not Breakfasted Yet, and Black Ice. Most recently, he won the Mary Ballard Chapbook poetry prize for Take Wing. He teaches at Cabrillo College, where he edits the Porter Gulch Review with his students, and lives in Santa Cruz with his family. For more about his work, visit his poetry website, a modern Chinese co-translation project, and poetry about the paintings of Bosch and Bruegel.

Can you tell us a little about the origins of "Restlessness" and why you translated it?
I taught on a Fulbright for one year in Xi'an, China, home of the Terra Cotta Warriors. I do not speak Mandarin, but taught a seminar in which my graduate students found and translated young Chinese poets for a planned anthology. This was one of the poems they discovered, translated, and then worked with me to perfect into a poem that works in English.

What drew you to poetry?
I began writing in high school, and pursued a PhD in poetry. My first book was published when I was in my late forties, and the response encouraged me to write more. I write because it helps me understand myself, my life, and my world.

You publish "co-translations". Can you share some of your experiences of the translation process? Would you describe that relationship as a collaboration?
I see translation from a language I don't speak as an interactive process whereby we negotiate what the reader of the poem who speaks both languages discovered, my reaction to what they've created, and what of the original can be carried over into a poem that works in English. It is blindly feeling one's way down slippery cellar steps into the root-smelling dank, feeling for the light switch, and seeing the place flash into existence.

Can you tell us about your formative influences? Where you born into a family of writers or artists?
My mother wrote poems, and became an art historian. Together we are creating an anthology of poems. Hey, anyone interested? Here is an invitation to write a poem about one of the paintings by Bruegel or Bosch. Feb. first deadline. No limitation on what painting you choose, or what style of poem (prose? lyric? narrative? etc.) you write. Her dedication to her work inspires me.

What other art forms and disciplines interest you?
I love all art forms, but particularly painting, film, and novels.

What are your views on the future of communication and how technology is changing the way we communicate, read, interact with the world and our imaginations?
We are in danger of imploding due to the commercialization of our means of communication. We speak to people who hold our own views, are increasingly directed to mediums we're guaranteed to like, and do not emerge from our bubble except to cast stones at others' bubbles. Only art and literature can challenge our narrowing worlds, open us up to other cultures, beliefs, and religions.