Chen-ou Liu's Translation Project: First English-Chinese Haiku and Tanka Blog

Friday, September 16, 2011

A Dreamer: A Haibun

I've both wrestled with and been despaired of learning English since my emigration to Canada in 2002. Five years ago, I, a middle-aged man who doesn't speak English, felt that I could never master two languages at the same time. In order to achieve my goal of becoming a writer, I eventually came to the conclusion that I had to break with my Chinese mind and to re-build a new English self.

first dawn
I see Icarus in the dream
waving his wings

To write in English requires a different way of thinking and focuses more on the expressivity and innovation of words and phrases. During the course of my adjustment to English writing, I have slowly begun to squeeze the Chinese literary mentality out of my mind.

As Chinese American writer Ha Jin said emphatically, “it was like having a blood transfusion, like you are changing your blood.”

slapped hard
by Li Po in autumn dreams --
moonlight by my side

Five years have slipped away. I have had limited success in improving my English writing, but I keep on writing. As the poet Robert Louis Stevenson once stressed, "Our business in this world is not to succeed, but to continue to fail in good spirits."

For me now, to write in English is to make an attempt without knowing whether I am going to succeed in the unfamiliar world of the alphabet. Maybe, at some point, my English writing will arrive back where I started, and I will know what English writing means to me for the first time.

New Year dream
Sisyphus and I smile
at each other

published in Lynx, XXVI:3, October, 2011