Shelley Drake Hawks Ph. D. 何雪丽


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A Song in Praise of Yan'an (c. 1974)
By Shi Lu

(Translation by Shelley Drake Hawks)

Yan’an was the place where the Communist movement was headquartered during World War II.  
Shi Lu looked back to the Yan’an era as a golden time when the Party was close to the peasant
masses.  In this poem, he defends himself as a “father” protecting the spirit of early Communism.





    Sky high clouds . . . scatter!

    Barren bitterness stirs Mount Hao.

    There’s only a meager measure of barley

    but, truly, I am happy to share it with the community.

    Of course we must eliminate “evil ghosts.”

    Frozen in snow, the peach flower dreams of spring.


    Who presumes one dollar could earn ten thousand?

    Schemers who seize office, riches, and power,

    shouting nonsense!

    This father protects Yan’an,                                    

    though compared to the famous revolutionaries,

    All I gave was sweat.


    If you wish to know the weight of bones

    put them on the scales yourself,

    balance the boasts and empty claims, and

    measure the cost in tens of thousands.

    The painter’s brush never devours talented youth.

    Only now do I know the true meaning of gluttony.


    Imagine one day, three meals of rice for everybody,

    then see who curses our early years.

    Friends. . .  join the Revolution!

    How can you eat the rice bowl which others cooked?


    Spring laughs at the yellow soil plateau,

    Desolate winds reclaim youthful dreams.

    Sheep fly up to become clouds

    Floating in pure mountains.


    (Shi Lu’s Epilogue)

    This poem is not simply practice for the mouth.

    Unbounded--consider this

    in the spirit of a child’s innocent ears.





 A Song in Praise of Yan'an by Shi Lu








Beneath the Moon Folk Song (c. 1974)
By Shi Lu

(Translation by Shelley Drake Hawks)


 This poem describes the emotional strain of painting under conditions of persecution.





    Beneath the moon, the moon

    Pi pa sounds slippery

    Lonely, lonely: spreading tears.

    Which family is the enemy?

    Grape trellis toppled; no wind.

    How to blow it back, blow it back?

    Horizontal branch, thick leaves,

    No flower.  Then

    Suddenly, a flower reveals slender bones.

    Safe from harm, a melon grows!


    Beneath the lamp, the lamp

    Paint strokes—held back

    Fierce, fierce: emerging misshapen.

    Which style of brushwork?

    Brush pot, scrolls—the heart’s affairs,

    I keep painting vast, painting vast.

    Dripping wet, all soaked through,

    Cotton’s page blossoms hope, blossoms hope.

    Suddenly glimpsed through wind and rain,

    A painting’s spirit is born








In Praise of the Painter Ba Da Shan Ren (c. 1974)
By Shi Lu

(Translation by Shelley Drake Hawks)

This poem represents an important statement of Shi Lu’s artistic and political philosophy. 
He admired Ba Da Shan Ren (Xue Ge, 1626-1705) as a bold pioneer whose painting opened up a fresh
path for Chinese art.  Like Shi Lu himself, Ba Da Shan Ren is remembered as a “mad” genius whose
strange behavior and enigmatic paintings, although grounded in authentic illness, may have
been exaggerated at times to protect him from political prosecution.




    Winter’s slaughter unleashed hounds of wind.

    I walk five miles, pacing back and forth.

    How I wished to soar like a heavenly horse!

     Instead, I am a warrior defending talent.  


    Disobeying Emperor Shun, I chose the unsullied path.

    Sitting alone on the pedestal of the Heavenly Family.

    An evening’s glance toward the imperial capital

    Reveals, as yet, no summons to battle.


    From a single orchid, a spring pavilion grows,

    A little pigment paints the azure moss.

    Peering out, a peaceful pair of eyes,

    My spirit remains undisturbed.


    Liu Xie  swims in the enthusiasm of youth

    immersed in today’s high spirits.

    The Eastern Kitchen contains no stolen rice.

    The pursuit of wealth is not my life—

    The ancestral estate I did not keep,

    The arranged bride I never loved.

    Official service felt too stifling,

    The new officials are not true talents.

    I prefer a humble life writing essays and poems.


    Ancient sages called it strange

    to see writers paired off with beautiful women.

    I won’t waste my time wondering why.

    Riches and honor are like passing clouds.







In Praise of the Painter Ba Da Shan Ren (1626-1705) by Shi Lu






My Motto of "Wild, Strange. Chaotic, and Black" (c. 1962)
By Shi Lu

(Translation by Shelley Drake Hawks)


In this poem, Shi Lu proudly claims as his motto the very insults directed at his painting.




    People scold me as “wild;” I’ll be even wilder.

    From ordinary things, I create wonders.

    People denounce me as “strange.”   How am I strange?

    Unwilling to be slavish, I rely on self-judgment.

    People define me as “chaotic.” What I do is not chaotic!

    The method of no-method is the most disciplined of all.

    People ridicule me as “black,” I’m not too black.

    Black startles the heart and stirs the soul.

    “Wild strange chaotic black”—Is it worth discussing?

    You have a tongue. I have a heart.

    Life offers me fresh ideas.

    I give my spirit back to life.







 My Motto of "Wild, Strange. Chaotic, and Black" by Shi Lu 1962






Thoughts on My Youth    A Counting Stars Poem (c. 1974)
By Shi Lu

(Translation by Shelley Drake Hawks)


In this poem, Shi Lu reflects back on his childhood and proclaims the values by which he lives.




    No light bursts through sky’s gate.  

    I gaze at Heaven— counting out stars.

    I was born limber

    An acrobat performing flips in the air.

    Teacher forced me to kneel on bricks.

    I used his teapot as my bedpan.


    How could I oppress men?

    My nature abhors injustice.

            Bamboo tall and pure.

            Orchid fragrant and remote.

            Plum reddens snow.

            Bird chirps music.


    Nature’s elements are so varied.

    Whoever opposes nature’s principles leaves no children behind.

    Bullies stepping on others

    Seemingly sweet but carrying a fishy odor.

    Usurping authority to steal the sky and change the stars,

    Rotten, blind worshipers deserving to die

    Their nerves are abnormal like monkeys.


    A Romantic hero relies on humor and virtue.

    Never enter the muddy stream.

    Who really knows the height of the sky or the depth of the earth?

    One generation: a capsized boat.

    Strain your eyes to find the rare autumn butterfly

    Then discern whether the yellow flower is fat or lean.

            I am a lean horse.

    My red brush cannot write out the revolution’s deepest worries.


    (Shi Lu’s Epilogue)

    In childhood, I learned not to bow to authority.

    In old age, I cannot be a blind worshipper.

    You ask me which style of poem this belongs to? (Wind, horse, ox…) Irrelevant!



Thoughts on My Youth -  A Counting Stars Poem by Shi Lu 1974