Ilya Gutner: Two Chinese Poems


Four pigs, three dogs,
two patient apple-acres waiting
wrapped in brown papers
for the Market Act
of their life’s drama.

From the goats to the pigs
I walk picking up fallen apples
and bring food to the dogs.

Let me change the water in your bowl,
let me sit with you, friend mutt, forgetting
without wine the one fact of my life.

_______________Visiting a farm
_____near the Northern Capital about nine months
_______________into my psychosis.


I take the keys, take money,
close the door, cross the tracks
where trains approach the city’s heart
and then I cross the bridge
and go down to the river.

Green plant floating
under drizzling rain.
Good-bye, my friend.

The way back up
not burdened by you
is steeper than before.

__________Giving proper funeral
_____to the green plant with brown leaves
__________on my balcony.


Ilya Gutner writes, “These poems are written in a style adapted from the English sonnet, reduced to its minimal components, number of lines and metric numbers. Instead of counting syllables, one counts the words, and counts the title as part of the poem, setting out its context. Since the great majority of English words are either monosyllables or natural iambs, the sound remains a unity even without the steel string of the syllabic meter. Since the English language has a great variety of natural demetrifications which make it be a choppy, backward language except where it has had its hair combed slick for a presentation, the same counting of words instead of syllables makes also for the variety of sound. Then, too, the lines are varied by units of equal number of words, which again makes for a local unity and a local variety of sound, making for ordered units in a chaos of loose parts. As to the author of these things, his (that is mine) name is Ilya Gutner and he (I, that is) used to live in the United States, a PhD student at Brown in a department of Slavic Studies but now live in China, a PhD at a university in Shanghai, reading philosophy at a department of Chinese Politics. These poems are offered now to the wise interest of their readers: to improve on leisure and to exercise the mind.

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