Tuesday, June 24, 2014

Analysis of "To Be Elsewhere" by Hsia Yü

Original poem reprinted online here:  "To Be Elsewhere" by Hsia Yü
Originally read: November 6, 2013
More information about the Poet: Hsia Yü


Translations.  A part of me wants to read the original text, but then again, I don't know "The Chinese" (as Poetry Foundation states this translation is from).  The poem itself deals with something missing, but I, as a reader, feel like I'm missing something in here as well.

The first few lines detail out a tryst, "We met in a coastal village / spent a lovely night without leaving an address / going separate ways"  I think the key with the opening line is the idea of a "coastal" village in a more thematic sense -- this sort of bridge between sea and the land which parallels both the speaker's and the other's ebb away from each other.

Then the flow, "Three years later / we meet again by coincidence."  This language is straight to the point -- there's not emotional tie in here, just a statement.  But I think this is purposeful to build up a narrative, "The whole / three years spun a novel / we abandoned:"  Well, not necessarily a narrative but a phantom narrative.

This is where I feel I'm missing something -- and it's with the colon in this section.  Theoretically, the colon opens up a definition of "a novel we abandoned."  So these lines, "They fail to recognize themselves / as though meeting in another story / for an encounter"  The lines feels like a definition of the other novel, but I feel I'm missing a word here or an idea.  I can't pinpoint it.

In any case, the idea here is cyclical to the beginning -- a tryst and then another tryst but the variable inserted in to this equation is "failing to recognize themselves."  There's an implication that the current story there's a sense of recognition.  But now that we are in the realm of a cycle, presumably, the dialogue below could have happened at the beginning:

     One asks: Who are you, so cold and weary
     The other says:  I only know a thread is loose on my sweater
          The more you pull it, the more it lengthens
          until I completely vanish.

Aside from my mind going towards Weezer's "Undone -- The Sweater Song" there's a parallel idea with a huge differentiation.

In this version, the loosening of the sweater (or clothes) leads to the speaker vanishing versus the idea of an implied tryst in the beginning.  And what does the speaker see in the other?

The other observes the speaker as "cold and weary."  Pointed visual questioning, but nothing else, while the speaker is undone.

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