by Bing Hua
Translation by Yingcai Xu
100 poems ~ 140 pages
Format: 6’’ x 9” ~ Perfect Bound
Publisher: Finishing Line Press
ISBN: ISBN-10: 1646627822
To Order: Amazon
Reviewed by Michael Escoubas
The esteemed early 20th century novelist Willa Cather (1873-1947) once wrote:
“Many people seem to think that art is a luxury to be imported and tacked on to life. Art springs out of the very stuff that life is made of. Art must spring out of the fulness and richness of life.”
Although Cather was a novelist and Bing Hua a poet, I sense an affinity between them. Both understand the purpose of art. Both instill the idea that life and art cannot be separated. Both know love. Both know disappointment. Both know loss and the joy of recovering stronger and better in the face of loss.
February’s Rose, superbly translated by Yingcai Xu, portrays life with a strong sense of where people live. Intuitively, the poet captures the ironies of love. She does this in smooth, economical lines. With no end-line punctuation, readers enjoy close access to the poet’s mind and heart. She comes across as genuine and accessible. Her poems resonate with tensions of self-understanding; fears of what to do next, and joys triumphant in the human spirit.
Organized into seven sections, February’s Rose, combines seasonal themes with cor-responding seasons of the heart. The sections include: I. The Sunflower, II. February’s Rose, III. That Summer, IV. The Lotus’ Obsession, V. Never Invest in Love, VI. A Hand Fan, and VII. The Scarf of the Moonlight. Even the section titles evoke interest.
Notice the confluence of city, nature and love in this excerpt from “The Sound of Silence”:
On the busy modern street
Who runs to the spring of heart
Bathing in the morning rays of materials
And keeping off from the moonlight of sexual desire
Is the biting wind of winter
Long black hair
That drifts in the wind
Lacerates the air
When the sound of silence
Wafts over from the distance
Nobody can hear it
That is the gurgling of a rill
And the throbbing of a mountain
You won’t want to miss how the poet uses the sound of silence to create a memorable moment of love.
Love is Bing Hua’s overriding theme. She includes virtually every month and season of the year showing connections between the outer world of nature and the inner (and often invisible) world of human nature.
Bing Hua’s talent for personification is displayed in “The Amorous Knot of June”:
Closer and closer, the blue sky
Walks on white clouds into my heart
In June’s garden
Every night, new plants sprout
Every morning, new flowers bloom
Is a dream to embrace the blue sky
Is a wing to heave splashes
A white sail glides to the distance
Lightly and evenly stretching out
The colors of the blue sky and the ocean
On the wind-touched riverbank
Two coconut palms stand hand in hand
But cannot tie the amorous knot
Here, the poet is in love with nature. She invokes a kind of emotional completion, which is satisfying to her contemplative heart. Never one to provide an easy answer to life’s challenges, “Two coconut palms stand hand in hand / But cannot tie the amorous knot.”
The poem “Spring” brings Emily Dickinson to mind:
I wonder what type of fan spring uses
That has fanned the grass green and flowers red
I wonder what type of comb spring uses
That has spruced up the gardens and streets
I only see
A fresh and bright rose in the garden
Blooming in the most eye-catching place
A wedding float in the street
Coming from where birds come
O, spring, you are so sweet and charming
I want to be the bride of spring too
Love, for this poet, extends beyond human love. Bing Hua feels encircled by love. Possessed by the world’s beauty, and like Dickinson, her work is punctuated with wonder.
As with her section titles, her poem titles attract interest: “Come on Over,” “Why,” “My Longing for You Is Like Snow,” “Fish Begin to Chuckle,” “Teeth,” “Dust,” and “The Scarf of Moonlight,” to name but a few.
Throughout February’s Rose, Bing Hua’s poetry exhibits craftsmanship, maturity and clarity of purpose.
All of this is superbly illustrated in “If I Were Wind”:
If I were wind
I would fly and fly
Till I alight on his shoulders
If I were wind
I would blow and blow
To blow my love into his heart
Yes, Willa Cather would be proud; because, like Cather, Bing Hua’s art springs from the fulness and richness of life.