Karma: Poems
by Yin Lichuan
Translated from the Chinese
by Fiona Sze-Lorrain
66 poems ~ 222 pages (Chinese and English juxtaposed)
Price: $19.00
Publisher: Tolsun Books
ISBN: 978-1-948800-29-7
To Order: www.tolsunbooks.com


For those of us, living in the West, who may be unfamiliar with Eastern thought,
"the term karma, reflected in Yin’s title as well as in the title poem which appears
on page 73, is the poet’s own artistic take on the Buddhist concept of karma. This
cornerstone poem reveals Yin’s own understanding of karma. In Sanskrit, it means
action. By extension, it is one way, among others, of accepting life as circular and
interconnected. The two Chinese characters for 'karma' are yin (因) and guo (果),
which literally mean '(be)cause' and 'fruit' respectively." Readers will be richly
rewarded by a careful reading of Yin’s volume as expanding one’s intellectual and
emotional horizons.

Editor's Note: the material designated in quotes above is quoted directly from trans-
lator Fiona Sze-Lorrain's reply to a query from the editor for a basic summary of the
term "karma."


“Yin Lichuan’s poems—in these potent translations by Fiona Sze-Lorrain—pierce
the traditional lyric, injecting it with the antipoetic, the provocative, the unexpec-
ted, as when she asserts that ‘the most insane people master the art of gardening /
enjoy making sweet-and-sour fish / they are chefs and housewives.’ Her choice of
detail startles and illuminates, ‘loaded with black petroleum.’ She is our guide, our
accomplice, advising us to ‘go to the zoo in dry winter / to visit a weasel / and
tiger / under thin ashen white sunlight’ and we can’t do otherwise—such is the
stark power of her gaze.”
—Jennifer Barber, Founding Editor, Salamander

“Spanning over a decade, these are poems of deep irreverence and relentless
questioning. With an air of unrestrained freedom in both form and content, Yin
Lichuan establishes an immediate intimacy with her reader. She prods at expec-
tations and disdains concealment, as a youth looking at old age, in the earliest
poems, and later as a mother. Throughout, she maintains her restless distrust of
convention. In these English translations, poet and musician Sze-Lorrain presents
an arresting chronological sequence of Yin’s fresh and fearless revelations.”
—Carolyn Kuebler, Editor, New England Review


Born in 1973 in Chongquing, Sichuan province, Yin studied French at Beijing
University before pursuing a graduate degree in filmmaking at École supérieure
libre d’études cinematographiques (ESEC) in Paris. Her publications include a
book of selected writings Feel a Bit More Comfort (2001); a novel Bitch (2002);
Thirteen Caprices (2003); a book of essays 37º 8 (2003); three volumes of poetry,
(2006, Copyrighted 2020), Wet Paint (2007), and The Doors (2015), and
several books of prose.

About the poet, Sze-Lorrain avers, “Unlike most of the other Chinese contempor-
ary poets I have translated, Yin Lichuan renders more direct—and accessible—
the pleasure she takes in writing itself. Each poem reads in a thrill.”


Fiona Sze-Lorrain writes and translates in English, French, Chinese, and occa-
sionally Spanish. Her most recent book of poetry The Ruined Elegance (Princeton,
2016), was a finalist for the 2016, Los Angeles Times Book Prize and one of
Library Journal’s “Best Books of 2015: Poetry.” Her work includes two earlier
collections, My Funeral Gondola (2013), and Water the Moon (2010), and several
books of translation of contemporary Chinese, American, and French poets. Short-
listed for the 2016 Best Translated Book Award in Poetry and longlisted for the
2014 PEN Award for Poetry in Translation, she lives in Paris and works as a
zheng harpist and editor. She has been named a 2019-20 Abigail R. Cohen Fellow
at the Columbia Institute for Ideas and Imagination.


by Yin Lichuan
Translated by Fiona Sze-Lorrain

for popcorn
corn has to grow
for summer
the man who sells melon
raises a knife

a scholar puts down his knife
becomes an elite
a peasant puts down his knife
still a peasant
the mafia puts down their knives
they are politicians
Buddha raises his knife
he wants fame

to starve children
girls keep dying
this year
a drought in Hebei
to destroy corpses and traces
nourish syphilis
ten years in the capital
it keeps raining


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