Fragile As an Urn


Today, my interview "Fragile As an Urn" with David Axelrod appears in the online edition of basalt. In this interview I discuss my poems translating the names of the school children killed in the 2008 Wenchuan earthquake. When preparing this interview, David reached out to Ai Weiwei to ask him his thought about this set of poems. Ai Weiwei's response:

Ian’s poetry project about the student victims in Sichuan is an ambitious, long-time endeavor. His project demonstrates a deep understanding of the tragic event and the humanitarian loss in a society. The poetry often deals with the intuitive and compelling translations of simple Chinese characters that make up a Chinese name. When a child is born, the family, rich or poor, always bestows all the best wishes, hope, and imagination to this newborn baby through the act of naming. Our names are always carefully chosen, and they reflect the mentality within Chinese culture. The names are often poetically striking. Ian’s writing comes from his deep fascination for cross-cultural practices and profound understanding of Chinese history and literature.

I see this work as conceptual as can be. It is a beautiful and persistent effort of a poet’s heart and mind working together, dealing with our tragic reality.

—Ai Weiwei

Read the entire interview here:

Constellations of Humanity

Each luminous dot on this map represents one reader of this poem. As the number of readers increases, the stars begin to cluster and form an increasingly detailed constellation. My intent is to show how brightly a poem glows across our world. I welcome your light.

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