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Wang Ping

1957–

Wang Ping was born in August 14, 1957, in Shanghai, China, during the Cultural Revolution. She received her BA in English literature from Beijing University in 1984 and immigrated to the United States in 1985. Ping received her MA in English literature from Long Island University two years later. It was at Long Island University, when she accidentally walked into a creative writing class, that Ping started writing poetry, stories, and novels. She went on to receive her PhD in comparative literature from New York University in 1999.

Ping’s poetry collections include Ten Thousand Waves (Wings Press, 2014), The Magic Whip (Coffee House Press, 2003), and Of Flesh & Spirit (Coffee House Press, 1998). Ping’s poetry speaks to the interweaving of two cultures—Chinese and American—and what occurs at the sometimes stark and violent intersection of two different sets of languages, traditions, and histories. Ping, who explores her Chinese ancestry, identity, and matters of eroticism and gender in her work, has also authored short story collections, novels, works in translation, and academic texts that tackle these themes. Her nonfiction book Aching for Beauty: Footbinding in China (University of Minnesota Press, 2000) won the Eugene Kayden Award for the Best Book in Humanities, and her short story collection The Last Communist Virgin (Coffee House Press, 2007) won the 2008 Minnesota Book Award and Asian American Studies Award.

Ping’s other awards include fellowships from the Bush Foundation, the New York Foundation for the Arts, and the National Endowment for the Arts. She is also the founder of the Kinship of Rivers project, which aims to raise environmental awareness and bring the communities along the Yangtze and Mississippi rivers together through interdisciplinary arts.

Ping is currently an associate professor at Macalester College in Saint Paul, Minnesota.


Selected Bibliography

Poetry

Ten Thousand Waves (Wings Press, 2014)
The Magic Whip (Coffee House Press, 2003)
Of Flesh & Spirit (Coffee House Press, 1998)

Fiction

The Last Communist Virgin (Coffee House Press, 2007)
Foreign Devil (Coffee House Press, 1996)
American Visa (Coffee House Press, 1994)

Nonfiction

Aching for Beauty: Footbinding in China (University of Minnesota Press, 2000)

Wang Ping
Photo credit: Tom Wallace

By This Poet

5

Tsunami Chant

I'm not a singer, but please
let me sing of the peacemakers
on the streets and internet, your candles
in this darkest moment of night,
your bodies on the steps of government buildings,
your voices from the roots of grasses and trees,
from your pit of conscience.

I'm not a prayer, but please,
please give my voice to the children
in Baghdad, Basra, Afghanistan,
and every other bombed-out place on earth,
your crying out in pain and fear;
please give my hands to the mothers
raking through rubble for food, bodies;
my sight to the cities and fields in smoke;
my tears to the men and women who are brought
home in bags; and please give my ears
to those who refuse to hear the explosions,
who tune only to censored news, official words.

I'm not a citizen, but please
count my vote against the belief
that the American way is the only way,
count it against the blasphemy of freedom,
against a gang of thugs who donned crowns
on their own heads, who live for power
and power only, whose only route is
to deceive and loot, whose mouths move
only to crush, whose hands close
only into a grave.

I'm not a worshiper, but please
accept my faith in those
who refuse to believe in painted lies,
refuse to join this chorus of supreme hypocrisy,
refuse to sell out, to let their conscience sleep,
wither, die. Please accept my faith
in those who cross the bridge for peace,
only to be cursed and spat upon, but keep crossing
anyway, every Wednesday, in rain and snow,
and my faith in those who camp out night after night,
your blood thawing the frozen ground,
your tents flowers of hope in this bleak age.

I don't possess a bomb, don't know
how to shoot or thrust a sword.
All I have is a broken voice,
a heart immense with sorrow.
But please, please take them,
let them be part of this tsunami
of chanting, this chant of awakening.

Solstice in Llasa

What more can you say
Nomad daughter of glaciers?
City has bleached the sun from your face
18 years old with a freckled nose
Hides of yak, barley, sandy wind
Knees stiff from scrubbing toilets
What dreams keep you alive
On the marble floor of Gangkar Hotel?

Drunken tourists and their nightingales
Money is the moon on Lhasa's holy streets
In Beijing a storm drops 36 tons
Of dust upon the city of concrete
Nomad daughter from the Black River
What more can you say?
The wetland is becoming a desert
Home for rats, carcass of yaks

The salted tea you brought to my room
Yellow butter afloat from a distant factory
"It's fake but tastes okay.
The real is gone, like snowcaps."

Wind, breath, naked river beds
At dusk, a boy on motorcycle
Comes home with his last herd
Nomad daughter from the Sacred Lake
What dreams keep you going
In the glass cage of illusion?

Before the clouds
Cabs, trucks, mobs of fortune seekers
Behind the clouds
Patola Palace absent of its Buddha

Your ancestors are on the road
Nomad daughter from the Blue Treasure Plateau
Wooden gloves and padded knees
Long prostrations into the thin air
Their cry of never-perish ghosts
Calling you to keep the lamp burning, burning

And you shout to me across the street
"Sister, please find me a rich husband in America."

And the Old Man Speaks of Paradise: a Ghazal

 

Do not move. Let me speak of a river in paradise
A turquoise gift from fiery stars that is paradise

How do you measure a river’s weight, color, smell, touch?
How do you feel the veins of sand in a breathing paradise?

Eons of earth story, long before rocks, plants or bones
Bulging with flesh and blood in every corner of paradise

You call me Old Man, 12,000 years old, but really I’m a baby of
River Warren, swollen with glacier water flooding the paradise

My torso sloughed by old ice, two cities on sandstone bluffs
Headwaters of a 2350-mile road towards the gulf of paradise

A walk along the beach, a bag of rocks, fossils and agates
Each tells stories of the river, land & life—a kinship of paradise

Come to me at dawn or dusk, by foot, canoe or a single shell
To greet eagles, cranes, fox, trees…a ten-mile gorge of paradise

Gar, bass, goldeye, redhorse, bowfin, stoneroller, buffalo, drum, sunfish
Sickleback, darter, walleye, dace, mooneye…in the waves of paradise

The St. Anthony Fall that walked up 10 miles from Fort Snelling
Clams and shells in Kasota stones—layered history of paradise

Put your fingers into the bluff, and pull a handful of sand
From the Ordovician sea, each perfect to make a paradise

From time to time, I take you into the amniotic womb
A reminder of our origin from a black, red, white, blue paradise

Do not dam me. To move freely is to evolve is to live
Lock feeds fear feeds hate feeds violence to the base of paradise

The Mississippi, temple on earth, home of all living things
Would you tread with love, through the heart of paradise?

We are water—H2O—two hands under an open heart
Pulsing, dissolving, bonding the earth to a green paradise

Stop seeking before or after life, for a paradise
Already in us, in each cell of being that is paradise

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