Ye Mimi Poetry Reading

…Ye Mimi. Actually these readings are connected to a
workshop we’re having, which is called Poetry in Motion. Today was really interesting to see the many
ways in which poetry is connected to motion, through translation of course and moving through
languages and through different spaces. But Ye Mimi’s work brings poetry in motion
also in a different way in the sense that she’s also a filmmaker. Actually, she received a Master in Fine Arts
in the Department of Film at the School of the Art Institute here in Chicago. Being also a filmmaker, today she will share
with us two of her video poems. And then she will talk about some of her work,
the process of composing these video poems. And then she will also read some of her poetry. Her translator is also here, Steve Bladbury. So it’s a really — sorry, Steve Bradbury. [BRADBURY:] That’s alright. They called me that when I was in elementary
school. [IOVENE:] Okay. Steve Bradbury. And so, the bookstore also has some of her
work. I really love the titles of her books. This one, ‘A Moth Laid Its Eggs in My Armpit,
and Then It Died.’ Just this title gives you a sense of the nature
of Mimi’s poetry. You know, “a moth laid its eggs in my armpit,
and then it died.” It’s just completely disorienting and also
invites you to imagine what that means. I mean, you know, a moth — there’s so many
different associations. And also collecting together so many different
elements of life and of natural life, and of human life. And I think this is also another way in which
Mimi’s poetry sets words in motion. And sometimes literally so. Today, for instance, we discussed some of
her poems in which “mountains” and “sea” become verbs. With “sea” I can see that the “sea” becomes
a verb, in the sense that the sea moves but the “mountain” becomes a verb. This, I just cannot quite, still cannot quite,
figure it out. And so, it’s this sort of enigmas and imaginative
enigmas that Mimi’s poetry offers to us. One last thing I want to say is that Mimi
in January and February was traveling in Indonesia. She’s doing a project, learning about funerary
rites in Indonesia and this morning she was telling me that in Indonesia, when someone
dies, a family has to buy many buffalos to have a big feast. That’s very expensive. And therefore, often it takes time before
a family can afford a funeral. And that’s why, often, the dead person stays
in the house for many many days. [YE:] Years, too. [IOVENE:] Years. She visited a family where a grandmother had
recently died and she was saying that guests are welcome. They bring good luck. So she participated in this. In many ways, this made me think of — I
mean, today we also talked about translation as afterlife and actually “afterlife” is a
mistranslation. In fact, the real word that Benjamin uses
in that famous essay is actually “survival.” And so, today there was also this idea of
life and death, and survival and afterlife, which came up a lot in connection to poetry. So I was very happy to see all these connections
coming together. Finally, another of the various forms that
Mimi’s poetry takes is something like, I called it “[inaudible] poetry” but someone else called
it “tarot poetry.” She has some cards and she asks people to
ask a question, and then she’ll ask you to pull a card. And on the card is written a verse of her
poetry and so her verses would give some sort of answer to your question. So maybe she will share with us that kind
of poetic practice as well. Please join me in welcoming Ye Mimi. I’m going to show two of my films. The first one is ‘They Are There But I Am
Not.’ That is my thesis film at the School of the
Art Institute at Chicago. I shot it in 2009. And the other is ‘Was Being Moved?’ It was shot in 2012. In total it’s about 18 minutes. So the way I made poetry videos is kind of
different from others. Usually people would take a poem and make
images based on the poem, and make a video. But because myself as a poet, I started writing
poetry when I was 19 years old. But when I was 27 I decided I wanted to make
poetry videos. And I’m lucky I got an admission from the
School of the Art Institute in Chicago. So I went there and studied filmmaking. I had no background. My major is Chinese literature and I got another
MFA in writing in Taiwan. But I feel it’s artwork I want to make. So my process, for example, the first one,
is I write a few lines in advance, get some ideas. I went to collect images. I shot with a 16mm film camera, which is very
expensive. So I didn’t actually get that much footage. I think I only collected 23 minutes. And then, I went back to Taiwan to collect
footage and then bring the footage back to Chicago to process. So I didn’t know what I got until I saw the
result. And then I get some ideas. I started editing the film, and I write more
poems. They kind of develop together. Everything is improv. I have no idea what I’m going to get. I got ideas when [inaudible]. And for the second film, it took me longer
because I shot in Chicago, in New York, in Taiwan. Basically, where I move, I shoot. So it’s a collection. I don’t know if you recognize any scenes in
Chicago here. Did you see the Michigan Lake here? The sailing boat? Actually, the guy who built the boat was my
husband. He passed away two years ago. And I think it’s very meaningful to show — it’s
the first time I’ve showed this film in Chicago. It’s been all over other places, in Europe, in
America, but I think it’s very meaningful to show this film here because he built the
boat in Chicago. [inaudible] when he finished the boat we sailed
in Michigan Lake. Just one day. And the boat is in the garage, in his landlord’s garage. It’s been so many years so I think I’ll go
to see the boat after this conference. For me, this film means a lot to me because
it’s the trail of me moving and also being moved. And it’s some kind of mark. So every time I see it I still have very different
feelings about it. I would like to — do you have the handout
in your hands? There’s one poem Steve translated called
‘The More Car the More Far.’ ‘The More Car the More Far.’ 越車越遠。 I published this — actually, this is the
second version of this book. This book, the title is also 越車越遠,
‘The More Car the More Far,’ because “車”, the “car” in Taiwanese is “sewing.” So I sewed — I went to a small factory and
then sewed embroidery on the cover. There’s some kind of concept in this. Also, there are many pictures I shot in Chicago
in this book. I would like to read the poem. 越車越遠 她蒐集各色空瓶,醃泡不同年份的黃瓜。
按時用星期七的碎沫澆花。 家裡有牛,有男人和硯台一枚。
常常在院子裡打斜線。 有時不小心跨過一些貓臉。
爆炸也無所謂,就算鍋子裡有狗吠。 喜歡寫蟲卵般的字,一粒一粒地寫。
肚子裡養了一碟嬰兒屑,像玻璃彈珠那麼豔。 有一天,他們給她拉來一條鐵軌,教她在頭頂噴煙。 於是她就車起來了。對著鐵軌,對著屋簷。 我很精密。我很淘氣。我是地心引力。 她唱。 如何不被疲累? 誰在誰的邊界? 她唱。 車過窗下的時候,她的男人在窗裡望她。 手裡握著一節交流電。 他垂著臉,像是貨櫃裡的老肉桂。 她的牛在窗裡望她。她的硯台在窗裡望她。 牠們困惑極了,不斷從眼睛擠出墨汁與奶, 滴滴答答。 寂寞比水甜一點。 魚比海還酥綿。 從此,我就要去荒原荒原。 她唱。 她越車越遠。 ‘And All the Sweat is Left There.’ This is the first poem Steve translated for me. This is what got us connected. [BRADBURY:] And all the sweat and blood. [YE:] Yes. Do you want to read after me? [BRADBURY:] Okay. 汗都被留在那裡了 你的咖哩裝在別人的盤子裡 名字簽在別人的故事裡 當你醒來 他們早已習慣黑暗 哼著黏牙的流行歌曲 有人在隔壁浴室洗手 把香皂握成一條魚 他咬下的那顆柿子 比獅子還金 天氣這麼寒冷 約會的地點就在太陽麻花田 她說新年快樂 他覺得無聊 只好抽煙 一隻鬼在黑板樹下瞌睡 小貓在肚子裡罰跪 我們覺得尷尬極了 從嘴裡吐出一層海 海的皮膚極白 事情並不如牠所想的那樣 也並不如牠所想的這樣 她要風 他就發給她風 他要火 她就發給他火 她們在迂迴的巷子裡勾指頭 密謀 後天 它會和同伴從紅色郵筒相約經過 最好就一起把它們綑綁 資源回收 如果妳覺得疲倦 請用複音口琴吹奏我 牠忽然渴望背著書包 脫光衣服在路上走 後來他帶她過橋 途中經歷一座廟 跟小黃瓜一樣清脆 他們的額頭 假月亮懸浮在空中 他摩擦她的眼睛 擦出一段傷 汗都被留在那裡了 [BRADBURY:] This is the first one I translated. She sent me her book and I had never really
read it. And then I went to this poetry festival on
Dragon Boat Day. She hadn’t been one of the poets to read but
they’d asked her to read and she read this poem. I went, whoa. And I was so embarrassed that I’ve been
sitting on this book for six months. And I went up to her and said, who are you? I want to translate your work. I hadn’t looked at it in a while. Years. And All the Sweat is Left There Your curry is on someone else’s plate
name inscribed in someone else’s story when you wake
they will have long grown accustomed to the dark
humming some syrupy pop song someone washing their hands in the bathroom next door
squeezes their soap into a fish the persimmon he bit from
is more golden than lion and when the weather grows this cold
they agree to meet in sun-twist fields she says Happy New Year but he is bored to pieces
and has to have a smoke a ghost nods off beneath the blackboard tree
in a punitive gesture the kittens are made to crouch in tummies we are mortified
at vomiting a layer of sea the skin of which could not be whiter things are not as it imagined they would be
nor are they like the other way it had imagined them she wants the wind
so he dispenses wind he wants the fire
so fire she dispenses the girls hook their pinkies in the crooked lane
hatch their secret plots day after tomorrow
it will rendezvous with its familiar in the red mailbox as agreed best to bind them up
for recycling if you’re tired my dear
please play me with a tremolo harmonica it longs to bear a book-bag on its back
walk naked down the avenue later he escorts her across the bridge
and midway experiences a temple crisp as a cucumber
their brows mock moonlight
hangs suspended in air he rubs her eyes rubs out a storied welt
and all the sweat is left there Paola mentioned at the beginning that I made
these cards while I was in Nicaragua. There are 92 of them. It’s all my poems, from my three different
books. Basically, I just ask people to ask questions
about your life or about the world, which many people ask about Donald Trump,
and you get an interesting result. But please don’t ask about Donald Trump tonight. I need three volunteers. If anyone would like to play with me. Just ask any question, not about me, but about
yourself, about the world. And then — [BRADBURY:] When will I finish my dissertation? Or, when will I find a new boyfriend? [inaudible Japanese] [YE:] Ask a question about yourself. But you have to tell me the question. [ANGLES:] じゃ、何か質問を聞くわけ [inaudible Japanese] [ANGLES:] いやいやいや。でも、[inaudible Japanese] [ITO:] あ、そうなの。じゃ、私 [inaudible Japanese]
質問 [inaudible Japanese]。 [ANGLES:] そうそうそう。何でもいいですね。[inaudible Japanese] [ITO:] 私について?あのう、about me or about you? [YE:] About you. [ITO:] About me? [YE:] Yes. [ITO:] [inaudible Japanese] [ANGLES:] Yeah. Yeah. That’s right. Out loud. [YE:] Japanese is okay. [ITO:] 本当?じゃ、誰もわかんない。 [ANGLES:] She says, someone else ask my question
so no one will understand it. [ITO:] そう。ええ、私は… [ITO:] なんか…Too serious! [inaudible] [ITO:] Okay. じゃ、そうですね。 [ITO:] 私はいつかアイスランドに行きますか? [ANGLES:] When will I be able to go to Iceland? [YE:] Iceland! [YE:] 凄い! [ANGLES:] 凄いですね。 [YE:] Can you shuffle and take one? [ITO:] Sure. [ITO:] And then take one? [YE:] Yeah. Any one. [YE:] You can read it. [ITO:] Can I read it? [YE:] 「沒有一滴雨可以預知它的投向」 Many people got this card. I don’t know why. Even with Donald Trump. [ANGLES:] Really? [YE:] It’s like, “no drop of rain…” [BRADBURY:] “There is no raindrop that can
know which direction you will go.” [ITO:] Really? [YE:] Yes. [ITO:] Wow. [ANGLES:] It really answered your question. [ITO:] I think my question is very much a strange
question. [ITO:] But there are answers. [YE:] This card showed up two or three times
in the past two days. I don’t know why. For Donald Trump, it showed up twice. People asked the same question about Donald
Trump. And they got the same card. [IOVENE:] Can you repeat what it means? [BRADBURY:] “There is no raindrop which can
know where it will go.” So, “where it will go” not “where you will
go.” [YE:] Yeah. Where’s the direction it will drop, it will
go. [ITO:] Thank you. [BRADBURY:] So, volunteer number two… [YE:] Question? [CHOI:] Will I have a child? [YE:] This is serious. I don’t want to be responsible. [BRADBURY:] Well, why don’t you look at your
card first. If you don’t like it, have her draw another one. Or I can mistranslate, you know. [YE:] This card showed up the first time. There are many cards that never show up but
this one is the first time. 「別墅與別的樹與別在一起的別的樹」 I think the answer is… [BRADBURY:] Okay. So. 別墅 is like — [YE:] Mansion? [BRADBURY:] Yes. Almost like a Japanese style mansion. And 別墅與別的樹… so she’s punning off it. 別的樹 is another “shu,” so a “mansion.” A rural mansion and another tree. You — 那是什麼字? [YE:] 別在一起的別的樹。 [BRADBURY:] 別在一起的別的樹。Wow. Okay. What’s the Japanese word for like, the little,
you know, you have a little sort of mansion. It’s a family mansion. [ANGLES:] A villa? [BRADBURY:] Besso. [LORY:] 別荘。 [BRADBURY:] Yes. 別荘。That’s it. It’s the Chinese word for this. So, “another tree in which a besso and
another tree are together. [inaudible] [BRADBURY:] So it’s another tree. The idea of having a child is another tree,
in which a rural mansion and another tree are together. It sounds very lovely. [YE:] Yeah. Lots of trees. So you’ll have lots of children. [BRADBURY:] I think so. Yeah. [CHOI:] I was responding to her poem actually. The first poem that she read, so I wanted
to have a kind of dialogue here. [BRADBURY:] And a rural mansion too. [TREVISAN:] It’s very unlike me to ask, how
can I make money? [YE:] I don’t want to be responsible too. [TREVISAN:] I know, don’t worry about that. [BRADBURY:] You brought this upon yourself. [YE:] Yes. I’ll ask that for myself too. Okay. Shuffle and take one. 「雨是平的,傘不是平的」I don’t why. [BRADBURY:] The rain is flat and the umbrella
is not. [ROBINSON:] That’s a metaphor. [BOURDAGHS:] Yeah. Doesn’t sound good. [inaudible] [IOVENE:] Can you read it once again? [BRADBURY:] The rain is flat, or
horizontal you could say. The rain is horizontal but
the umbrella is not. And I think that, it sounds like the umbrella
is catching a very powerful rain. It’s raining so hard, it’s going horizontally. And you know, in that sense, I think that
it’s really positive. I think you’re going to have a wind-full. [YE:] Can I play with one last person? Anyone? Ah, you did it today. [BRADBURY:] Susan. [YE:] Are you Susan? I’m Mimi. So good to see you. [HARRIS:] What will happen next week? I have something in mind but I won’t tell. There’s — [YE:] Happen to you? [HARRIS:] Yes. What will happen next week? [YE:] Can you shuffle and take one? [HARRIS:] I’m not very good at shuffling. [YE:] This card showed up in Nicaragua a lot. 「門可以不鎖,但狗要加倍」 Steve? [BRADBURY:] So you don’t need a lock
but the dog must — you must double up, you must double up on dog. So no need to lock the door but double up
on dog. [HARRIS:] That’s actually exactly what I expected. Thank you. [YE:] Can you say it? [HARRIS:] It’s the London Book Fair. I have some difficult meetings coming up. Some good and some — so this is very good. Packing an extra dog. [YE:] Okay. Thank you. [HARRIS:] Exactly.

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