Singing Solo

Who am I
I am the lonely ghost of a waterfall
A poem
Living apart from the crowd forever
My drifting song follows an itinerant
My only audience

— Huang Xiang
(Trans. by Michelle Yeh)

Chinese poet Huang Xiang was arrested in 1959 and sentenced to four years in prison for crossing provincial borders without government permission. In 1965 he was arrested and sentenced to an additional three years for his criticism of the government’s record on human rights. All of his writing was subsequently banned. In October 1978 he helped post the inaugural issue of the underground journal Enlightenment on a wall in the Xidan district of Beijing. Later known as the “Democracy Wall,” the site became the favored means of publication for underground writers in the capital. Huang was jailed for three years for his participation in the Democracy Wall Movement. In 1996, he sought and was granted asylum in the United States.

[Research note: Michelle Yeh, Ed., A Lifetime Is a Promise to Keep: Poems of Huang Xiang, China Research Monograph 63 (Berkeley: Institute of East Asian Studies, University of California, 2009)]