Frederic Amat

Bei Dao

Image © Frederic Amat, Untitled, 2018
Photography: Eugeni Gay Marín

Bei Dao

Morning Song

Words are the poison in a song
on the track of the song’s night road
police sirens aftertaste
the alcohol of sleepwalkers
waking up, a headache
like the window’s transparent speakers
from silence to a roar
learning to waste a life
I hover in the birdcalls
crying never
when the storms have filled up with gas
light rays snatch the letter
unfold it and tear it up


incandescent arc welding the sky
like long-lost passions
searching for new wounds
searching for blizzards amid archives
sparks in the bellows-chamber
dreams drop with sweat
like underwater mines longing for a ship’s touch
now the sea’s gone suddenly dry
a forest of tents appears
and we wake like wounds
dignitaries speaking some other language
stroll through the refugee camp*


I dreamt I was drinking wine
the glass was empty
someone reads a newspaper in the park
who persuades him in old age
to swallow light on the horizon?
the lamps at the night school of the dead
turn into cold tea
as the slopes of memory lead
to the night sky, tears turn muddy
people tell lies―at the crux of meaning
they slip alongside the executioner
slip alongside of me: empty house
a window opens
like a high C piercing the silence
earth and compass spin
through the secret combination―

Requiem — for Shanshan

The wave of that year
flooded the sands on the mirror
to be lost is a kind of leaving
and the meaning of leaving
the instant when all languages
are like shadows cast from the west
life’s only a promise
don’t grieve for it
before the garden was destroyed
we had too much time
debating the implications of a bird flying
as we knocked down midnight’s door
alone like a match polished into light
when childhood’s tunnel
led to a vein of dubious ore
to be lost is a kind of leaving
and poetry rectifying life
rectifies poetry’s echo


vast winds commanding hostile flags
Venus fills all four directions with its lone cry
love and hate bit into the same apple
and now it’s the age for climbing ladders
it’s the pipe-dream of national renaissance
heroes occupying night skies raise their arms high
clowns in a mirror doing handstands on asphalt
I close the door parole proffers
refuse all those witnesses to the future
these moments are mine to savor dignity in solitude
fire of the venture
ash of the unfamiliar**

Bei Dao, from Unlock, translated by Eliot Weinberger and Iona Man-Cheong, New Directions)
*  (Bei Dao, from Forms of distance, translated by David Hinton, New Directions)

Frederic Amat

Frederic Amat (Barcelona, 1952). The work of Frederic Amat cannot be readily fit into any one category. He has exhibited and published around the world. Amat’s open conception of painting has led him to incorporate various artistic languages into his creative work. Amat has designed scenography for dance and theatre, as based on texts by García Lorca, Beckett, Juan Goytisolo, Koltès and Octavio Paz. Likewise, he has directed and created stage settings for the opera El viaje a Simorgh [Voyage to Simogh] by Sánchez Verdú and for the oratories Oedipus Rex, by Stravinsky/Cocteau, and Maddalena ai piedi di Cristo, by Caldara. He has also illustrated various literary works, such as One Thousand and One Nights and The Odyssey. In his interventions in architectural spaces, he has developed projects that combine painting, sculpture and ceramics, such as El mural de les olles [The Mural of Pots], Villanurbs, Pluja de sang [Blood Rain] and Mur d’ulls[Wall of Eyes], amongst others. Within this diversity of practice, he has taken painting into the domain of cinema in films like Viaje a la luna [Voyage to the Moon], Foc al càntir [Fire in the Jug], El aullido [The Howl], Danse noire [Black Dance] and Deu dits [Ten Fingers].

Bei Dao

Bei Dao, the literary pseudonym of Zhao Zherkai (Beijing, 1949), began to write poetry using various pen names until finally opting for Bei Dao, literally “Island of the North”, as he came from northern China and had a preference for solitude. After studying in Beijing, during the Cultural Revolution he was re-educated as a construction worker, from 1969 to 1980. He is the leading poet of the movement known as “The Misty Poets”, a literary group that reacted against the limitations of the Cultural Revolution. He was one of the most influential Chinese poets in the 1980s and an inspiration for the pro-democracy movement. Some of his poems were printed and distributed during the events of Tiananmen Square, in 1989. Since then he has lived in exile and has lectured and taught in various countries, such as the United Kingdom, Germany, Norway, Sweden, Denmark, the Netherlands, France and the United States, where he obtained American citizenship. His poetry has been translated into more than thirty languages. Since 2007 he has lived with his second wife and son in Hong Kong, where he is Professor of Humanities at the Chinese University of Hong Kong. Among his books of poetry we find the following: The August Sleepwalker (1972-1986), Old Snow (1991), Forms of Distance (1994), Landscape over Zero (1996), Unlock (2000) and The Rose of Time (2009). He is also the author of a book of narratives, Waves (1990), and books of prose essays and his personal memories: Blue House (2000), Midnight’s Gate (2005) and City Gate, Open Up (2010).
Photography: Eugeni Gay Marín