Olympic torch, the poem and its translation

The first runner of Olympic torch

AS THE Olympic torch makes its way through Canberra on Thursday, another relay will shadow it, as it has since the torch began its journey in Greece on March 24. An initiative of writers’ organisation International PEN, and the brainchild of Sydney writer Chip Rolley, the PEN Poem Relay is a web-based campaign calling for freedom of expression in China.

Writers worldwide have translated and recorded the poem June by imprisoned journalist and poet Shi Tao into, at last count, more than 90 languages.

The poem as translated to English from Chinese by Chip Rolley is as under:

My whole life
Will never get past “June”
June, when my heart died
When my poetry died
When my lover
Died in romance’s pool of blood

June, the scorching sun burns open my skin
Revealing the true nature of my wound
June, the fish swims out of the blood-red sea
Toward another place to hibernate
June, the earth shifts, the rivers fall silent
Piled up letters unable to be delivered to the dead.

The poem is a moving meditation on the 1989 Tiananmen Square protests and massacre, written on June 9, 2004, to coincide with the event’s 15th anniversary.

It has moved via website, from PEN centre to centre, along a route similar to the Olympic torch itinerary, adding new translations as it goes. So far the poem has been to 70 locations throughout Europe, the Americas, Africa and the Middle East, and it will continue its journey up to the opening of the Olympics in August. The Australian leg will include translations into Aboriginal and other languages that reflect our extraordinary linguistic diversity.

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One Response to “Olympic torch, the poem and its translation”

  1. China » Blog Archive » Olympic torch, the poem and its translation Says:

    […] Beyond Languages wrote an interesting post today on Olympic torch, the poem and its translationHere’s a quick excerptAn initiative of writers’ organisation International PEN, and the brainchild of Sydney writer Chip Rolley, the PEN Poem Relay is a web-based campaign calling f or freedom of expression in China…. […]

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