Xue Di: Heart Into Soil


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Heart Into Soilpp traverses landscapes of exile and identity, where memory appears as the ground of daily existence, and what is felt reveals the incompleteness of the present moment. From solidness to great emptiness, then back into solidness, memory, writing and the world exist in unstable liaison. As the lyric impulse digs toward the root, origins are transformed and unbounded. Writing then becomes a means of location within shifting “plains of consciousness/ in a fullness of light/ where every object/ vanishes/ reappears/ metamorphoses.”

Xue Di was born in Beijing in 1957. After taking part in the 1989 demonstrations in Tian’anmen Square, he left China and, since 1990, has been a fellow in Brown University’s Freedom to Write Program. He has published two books of poems in Chinese, contributed to many magazines, and is also known as an anthologist and critic. His collected poems and essays (3 volumes) are forthcoming in China.

“Like Bei Dao, Xue Di is one of China’s most accomplished contemporary poets living in exile…. Heart into Soil clearly traces the development of his poetic techniques and art. The poems in Part I [composed before he came to the US] represent an outlet for strong emotions and a painful effort to revolt against oppression. Here the poet tries to achieve tension, …extraordinary juxtaposition of words an a sense of pressure produced by images that clash with one another. When [in Part II] he finds himself in a democratic society where he has the freedom to cry out…[he] seems to have, ironically, lost the motivation to do so. He becomes quiet, turns inward…. What he strives for now is not formal effects, but the innate quality of poetry. And his poetry becomes purer and deeper.

What Waldrop has done to these texts is to turn them into impressive poems [in English].”

–Hu Qian, Translation Review