29 Sept 2021
Taking a poetic approach to New Zealand Chinese Language Week (September 26 – October 2), Wellingtonian Diana Bridge shares her work, Dream Sound:
She dreams sounds clear as stitches on her province’s embroideries. Duck-squawk, as ducks walk on broadening feet from the countryside into the town. Next thing the whole city tastes it, the coming of winter – duck and preserved egg stew. Sounds of the Sichuan seasons enter her dreams. They quarter her émigré years.
Why China for this poet?
Diana Bridge is one of New Zealand’s most respected poets. She has lived much of her adult life abroad spending many years in India and China, and she has a PhD in classical Chinese poetry.
In an interview for a research project some years ago, Diana said she would like far more attention paid in New Zealand to the acquisition of cultural information and knowledge, to give context to the often single-minded pursuit of bilateral trade.
“When cultural background is added to negotiation, it benefits both sides, engendering respect and empathy on the one hand and, on the other, eliciting acknowledgement and interest, even pleasure that someone has taken the trouble to find out about them,” Bridge said.
“Of course, for those who do take the time and trouble to learn it enriches links. Sometimes a small thing goes a fair way. And any attentiveness is worthwhile.
“And then the whole other side of it, the way in which cultural background and some acquaintance with Chinese history, its recurring contours and its current ideology, should feed into the fabric of a multi-cultural society, alongside other cultures, impacting our national imaginary or imaginaries and our narratives.
“In my particular field, if we are looking for ways in which to catch New Zealanders’ interest in China, a poem does provide a concentrated way of conveying life, thought, history, aesthetic satisfaction in a capsule.
“The best Chinese classical poems are among the most beautiful and captivating human statements ever written.”
Much of Diana’s poetry relates to her life in China. She has agreed to support Chinese Language Week by making available Dream Sound for our enjoyment.