Editor’s Note: This post inaugurates a new MR blog series, where we share online introductions given at guest appearances by some of our favorite speakers, writers, artists, and thinkers. Intros are, by definition, ephemeral, but that doesn’t mean they always should be. You’ve all heard great ones, the sort that don’t try to one-up the main event, yet somehow quickly manage to inform, evoke, and celebrate the person you’ve come to hear. With “The Next Best Thing,” of course, you’ll just be reading; you’ll have to wait for another occasion for actual star-gazing.
1. The world is the sum of facts and birds.
2. Every proposition has form (or syntax: the profile of a Siberian goldfinch) and content (or semantics: the belly of a Siberian goldfinch).
2.1. The contents of a glass of milk, which could be a human body transmitting songs about birds, are the lyrics of the songs transmitted by birds. . . .
stands in the sky.
An orphan with a huge head
is nailed to the boundless sky in light-blue ink
like a Jesus
without grief on his face, . . .
—from "Night of the Full Moon," by Shen Haobo, translated from Chinese by Liang Yujing (Fall 2017)
A wine crate for a nightstand, and on it, a rose
gone bad in a cup. Its water
a swallow of shadow, murk of rot
and sugar. Clothes sloughed, bodiless, and half-
eaten on a plate,
a plum in its juice. . . .
—from "Still Life with Hemorrhage," Fall 2017 (Vol. 58, Issue 3)
“The wretched of the earth do not decide to become extinct, they resolve, on the contrary, to multiply: life is their only weapon against life, life is all that they have.”