Neither Questions nor Answers

“Where is the homeland / to lay a cradle for the dead / Where is the other shore / for poetry to step across the end point / Where is the peace / that lets the days distribute blue sky…” In Sidetracks, forthcoming in May from New Directions, the Chinese poet Bei Dao begins his book-length poem with a list of twenty-five enigmatic questions that dance around mythological, philosophical, and existential subjects. In Jeffrey Yang’s translation, the speaker’s questions lack the end punctuation of the original text, with question marks omitted. Through these unanswered questions, the poet conjures loss and nostalgia. Loosely following this structure, write a prologue to a poem that poses a series of questions gesturing toward your most pressing uncertainties. While Bei Dao’s lines are mysterious and mystical, allow your poem the tone and allusions that feel instinctive to you.

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Author: Writing Prompter

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  • April 15, 2024