【Poetry Comes to Museum】Meet the Poetry of Sang Ke: Healing Personal Trauma


Activity Curator

Wang Yin


Hu Xudong


Sang Ke

Nowadays, art museums are providing with more and more kinds of art in not only the exhibition but also the atmosphere where the scholars could produce new knowledge and the public may be educated more actively, which make art museum a platform to contain all art. The project “Poetry Comes to Museum” was launched in 2012 by Shanghai Minsheng Art Museum, which aims to provide an open platform for poets and poetry lovers to talk to each other, and therefore connects the poetry closely to our current life. As the first project that combines art with poetry, we invite top poets at home and abroad to share their creation with the public. This project has drawn a lot of attention with the academic and popular lectures and activities held since its beginning, and was awarded the Annual Event Award of 2013 Culture China by the Oriental Morning Post and the Outstanding Museum Public Education Program of 2016 by Shanghai Municipal Administration of Culture, Radio, Film & TV.

Creative Writing: Healing Personal Trauma

By Sang Ke

I have been tired of talking about my own writings repeatedly.
My boredom is not because of my inner pride but is due to the long winter. I have counted carefully: there are six months of winter in Harbin, which lasts for one hundred and eighty one days. Every day, night is longer than daytime, coldness is more than warmness, and dirtiness is more than the tidiness.
Winter does sometimes make me feel extremely bored, just like you are sometimes bored with summer. And I know such tides of boredom, once stirred, can easily harm the innocent, for example, writing experiences. I am a person who is fond of sharing my experiences with my readers or other poets. But I am also worried that boredom of this kind might have negative influence on the quality of such sharing.
Worries are useless, however. According to Philip Larkin, “life is first boredom.” In fact, I don’t quite agree to his statement though. I would rather say that life is first despairing. Despair means without hope. However, I don’t think myself as a despairing person at first sight. Instead, I am a person with elegant manners and power of control.
Neither do my poems seem to be despairing. Then why do I write poems? I have provided many versions of explanations, among which “to heal personal trauma” can be temporarily taken as the dominant answer to that question. I don’t know the exact meaning of that notion, which is a thought that came into my mind all of a sudden rather than after long deliberation. According to my own understanding, however, my poems reflect not only the existence (no matter they are vague historical facts or ambiguous details in real life), but also all kinds of complex responses or mysteries related to one’s soul. Apart from that, my poems further include a lot more things that cannot be clearly stated or presented in the form of prose. Besides, when talking about the rose of despair, I would also like to talk about the ashes of hope, just as I would rather like to talk about belief and love, aesthetics and justice. Hope is without boredom.
Or you may say, it is because of the inertia of hope rather than the inner power of hope that makes me continue to stay alive.
As we all know, there might be more ridiculous evidences or absurd comedies than we could imagine emerging in the process of writing, which could even come together integrally in the same poem so as to transform your stereotype in the eyes of the lazy readers. Apart from that, each poem has its own specific mission (though it seems to be quite broad from its appearance), from which you can certainly find out that they simply aim at realizing their ambitions duteously or transferring a certain kind of secret message. For me, I sometimes create a poem just for a term in need of covering.  
In this case, I think it is not so easy to be a real critic. Apart from professional skills, going deep into the mine of soul will make someone face not only the examination of morality (e.g. abandonment), but also the trials of politics (e.g. control). It is the same case of self-explanation, as almost all kinds of “talks of experiences” seem to have such nature. In this case, it is not difficult for the readers to understand the reason why most writers or poets are not willing to initiatively write down their experiences of creation. They always insist that readers can learn their meanings from their works. We know it is really the case, not a lame excuse, as their relevant explanations have already been hidden in their works.
However, the readers still cannot forget their background of writing or abandon their willing of writing proses. In this case, can we say that all those related to our life can be taken as props of the dancing party and seriously chosen by suitable critics? Maybe it is indeed the case. I hope nothing but my critic could be Harold Bloom (God knows what on earth his wily ways have contributed to the career of literature) or even George Orwell or Richard Rorty (as their strategic thinking can really release my suppressed feelings and emotions). But I don’t expect their criticisms to be consistent or to find any points to attack in their self-contradictory. I think it is necessary for me to hide my personal trauma, which is to be healed seemingly by myself: wearing a medical uniform, with medicine bottle in my left hand and avatar in my right hand.   
From the aspect of memory, such things as my personal trauma are in fact visible and tangible. I could make myself happy in two words or three. However, in my dreams or my daily life, I feel lost or confused with the strange phenomena made by this kind of problem. I don’t know what to do with something unclear, ambiguous but strong, peaceful but fierce, similar to torture but more like cherishing our time…
Something will for sure become the colleague of darkness if I do not write it down. Once written, it would be better immediately. I don’t know why, but it is indeed the case from the result of healing. That might be the reason why I have such statement as “healing one’s personal trauma”. I have always been thinking that it might be the case, but neither do I know or do I want to step further into the question of whether it is really the case.  What I want to say is that this is simply one of the perspectives of looking at the problem, just like viewing my problem from the perspective of weather or homeland. For the other bosom friends, however, it might be more “reliable” to observe any questions from the perspective of language. My self-explanation or so-called talk of experiences is only related to my mental status of tonight, which might be completely different tomorrow morning.
After all, there is no such thing as real authority or finality of talk. I don’t want to amplify myself, nor am I willing to shrink myself. This is who I am. Despite the fact that I may sometimes make myself annoying, just like a specific poem at the moment, it won’t stop me from being a sentimental person or loving you wholeheartedly until I become ashes.  

About the Poet

Sang Ke, born in Heilongjiang Province, China in September 1967, is a Harbin-based contemporary poet. He was graduated from Chinese Literature Department of Beijing Normal University in July 1989. His poetry collections include Midnight Snow, Untitled, Tears, Collection of Fifteen Poems, Skater, Cable Cars on Coastal Cape, Poetry of Sang Ke, Selected Poems of Sang Ke, Nightclub, Cold Air, Game of Changing Channels, Scenery Poems, Tree of Fog, Morning Flight in Winter and Ode to Joy. He is also a translator of the following publications: Selected Poems of Philip Larkin, Collected Shorter Poems of W. H. Auden, Thank you, Fog: Last Poems of W. H. Auden, and Notebooks from Voronezh (Book 1). He has been awarded Liu Li’an Poetry Prize and Poetry Prize of Peoples Literature. His poems have been translated into English, French, Spanish, Japanese, Greek, Sinhalese, Bengali and Polish.