Removing the thorn from her heart:about Inner Mongolian poetess

Much of Taiwan poet Hsi Mu-jung's work is about the loss and rediscovery of her homeland.Yang Guang reports.
It was 1949, and the ship was about to sail from the mainland to Hong KongHsi Mu-jung, 5,was given a gold ring and a black cotton-padded coat with her name sewn on the inside by hermotherAll of her siblings were given the sameand they compared their rings to see whosewas bigger. "Only years laterdid we learn from mother that we were given the rings and coatsin case we got lost on the journey," the 67-year-old Taiwan poet recalls at the launch of herlatest anthologyIn the Name of Poetryin Beijing.
"The coats were to identify usand the rings were financial assistance to help bring us up," sheexplainstears welling in her eyes.
Hsi was born in Chongqing to a Mongolian familyThey moved to Hong Kong in 1949 and toTaiwan five years later.
A trained paintershe began to compose poems at 13. Her first poetry anthology - mostly lovepoems - was published in 1981. It became an instant success both in Taiwan and on themainland.
"Writing poems was spontaneous for me," Hsi says. "In that turbulent ageI was alwaysadapting to new classes and it was difficult to become acceptedI started writing poems in mydiary to ease my loneliness and frustration."
Removing the thorn from her heart
She went to college in Belgium in the 1960s andreturned to teach painting at a college in Hsinchu.
"The homeland is a place I have never seenAll myknowledge of it is a name / The name is a thorn in myheart."
She wrote these lines in 1979 but was not able to setfoot on the mainland until 10 years laterwhenrestrictions relaxed.
In 1989, she went to the Inner Mongolia autonomous region for the first time and has sincevisited the Mongolian Plateau several times a year.
"On the plateauI do nothing but walk," Hsi says. "The sweet grass is broken by my steps andits fragrance permeates the airGrasshoppers jump around and eagles hover in the skywhile Ijust walkthinking of nothing."
Two essay collectionsMongolian Lessons and In Pursuit of My Homelandwere published in2009 to record her explorations of Inner Mongolia's land and culture.
"Since my first visit to the Plateau in 1989, the idea of making nomadic culture known to morepeople has smoldered and grown into a fire," she says.
"By constantly walking and writingI was finally able to find my homeland in my heart and in mypoems."
In the Name of Poetry is her seventh poetry anthology and includes about 50 piecesmostlywritten after 2005. Three of themeach about 200 linesretell Mongolian heroic narrativepoemsdrawn from stories in the Mongolian epic Jangar.
Jangar is one of the world's three mega-epicstogether with Kyrgyzstan's Manas and the Tibetautonomous region's GesarIt deals with King Jangar's battle with the evil Mongolian warlordMangusa threat to Mongolia.
"The Chinese translation of Jangar was the first book I obtained when I returned to theMongolian Plateau," she says. "Stories in Jangar and The Secret History of the Mongols havebeen a constant temptation to write about."
Hsi says her greatest regret is she can't speak MongolianBefore 5, she talked with familymembers in Mongolianbut she gradually forgot how to speak the language as she movedaroundShe started taking Mongolian lessonson and offseveral years ago and can now spellher name in Mongolian.
On her websiteshe writes regularly to a fictional Inner Mongolian boyabout her observationsof their national cultureShe has finished 10 lettersand a collection will be published when there are 21.
Source:China Daily 11/11/2011 page19


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