playlist: chasing dreams

a playlist channeling spring vibes and restless optimism.

these songs encapsulate the happiness, fear, and excitement i’m currently cycling through as my classmates and i prepare for our last flurry of exams right before graduation, as my friends fly all over the country to visit their prospective colleges, and as we make plans for get-togethers and traveling once summer begins. this is a soundtrack for chasing dreams; this is a soundtrack for new beginnings before we even reach the end.

PLAYLIST: CHASING DREAMS
summer // joe hisaishi
with you // tennyson
sunsoaked (ft. salsa) // adib sin
carmen fantasy // sarasate
cosmos // aquamarine
rosen aus dem süden // strauss ii
psychopath // st. vincent
my tamako, my sookee // jo yeong-wook
another day of sun // justin hurwitz

i hope you have a lovely day. ☼

thoughts on translation

It started when I wrote an essay explaining the phrase 阳光灿烂, which is one of my favorites in Chinese. It’s difficult to describe just how beautiful I find 阳光灿烂: the literal English translation is ‘brilliant sunlight,’ but when the four characters (yáng guāng càn làn) filter through my teeth the way light filters through leaves, when I see the sun at the front, the mountains, the fires that rage in between, and the smoke that shrouds flowers on the mountainside as they burst into flame, I know that ‘brilliant’ is only an adequate translation, nothing more. There are nuances to the phrase that exist only on paper, in the original language; English loses the neat precision and perfect square aesthetic of the four characters.

Later, I read an article in which the author, who’s from Mainland China, describes her deliberate erasure of Chinese in order to fully embrace English. I’m still unsettled when I think about it now. Politics aside, Chinese is an elegant and ancient thing, crafted with artistry in mind. A mere two to four characters can hold boatloads of wisdom and meaning. How can anyone choose to forget this language for English? To be fair, English is just as fascinating and complex, if not even more so, since we can continually add words from different languages to our vocabulary and create exceptions to any rule we have. But wouldn’t it be better to know both languages intimately? There was a quote I came across that went along the lines of, “Everything I know about language is everything I know about life.”* So the more you forget, the less language you know, and your world just – shrinks.

I mean, I know where the author’s coming from. Whenever I visited China when I was younger, even if it was only for a few weeks, my conversational English always deteriorated. I could still write in English quite well, since I kept (and still keep) notebooks wherever I went, but I’d forgotten “how to English” and became proportionally better at speaking (and reading and typing) Chinese. It’s so easy to focus on mastering one language and forgetting others through disuse. But I think it’s important to know more than one language, particularly if your first is English. In this globalized era, everyone knows English. And that can be awesome and convenient, but I’m afraid that if we’re all monolinguals, we’ll miss much of what’s going on in the rest of the world.

There’s another kind of translation that I keep thinking about, lately – the translation of thoughts into words. For me, at least, there’s disconnect between what I think, what I want to say, and what I actually end up saying. This disconnect got Darcy in trouble with Elizabeth, and he had to fix it with a written letter. And this makes sense, since writing gives you time to contemplate, to take back mistakes. I can articulate my thoughts on paper so much more eloquently and fully than I can ever speak them, and it can be frustrating, especially when I meet people for the first time and I struggle to talk to them. It’s like my mouth opens and words nonsensically and uncontrollably tumble out of my mouth. But what happens when the writing stops? If I stop keeping a journal, if I don’t document my thought processes in written form, do those thoughts cease to exist? What if in the future, my notebooks are posthumously published? People will judge me based on what I’ve written, even if it was originally in private – think not just of Kafka, Plath, and Nin, but also of Shostakovich, Warhol, and Napoleon, among so many other figures in our history. Notebooks provide insight, but only if you write in them. Didion, in The Year of Magical Thinking, is able to revisit both her life and that of her husband’s through the extensive records they’d both kept – notebooks and index cards, paper scraps and Word documents. My fear of forgetting is one reason why I keep writing. I don’t want to lose my grasp on Chinese, and I don’t want to lose my thoughts. To lose those things is to lose parts of myself.

In school, we recently covered a unit over translated poetry. We read different versions each of Rumi’s poetry (in snippets) and Borges’s “Historia de la noche,” then discussed what was more important in interpretation – accuracy or poetics. When you translate, what do you abandon and what do you preserve? How well do you need to know the language you work with? (Nabokov knew English and Russian with equal fluency, and he translated his own work, thus retaining the original intent of his writing. The same goes for Samuel Beckett with English and French. So I wonder what I miss when I read the English version of Camus’s The Stranger, Rilke’s poetry, or Ocampo’s short stories – anything written and translated by two different people.) For our assignment, we had to translate a poem from a language in which we’re at least familiar. I chose a poem by 骆绮兰, a female poet from eighteen-century China. This particular piece happens to come from a set of eight, called《纪梦诗八首》 (“Record of Dreams, Eight Poems”), so you can probably tell why I was attracted to it.

I haven’t formally studied Chinese for a year now, so it felt nice to return to it. This translation’s not perfect, of course, but I like to think it’s fairly accurate. I loved the imagery she evokes here; in preserving that, I ended up with a more literal interpretation. I hope you like it!

dream3luoqilan

*I just Googled this quote to verify the source, but all I got were Tumblr posts for some reason?? If any of you recognize this quote, please comment below or message me!

the year of magical thinking | a book review

from my bookstagram

from my bookstagram

last year i made a belated new year’s resolution to talk more about the things i read instead of simply rating them out of five stars. i’ve learned since then that it’s much easier for me to accomplish something if i don’t ~officially~ commit to it first – i know that sounds counter-intuitive, but that’s apparently how productivity works for me. for example, i decided to read 66 books last year on goodreads and failed, whereas this year i lowered the bar to 36 books, and i’ve already finished six even though we’re only halfway through january (!!!). hence, no real ‘2017 new year’s resolutions’ post from me this time.

2017 is the year i want to read more nonfiction – both books and essays – and poetry. i’ve had a surprisingly good time with nonfiction in the past. one book that’s influenced me the most is peter ostwald’s biography of glenn gould, which i read two years ago. last summer i read joan didion’s slouching towards bethlehem, “how to build a universe that doesn’t fall apart two days later” by philip k. dick, and marjane satrapi’s persepolis, which were all amazing reads. i want to continue this trend and learn more about everything – politics and race and food and music and finance and botany and more.

the year of magical thinking was the first book i read this year. i don’t know much about joan didion’s background besides what i’ve learned from STB and this novel, but her writing is as clear and detailed as ever. she guides you through her year of magical thinking after her husband dies, and her language indicates that: allusions to poetry and myths, her unwillingness to donate her husband’s shoes (because then he wouldn’t be able to wear them if he returned), the vortex in her memories that always leads her back to her living husband and healthy child.

didion’s certainly privileged. you can feel it through the places she’s been and the people she knows, but as much as that might disconnect the reader (as it disconnected me, at first), she doesn’t rub it in your face. she’s relating her personal experience with grief, and if her closest friends and clearest memories happen to be celebrities and glitzy cities, she only mentions it as context before focusing on the topic at hand: grief, or mourning, or the warning signs she thinks she should have heeded before december 30, 2003.

when i read TYOMT i was reminded of bluets by maggie nelson. didion does with grief what nelson failed to do with the color blue. while i thought nelson’s writing was lovely, it seemed to lack something – coherence or resolution, i still can’t say. when i finished bluets i felt as though the author hadn’t really written the book, that there was another version of bluets that hadn’t been published yet (but would be, eventually), and this version was just an outline. nelson drops facts about the color blue, litters her segments with allusions and beautifully-styled sentences, but ultimately goes back to a topic (her love life?) that isn’t really about the color at all.

on the other hand, didion picks apart the concepts of grief and mourning and death, and she doesn’t skim over topics the way nelson does. she explains medical terms that doctors tell her about her daughter, quintana. she returns repeatedly to the night john gregory dunne slumps over dinner, a movement so sudden that didion first registers it as a joke. (you sit down to dinner and life as you know it ends.) she studies the literature of grief, not just the novels and the poetry and the rituals, but also the medical papers and the psych studies and the etiquette handbooks, how society currently encourages hiding sorrow as something shameful and perceives grief as a form of self-pity.

the documentation in TYOMT is unbelievable. how many notebooks did didion keep? she and dunne seem to have made records of nearly everything – planners, notebooks, marginalia, kitchen books, microsoft word documents, a box with lines three-year-old quintana had said. it frightens me. when will i experience that grief? i can anticipate it, i can imagine it, but how broken will i be when it finally happens to me? have i written enough to leave a record of whoever has left? have i recorded enough of my life, shared with theirs, to somehow resurrect them?

this is a wonderful read, objectively, but it becomes a necessary one when you have experienced devastating loss yourself. simply reading TYOMT made me feel an overwhelming sadness – i tend to empathize, maybe overly so, with whatever i’m reading. however, i think my timing was off with TYOMT. i loved it, but i didn’t need it. i haven’t yet experienced the death of a loved one. this book offers the most to those who are in the process of grieving, offering not closure (“i realize as i write this that i do not want to finish this account,” didion says) but an exploration of an experience the bereaved alone feel.

4.8/5 stars. you should definitely read TYOMT when you get the chance (and listen to this song). if you have read it, what are your thoughts?

 

 

four moments

happy new year everyone! today is CITRUSY’s fourth birthday. to celebrate, here are four moments from 2016:

  1. i’m sitting on the plane in the seat next to the window seat. we are landing in massachusetts. in the window, white doll houses neatly line the impossibly blue water. i’m one verse away from crying as i read alice oswald’s memorial. on paper, men turn into metal and fall into the sea, voices permanently swallowed by war. beside me, the woman in the window seat is reading her own book. i’ll see her again in the airport bathroom half an hour later, then no more.
  1. “it was one of those headlines that was like, ‘US to colonize mars by 2020’ or something like that,” a young man says as he walks alone, talking wirelessly to someone on the phone. it is late into the evening, nearly nine o’clock. the sky fades fast from pink and blue to dark purple, and dusk falls in a veil of darkness over the street. heat radiates gently from the pavement.
  1. down at the wharf, everything is green and blue. a couple of girls lay in the grass, sleeping, while a man with his dog jogs by the water. i’m taking a photo of boats at the dock and texting it to my father, who loves anything ocean-related but couldn’t come here with us. a boy stands a few feet away, facing my direction. he has long limbs and light hair, and his hands cradle a huge camera lens. he points and shoots. i hear the shutter click as I turn and head back to where my mother is waiting for me.
  1. he’s soft and shapely, all soft smiles and soft eyes and soft voice, as if to mask the sharp intellect hidden between his teeth and tucked somewhere in his ribs. too soft for anyone to suspect – too kind, too loveable. his lips are always slightly upturned, ready to lift into a dopey smile when he sees you. his wit: cleverly quick but never scathing. when he laughs he keeps his mouth shut and lets his breath tremble instead. he is one of the people i admire most.

joanna

You walk down a gently sloping hill towards a field. The sun turns dusty, waist-high grass into gold. Joanna’s singing is unpolished and lovely, leading you forward as if she’s taken you by the arm. Her songs are full of strings. You can’t separate harp from harpist – her voice swings and creaks, studded with notes plucked by deft fingers. Somewhere in the distance, an orchestra swells like the tide.

When you’d first heard her you were startled by how childlike Joanna had sounded, but you know better now. She may sing sweetly, and animals may populate her songs, but her voice belies her wisdom.

One moment you watch a bird fly across a breathy sky – the next, an angel flaps its wings. The universe looms, and you suddenly face the staggering weight of the stars. All the while, Joanna’s harp sings; her voice scratches out high notes.

She offers you one story, a second, a fifth. Hens and horses and lions flicker in and out, half-hidden in the grass and entranced by the light. You could never resist her poetry.

You let her lift you out of your loss and offer you hers in solidarity. Her verses struggle to contain the chaos of life and light and allusion within them, and the music expands to fill the gaping hole between your bones.

Each story bleeds into the next like water. The river she conjures runs against time’s gradient while Joanna’s voice surges and cracks with raw emotion. Ursula splashes her way into the night sky. Ocean waves yawn for a moment, and you glimpse the beautiful remains of a sunken city. You imagine sprawling buildings and solid stone ramparts, marble columns that withstood sea currents and bridges that held fast no matter how much they swung and creaked underwater.

Joanna’s music rings in your ears. It’s steeped in sunshine from above the water’s surface, but you know, deep down, that its light is meant to swallow grief.

Closing your eyes, you remember walking towards a field of dusty gold. As words fail you, a harp sings and creaks and pulls you close, wrapping you with warmth.

~
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Reading List: Waiting & Watching the Future

happy thanksgiving to fellow US readers; happy autumn to the world// art by jungho lee

happy thanksgiving to fellow US readers; happy autumn to the world// art by jungho lee 

lately, energy seems to constantly hum under my skin. my fingers can’t stay still, and something whispers go go go! into my ear. i feel like i’ve stayed patient for a lifetime and i’m on the verge of freedom, about to burst into the air and really live. i guess it’s because i’m young and ready to define the vast, unknown future ahead of me. i want to learn new things, meet new people, and explore new cities. here are five books that i think embody this rush of adrenaline and the accompanying promise of limitless possibilities and dreams, this feeling of inevitable change.

WAITING & WATCHING THE FUTURE: A READING LIST

Tell the Wolves I’m Home, Carol Rifka Brunt:

I thought of all the different kinds of love in the world. I could think of ten without even trying. The way parents love their kids, the way you love a puppy or chocolate ice cream or home or your favorite book or your sister. Or your uncle. There’s those kinds of love and then there’s the other kind. The falling kind.

Slouching Towards Bethlehem, Joan Didion:

…quite simply, I was in love with New York. I do not mean “love” in any colloquial way, I mean that I was in love with the city, the way you love the first person who ever touches you and you never love anyone quite that way again. I remember walking across Sixty-second Street one twilight that first spring, or the second spring, they were all alike for a while. I was late to meet someone but I stopped at Lexington Avenue and bought a peach and stood on the corner eating it and knew that I had come out out of the West and reached the mirage.

The Secret History, Donna Tartt:

“What if you’d never seen the sea before? What if the only thing you’d ever seen was a child’s picture – blue crayon, choppy waves? Would you know the real sea if you only knew the picture? Would you be able to recognize the real thing even if you saw it? You don’t know what Dionysus looks like. We’re talking about God here. God is serious business.”

A Little Life, Hanya Yanagihara:

Why wasn’t friendship as good as a relationship? Why wasn’t it even better? It was two people who remained together, day after day, bound not by sex or physical attraction or money or children or property, but only by the shared agreement to keep going, the mutual dedication to a union that could never be codified. Friendship was witnessing another’s slow drip of miseries, and long bouts of boredom, and occasional triumphs. It was feeling honored by the privilege of getting to be present for another person’s most dismal moments, and knowing that you could be dismal around him in return.

Fangirl, Rainbow Rowell:

“How do you not like the Internet? That’s like saying, ‘I don’t like things that are convenient. And easy. I don’t like having access to all of mankind’s recorded discoveries at my fingertips. I don’t like light. And knowledge.’”

Never Let Me Go, Kazuo Ishiguro:

I half closed my eyes and imagined this was the spot where everything I’d ever lost since my childhood had washed up, and I was now standing here in front of it, and if I waited long enough, a tiny figure would appear on the horizon across the field and gradually get larger until I’d see it was Tommy, and he’d wave, and maybe even call.

The Bell Jar, Sylvia Plath:

I saw my life branching out before me like the green fig tree in the story. From the tip of every branch, like a fat purple fig, a wonderful future beckoned and winked. One fig was a husband and a happy home and children, and another fig was a famous poet and another fig was a brilliant professor, and another fig was Ee Gee, the amazing editor, and another fig was Europe and Africa and South America, and another fig was Constantin and Socrates and Attila and a pack of other lovers with queer names and offbeat professions, and another fig was an Olympic lady crew champion, and beyond and above these figs were many more figs I couldn’t quite make out. I saw myself sitting in the crotch of this fig tree, starving to death, just because I couldn’t make up my mind which of the figs I would choose. I wanted each and every one of them, but choosing one meant losing all the rest, and, as I sat there, unable to decide, the figs began to wrinkle and go black, and, one by one, they plopped to the ground at my feet.

happy reading! i hope we all enjoy a few more books before 2016 draws to a close.

je te veux

ALTERNATE TITLE: “thoughts of an art thief after stealing ib and her husband”

the first time was on a whim –
that crucial split second where one might choose
to listen to gréco instead of piaf, or take
a right turn and not the road stretched ahead,
only this choice involved a slim pocket knife
and barely detectable flicks of the wrist.

she could feel blood rush to her face,
heat tinging her ashen cheeks.
her hands trembled.
she looked down at her worn shoes,
her wrinkled dress that rustled with every step.
no one knows – no eyes have seen
what i have done.

the second time was out of desire.
she saw intimacy and her fingers itched;
her hands moved on their own, the blade
of her knife gleaming in the dim light
like her smile a few hours later
as she studied the stolen prize
on her bedroom floor.
she admired ib and her lumpy coral sweater.
how comfortable she must have been
lying in bed, pat’s arm looped over her waist,
his veins silvery pink against his skin.
how protected she must have felt, how loved,
under the constant gaze of her father
as he emptied his palette of earthy colors
onto the canvas.

she felt the eyes of everyone she passed.
hard as she tried, guilt remained palpable
in her fingers, her throat, her spine.
she glanced once at her hands and choked
back a scream at the rust-colored paint
dripping between her knuckles.
terrified, she didn’t look again.
she couldn’t stop thinking about the knife
burning in her pocket that day,
the uneven edges of the painting
where she’d removed it from its frame.
she had never felt so cold.

why had she thought she could have ib’s warmth
for her own just by taking it?
now her actions could not be undone,
and the painting sat patiently on her desk at home,
waiting to be found.

(more…)

nath

sometimes i am overwhelmed by
how wonderful you are and how
lucky i am to be your friend. it
is hard to pinpoint my favorite
thing about you – i love everything
your laugh your words your passion
your ability to make me feel
we are the only people in the world
existing noisily as i float deeply in love,
words caught in my throat.
bittersweetness nips lightly at our
mouths. when you smile something
warm flutters inside me like a tiny bird.
maybe one day we’ll visit sweden
to talar svenska but for now i’m
glad we’ve gone to coffeehouse
inks lake and the blanton together,
and if a flower bloomed every time i
was happily reminded of you a meadow
would flood all the halls and classrooms at
LASA: petals tumbling out of windows,
buzzing bees washed gold beneath the sun.

playlist: garden of poe(tree)

good afternoon, loves! as you might guess from the title, i’ve started a new category (series?) on CITRUSY. this particular post combines two of my favorite things: playlists and poetry.

some people have podcasts, and others have mix tapes. i have playlists.
i use youtube 95% of the time (the other 5% goes to google play music), and i have youtube playlists for everything – years’ worth of soundtracks evoking my highest & lowest points, my moods during autumn or rainy spring days, my nanowrimo novels, every year of high school, and so on. i have music playlists for books i love and for cross country practices, for my favorite composers & musicians and for the days when everything is just a little off. i even have a playlist for college applications (the first song of which is the original pokémon theme song). i feel like i’m creating a new playlist at least once a week.

playlists are a lot like poetry in that they’re able to express feelings i can’t vocalize or only understand intuitively. speaking of poetry – poetry has been one of the few things keeping me together for the past month or so, throwing me a life-line made of carefully structured syntax, raw emotion, and beautiful, sometimes irreverent words. i love how in poetry, every word matters. there’s no bullshit, no filler lines. i love how there are no real rules in poetry, that the guidelines set in place can always be broken.

today, i wanted to share what i listen to when i’m writing and reading poetry, which seems to be all i do in my free time these days.

PLAYLIST: POE(TREE)
1) “je te veux (soprano)” – erik satie
2)「ひこうき雲」 – yumi matsutoya
3) “mr.sandman” – 바버렛츠
4)「完全感覚Dreamer」- one ok rock
5) “l’autre valse d’amélie” – yann tiersen
6) “owarase night” – frederic

to end this post, here’s the opening stanza of arthur o’shaughnessy’s “ode”:

we are the music-makers,
and we are the dreamers of dreams,
wandering by lone sea-breakers,
and sitting by desolate streams;
world-losers and world-forsakers,
on whom the pale moon gleams:
yet we are the movers and shakers
of the world for ever, it seems.

paper places | june + july 2016

summer is now in full swing!

this post is just a montage of the bookish places i’ve been to during june and july. book shops, libraries, and other book-filled places have always been my favorite. as jen campbell puts it, “bookshops are time machines, spaceships, story-makers, secret-keepers, dragon-tamers, dream-catchers, fact-finders, & safe places.” and this, for me, applies to libraries too! i hope the photos of these places fill you with the same bookish love that overwhelmed me when i visited in person.

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