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Book Title

Empty Chairs

Selected Poems
Author 1
Liu Xia; Translated from the Chinese by Ming Di and Jennifer Stern; Introduction by Liao Yiwu; Foreword by Herta Müller
Poem Excerpt
I didn’t have a chance
to say a word before you became
a character in the news,
everyone looking up to you
as I was worn down
at the edge of the crowd

just smoking
and watching the sky.

A new myth, maybe, was forming
there, but the sun was so bright
I couldn’t see it.

—from “June 2nd, 1989 (for Xiaobo)”
Empty Chairs presents the poetry of Liu Xia for the first time freely in both English translation and in the Chinese original. Selected from thirty years of her work, and including some of her haunting photography, this book creates a portrait of a life lived under duress, a voice in danger of being silenced, and a spirit that is shaken but so far indomitable. Liu Xia's poems are potent, acute moments of inquiry that peel back to expose the fraught complexity of an interior world. They are felt and insightful, colored through with political constraints even as they seep beyond those constraints and toward love. 

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The first publication of the poetry of Liu Xia, wife of the imprisoned Nobel Peace Prize recipient Liu Xiaobo

About the Author

Liu Xia is a Chinese poet and artist. English translations of Liu Xia’s poetry by Ming Di and Jennifer Stern have been published widely, and Liu Xia’s photographs have appeared in galleries throughout the world. She has been living under strict house arrest since her husband, poet and activist Liu Xiaobo, was imprisoned in 2009 for “inciting subversion of state power” and received the Nobel Peace Prize in 2010.
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Jennifer Stern is the pen name for an American poet and translator who has published one volume of poetry in English. She has worked as an editor and has translated poetry from several languages. With co-translator Ming Di, she edited and translated Empty Chairs: Selected Poems by Liu Xia.

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Ming Di was born in China and lives in the United States as a poet and translator, author of six collections of poetry in Chinese and four volumes of translation. A selection of her poetry has been translated into English, titled River Merchant’s Wife (Marick Press, 2012). With co-translator Jennifer Stern, she edited and translated Empty Chairs: Selected Poems by Liu Xia.
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  • "Each poem is a container that bursts with breath like glass. . . . This delicate voice brings an immense capacity for a sense of self in an absurd world."Washington Independent Review of Books
  • “[Liu Xia] employs delicate practical phrases that nonetheless deliver a gut-wrenching punch. . . . Her phrases reveal the ordinary and corporeal effects of harrowing political circumstances.”Boston Review
  • "[Liu Xia] lends an intimate voice to the experiences of a life stolen by government surveillance, repression, and house arrest. . . . Liu kindles hope and companionship, even when all is lost."Publishers Weekly
  • "While [Liu Xia's] poems are deeply personal, they reveal an ever-present awareness of the perils of relentlessly pursuing art in the midst of an authoritarian government."Words Without Borders


A Lannan Translation Selection
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