Ya Hsien believes poets emerge when writing is fully respected and valued. He is the kind of writer that if he places a letter in the mailbox and then realizes there are two misplaced words, he will circle the box anxiously several times, trying to retrieve his letter and correct it.
Besides writing poems, Ya Hsien has been a successful drama actor and media editor in Taiwan.
"Whatever I do, I never betray the god of poetry," he says.
He calls himself a "poet in action", who scatters poetic romance into social life, manages magazines and newspapers with poetic aesthetics, and also scouts and cultivates a younger generation of poets.
Born Wang Qinglin to a rural family, Ya Hsien's earliest literary inspiration was the tiny moving "library" of children's books on an oxcart his father drove to spread knowledge among villages in Henan.
After arriving in Taiwan, he started publishing poems in 1953. He then joined two other renowned poets to create a nonprofit poetry magazine, The Epoch Poetry Quarterly, which is still published today and marks its 60th anniversary next year.
"In the 1950s, we published works of Chinese poets written in the 1930s, which was banned at that time by the Chiang government for ideological reasons. It's a miracle that the magazine survives to this day and has made itself a place in contemporary Taiwan," Ya Hsien says.
In the 1970s, Ya Hsien became involved in the management of a supplement of Taiwan newspaper United Daily News. Over more than 20 years he turned the supplement into an incubator of young writers like Xi Murong.
Ya has a master's degree from the University of Wisconsin, and has taken part in the prestigious International Writing Program at the University of Iowa. He now resides in Canada with his family.
He collects lots of old items as decorations in his house in Canada, such as abacuses, window frames from old houses, and different types of gongs, to remind himself of his hometown.
"Gongs remind me of the days I traveled with my father on the oxcart. Once we arrived at a village, I hammered the gong, and attracted the villagers to come to read," he says.
"I still hold that the best way to refine poetry is to refine the poet's mind and behavior," Ya Hsien says.
Contact the writer at firstname.lastname@example.org
In the years of the last emperor the wind kept blowing
blowing on a string of red corn
It was actually right beneath the eaves
that it was hung
as if the whole North
the sadness of the whole North
were hanging there
Recalling those afternoons when we played truant
snow had chilled the private schoolmaster's ruler
my cousin's donkey was tied beneath the mulberry tree
Recalling the time when the suona began to sound
and the Taoist priests kept chanting
Grandfather's spirit had not yet returned from the capital
Recalling the cricket's calabash stacked away in the padded jacket
a tiny bit of cold, a tiny bit of warmth
and the copper hoops rolling over the knoll
in the distance we saw grandma's buckwheat field
and burst into tears
It was actually that kind of red corn
that was hanging there for a long long time
right beneath the eaves
when the wind was blowing, in the years of the last emperor
You will never understand
that string of red corn
the way it was hanging there
and its color
not even my daughter who was born in the South will understand
not even Verhaeren
Recalling the present
I have already grown old
strings of red corn are hanging
under the eaves of memory
the winds of 1958 will keep blowing
strings of red corn will keep hanging there.
—Translated by N.G.D. Malmqvist