Chloe Garcia Roberts is the recipient of a 2013 PEN/Heim Translation Fund grant for her translation of Li Shangyin’s Derangements of My Contemporaries. Read her introduction on her translation of Shangyin’s work here


Amongst pines, ordered to make way.
Looking at flowers, tears falling.
A mat spread over moss.
A weeping willow, felled.
Underthings drying below blossoms.
Carrying weight on a spring outing.
A horse tethered to a stone pillar.
Bringing a flame into moonlight.
A high-ranking officer on foot.
Raising a tower on the ridge of a mountain.
Vegetables planted in a fruit orchard.
Under a flowered arbor, rearing poultry.
Speaking of mundane affairs at a cabaret.


Escalating Derangements of my Contemporaries

For no reason: bitter envy, lingering resentment towards others.
Drunkenly calling on ghosts, spirits.
Grieving sons reciting song lyrics.
Dressing in deep mourning at a cock fight, horse race.
Enemies reminiscing.
Grown men flying kites in the wind.
Enabling the wanderings of vagrants.
Selling land or businesses in fortune, misfortune.
People in dire straits casting divination blocks.
Mortgaging land, houses.
Married women cursing and scolding in streets, lanes.


Unbearable to Hear

A magpie, after failing the imperial examination.
A roadside inn, in autumn: an anvil banging.
Gibbons wailing at a lonely house.
The coarse language of the marketplace.
While performing mourning rites, strains of music.
A young wife weeping for her husband.
Still of night: the sounds of beggars.
News of someone dying upon passing the imperial examination.
The elderly weeping for a son.



Winter months, the touch of green cloth suggests cold.
Summer months, the sight of red suggests heat.
Upon entering, a spirit shrine seems to hold ghosts.
The belly of an abbess suggests pregnancy.
Behind a heavy curtain, the suggestion of people.
Passing a butcher shop, one feels rank as mutton.
The sight of ice jade cools the heart’s core.
The sight of plums softens the teeth.


Mildly Inappropriate

Adorning oneself in the latest fashions unbecomingly, obsessively.
Discussing the Confucian classics in front of a vulgar person.
Reciting poetry to a prostitute.
Treating the rich and powerful like family.
Bringing children to a banquet.
Standing between the banquet and singers.
Passing picked-over food back to the host.
Exaggerating the talents of sons, daughters.
To take the host’s food, drink, as a favor to someone else.
At a banquet: sounds of slurping vinegar.
At a banquet, criticizing the flavor of an item.
Praising the sweet mistakes of your sons, daughters.