Liu Xia, the wife of the imprisoned Nobel Peace laureate Liu Xiaobo, was shown reading two of her poems in a short video aired at an event on Tuesday in New York. The two-minute video was filmed in December and obtained by the Friends of Liu Xiaobo and the Independent Chinese PEN Center, a free-speech advocacy group that Ms. Liu helped establish.

The first poem, “Untitled,” paints an image of isolation: “Is it a tree? / It’s me, alone.” With her hair cropped short and wearing large, round glasses, she smokes a cigarette as she reads from her notebook. At the end of the second poem, “Drinking,” she gives a quick thumbs-up after the unidentified camera operator whistles in approval.

In 2009, Mr. Liu was convicted of “inciting subversion of state power” for helping draft the pro-democracy manifesto Charter ’08 and sentenced to 11 years in prison. He was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in 2010, at which point Ms. Liu, a poet and writer, was placed under extralegal house arrest in the couple’s Beijing apartment.

In a letter that emerged in November, she described an intensely lonely life in which books offer her rare solace.

Her supporters worry about the psychological effect of her isolation. Ms. Liu has asked that she be allowed to see a doctor of her own choosing, exchange letters with her jailed husband and be allowed to work and earn a living. In what is widely believed to be another effort to put pressure on the Liu family, Ms. Liu’s brother, Liu Hui, was sentenced to an 11-year prison term last year on charges of fraud.

Full translations of the poems, provided by the Independent PEN Chinese Center, follow below:


    Is it a tree?
    It’s me, alone.
    Is it a winter tree?
    It’s always like this, all year round.
    Where are the leaves?
    The leaves are beyond.
    Why draw a tree?
    I like how it stands.
    Aren’t you tired of being a tree your whole life?
    Even when exhausted, I want to stand.
    Is there anyone with you?
    There are birds.
    I don’t see any.
    Listen to the sound of fluttering wings.
    Wouldn’t it be nice to draw birds on the tree?
    I’m too old to see, blind.
    Perhaps you don’t know how to draw a bird at all?
    You’re right. I don’t know how.
    You’re an old stubborn tree.
    I am.


    (Translated from Chinese by Ming Di and Jennifer Stern)


    Before going to drink with my old brother
    I will unplug my telephone

    Coming back drunk before
    Always, always
    I could not help phoning a friend
    The period when I could not talk has been too long
    After drinking I might look ugly
    And sound piercing
    The voices from another side of the phone were
    Sometimes warm
    Or sometimes strange and distanced

    After waking up
    I could realize
    Nobody would like
    To listen to the nonsense from a drunk
    During such a night after drinking
    I would love Raymond Carver
    Two drunks
    Write poems face to face
    Without talking
    There would be no shame
    Nor embarrassment

    I will always, always remind myself
    Before being drunk
    Unplug the telephone

    (Translated from Chinese by Yu Zhang)