Selling Lotus Seeds, Garden of Humble Administrator, 1509, Suzhou

Beauty is edible in this ancient garden

home to the muse – a lotus trader intervenes

her narcotic presence sweetens the liánzĭ.


I first visited China via a bribe and a visa stamp, 1979-80. There were no hotels, nobody spoke English, and my mimeographed phrasebook was useless. It became a huge adventure and three poems came from it: ‘Chinese Gardens’, ‘West Lake, Hangzhou’ and ‘Crossing the River, Loyang’ (in A Measure of Place, Penguin Books, 1993).


My artistic conception of life, Suzhou, 2011


Smut on wooden seats thirty years ago, now I speed to Suzhou

280 kilometres an hour, flying by endless pallid high-rise blocks

en route from peasantry to this spurt of pleasure in shopping,

more luxury goods pumping social capital sold here than anywhere.

The old games and gods are disappearing, scrub any thought

of a golden age, our luxury is silver, speeding past the sustainable,

using others to entertain, feed, arouse, nurse and wipe up after us.


See Video for a short piece on the art of eating breakfast in Suzhou

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