The heart beats alone, maintaining its own pace
Fear, anger, sadness – the storms are beyond us
The river bends and bends, the birth of a new space
To die and live again – this constant change
– Wang Bing, “The River is in Our Blood”
Wang Ping is a poet by profession and a rower by routine.
She sees a deep connection in these things. flow. Rhythm. Rhythm.
“Life begins with the rhythm and the heartbeat,” she said.
tick, tick, tick. Row, row, row.
Repetition is rhythm, but it doesn’t tell the story.
“Every blade that enters the water is different,” she said, “because the water is constantly moving.”
Every moment is different from the past. Next.
“This is the beauty of life, isn’t it?” She said. Everyone calls her Bing.
“In Chinese philosophy, change is the foundation of life,” Bing said. “But at the same time, we’re so afraid of change. The fear really comes from wanting to hold on. But we really can’t, right? It’s like water. You can never step into the same river.”
Her fourteenth book, most of which is poetry, will be published this fall. Later this month, she will compete at the US Rowing Masters National Championships in Indianapolis. Last year, she won six medals – Two gold, silver and bronze.
The rowing poet, 65, sees symmetry and balance, the yin and yang, in her emotions. Some days kayaking comes easy. There is a connection, a flow. Same with writing.
“You have to feel through the handle what the river is doing, how the river is running, what is the mood of the river,” she said. “I really enjoy it. I started paddling when my mind was so tangled up, just spinning around with all sorts of problems. But the river just—shh— calms me down.”
Which is why, resting most mornings, spring through fall, on the glassy waters of a three-mile dammed section of the Mississippi River that connects Minneapolis and St. Paul, Bing wanders.
She is a member of the Minneapolis Rowing Club, dating back to 1877. She exercises with men and women, in pairs, fours, and eights. They work together, like cogs in a watch.
“It forces me to focus,” she said. “Because my brain is like a monkey, it goes everywhere.”
She paddles with one shovel also stored in the harbour. The time she spends on the river is for her mind and imagination. She can notice ripples, birds and sounds. This is where much of her writing begins.
“The river allows me to dream,” she said.
“When spring breaks the ice in the Mississippi, I get up at 5 a.m. to paddle. The river is covered in mist, the water foams and swirls with driftwood after a downpour. I sit in my red single, spine straight, shoulders relaxed. I raise my oars, drop them in the water. Ush.” , The boat hurtles like a long-legged insect, cutting through the water in a straight line. I breathe, knees up and down, arms in and out, chest open and close, open and close.”
Miracles Live Along the Yangtze River and the Mississippi
Born in the Yangtze River
Wang Bing was born in Shanghai at the mouth of the Yangtze River. She was the daughter of a naval officer and a music teacher, and a child of Mao’s Cultural Revolution.
Her grandmother used to sing to her: “Life is a river that runs to the sea, entering into every stream and every drop of rain along its path. A river that never chooses or rules. It only receives until it becomes the sea.”
The family lived on an island in the East China Sea archipelago. Peng’s father was exiled during the crackdown. Her mother was placed under house arrest for teaching her Western music.
Schools and libraries are closed. Books are banned. Ping’s formal education ended after the second grade. But a neighborhood friend had a bootleg copy of The Little Mermaid. Bing was smitten.
Soon, she and a boyfriend start a secret bookselling club: The Mermaid Club. They pluck books from the piles that are left to be burned.
Then Bing discovers a cache her mother had buried in a box behind the family’s chicken coop. The Book of Songs. “Journey to the West.” A collection of Shakespeare’s works. “The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn.” Hans Christian Andersen’s Complete Fairy Tales.
On a note inside the buried treasure, her mother wrote: “To the stubborn Ping.” “I hope you are as brave as a mermaid.”
Literature was a gateway. When she was in her teens, she left the family to work for years as a farmer in the country, hoping to squeeze through one wicket of college for peasants, soldiers, and factory workers. Finally worked. She found her way to a language school to learn and study English, and then to Peking University.
I graduated in 1986 and moved to New York. I arrived the night the Mets won the World Series.
She wrote in her diary: “We crossed the East River.” “I have never seen so many bridges sparkling like jewels hanging from the sky.”
She taught English and earned a master’s degree from Long Island University and then a Ph.D. in Comparative Literature from New York University. She has taught college courses all over New York. An aspiring writer and trusted translator, she joins the company of poets such as Allen Ginsberg, Gary Snyder, and John Ashbery.
She followed her ex-husband to the Twin Cities in 1998. They settled in an upstairs apartment in St. Paul that overlooks the Mississippi River.
She wrote, “At night, I fall asleep to her voice, which is heightened by the rumble of freight trains.” “At sunrise, I watch the mist gallop like wild horses along the frozen mirror of the Mississippi River.”
She has taught creative writing at Macalister College For 20 years before disagreements with management led to her departure in 2020. She has worked as a multimedia artist, and her projects often highlight immigrants, indigenous people, and the environment.
She wanted to connect the Mississippi River with the Yangtze River, her present and her past. its most ambitious formula, kinship of riversIt was an idea born from the prayer flags she saw in Tibet. I asked artists and volunteers from schools, senior centers, galleries, and museums to draw and paint the flags. She connected them at key points along the Mississippi River, then the Yangtze River.
The first stop was in Cairo, Illinois, part of her childhood mind from The Adventures of Huck Finn, now mired in a ghost town due to its flooded place at the confluence of the Ohio River. When the Mississippi and Missouri rivers meet, I learned that water frequently floods the memorial flagstaff there.
“The river misses everything humanity is trying to do,” she wrote.
She now lives in the Highland Park neighborhood of St. Paul, a short walk from the banks of the Mississippi River.
To get closer to the river, about 12 years ago, I started canoeing.
“Our bodies flow like a river. Where there is stagnation, there is trouble. Where blood is blocked like a dead end river, cancer grows. Movement is key. Movement with awareness is another key. Movement with discipline and dedication is the last key. When we have all three keys at hand Hand, we go into the river, on the way, free, fearless, cheerful.
Miracles Live Along the Yangtze River and the Mississippi
The sun did not break the horizon. The water is still colorless. Ping zips a trail through thick trees and shrubbery down the West River Parkway, just north of the Lake Street-Marshall Bridge.
Soon you’ll be on the river, with a team, building a sweat, and keeping your pace.
tick, tick, tick. Row, row, row.
Let’s keep things stable, Peter Morgan, the club’s coach, said through his megaphone. That’s 20 strokes per minute.
Like any good story, like any good river, exercise ebbs and flows. Push the pace to 32. Set it to 33. Feel the difference, like your heartbeat goes up. Now in the 40’s, a full sprint to the finish.
slow again. Take three strokes, then a fourth stroke without dipping the paddle. Feel the balance in the narrow, needle-like boat. You feel it slip. When things are going right, feel the little bubbles tickling the bottom of the boat, like the tingling of a perfect sentence sliding across the page.
The words flow. That’s what they say when it’s easy, as if the alphabets can turn into water.
Blasphemy, like writing, can come easily, or not come at all.
muscle pain Words do not come. The water is intermittent today. team is asynchronous; Sentences become disjointed.
Michael Nicholls, one of the club’s coaches, said that the connection between rowing, writing, strikes and words is clear to him.
“Anyone can put words on a page, but that’s what you do with it,” he said, following Bing and her teammates down the river in the launch boat. “You find meaning in every stroke you take.”
There are stronger rowers, even among the top women at the Minneapolis Rowing Club. There are a few dedicated members.
In one session, Bing and her colleagues were siphoning water. They’re in sync, but their movement feels flat and uninspired. In another session, the places on the boat are changed. Bing and her colleagues find a perfect rhythm, a sustained urgency, and the boat seems to hurtle, like the long-legged insect Bing described.
“Like words, you put people in different places, everything works,” she said.
Every day is different. Every row is different. Every stroke is different.
nothing remains the same. Every day, the Mississippi River. Every day a different river.
Adam Stoltman contributed reporting from Minneapolis.