Upcoming Event

John Freeman and Ha Jin at Harvard Book Store

presenting

Wind, Trees

and

The Banished Immortal:
A Life of Li Bai (Li Po)

Date

Dec
13
Tuesday
December 13, 2022
7:00 PM ET

Location

Harvard Book Store
1256 Massachusetts Ave., Cambridge, MA 02138

Tickets

This event is free; no tickets are required.

Harvard Book Store welcomes JOHN FREEMAN—author and executive editor at Alfred A. Knopf—and award-winning author HA JIN for an evening of poetry and eggnog, featuring readings from Wind, Trees and The Banished Immortal: A Life of Li Bai (Li Po).

A Return to In-Person Events

Harvard Book Store is excited to be back to in-person programming. To ensure the safety and comfort of everyone in attendance, the following Covid-19 safety protocols will be in place at all of our Harvard Book Store events until further notice:

  • Face coverings are required of all staff and attendees when inside the store. Masks must snugly cover nose and mouth.

About Wind, Trees

In Wind, Trees, John Freeman presents a meditation on power and loss, change and adaptation. What can the trees teach us about inhabiting space together? What might we gain if we admit we do not control the wind, and cannot possibly carry all we’ve been handed? Offering a stark moral critique of pandemic self-preservation—as “justifications grew / with greed like vines / up the side of a tree / taking everything”—Wind, Trees joins the ranks of politically urgent yet timeless collections like The Lice by W.S. Merwin. Through narrative lyric and metaphysical pulse, meandering thought and punctuating quiet, Freeman studies the devastating failings of humanity and the redemptive possibilities of love.

About The Banished Immortal

In his own time (701–762), Li Bai's poems—shaped by Daoist thought and characterized by their passion, romance, and lust for life—were never given their proper due by the official literary gatekeepers. Nonetheless, his lines rang out on the lips of court entertainers, tavern singers, soldiers, and writers throughout the Tang dynasty, and his deep desire for a higher, more perfect world gave rise to his nickname, the Banished Immortal. Today, Bai's verses are still taught to China's schoolchildren and recited at parties and toasts; they remain an inextricable part of the Chinese language.

With the instincts of a master novelist, Ha Jin draws on a wide range of historical and literary sources to weave the great poet's life story. He follows Bai from his origins on the western frontier to his ramblings travels as a young man, which were filled with filled with striving but also with merry abandon, as he raised cups of wine with friends and fellow poets. Ha Jin also takes us through the poet's later years—in which he became swept up in a military rebellion that altered the course of China's history—and the mysterious circumstances of his death, which are surrounded by legend.

The Banished Immortal is an extraordinary portrait of a poet who both transcended his time and was shaped by it, and whose ability to live, love, and mourn without reservation produced some of the most enduring verses.

Praise for Wind, Trees

“In Freeman’s ruminative, mournful, and precise follow-up to The Park, he says goodbye to the known world while savoring everything within it, even as it burns. The poems urge the reader to slow down, the line-breaks skillfully moving against the grain of natural phrasing, leaning toward ‘a world/ where imagination and remembrance are the same thing.’. . . These deep and timely meditations beautifully illuminate humanity’s plight.”—Publishers Weekly

“With this collection, Freeman compels us to feel, in turns of turbulence and stillness, the longing and rage and wonder that visit anyone keenly and tenderly paying attention to the passage of human life in an uncertain landscape and time. Freeman's poems become all at once like eulogy, like instruction, like acts of love.”—Pitchaya Sudbanthad

Praise for The Banished Immortal

“Ha Jin tells the story of how a supreme artist endures the struggles, frailties and losses that are a part of any life—for the genius Li Bai, those pervasive difficulties are compounded, as well as redeemed, by art and the artist’s awareness of his gifts. This is a fluently told story, mysterious yet familiar, tragic yet sometimes comical. Ha Jin is a master storyteller.” —Robert Pinsky

“Ha Jin narrates the poet’s unusual life with erudition and empathy . . . The Banished Immortal is a biography, but it is also a document in which a rootless writer nods to the past inside him . . . A close reading suggests that it is a return to his early themes, and a tribute to the poet he was before making his mark as a novelist. In some ways, the banished poet’s life even mirrors the biographer’s . . . Writing about Li Bai—his life, his work, and his country—Jin finally returns home.” —Han Zhang, The New Yorker

Ha Jin
Ha Jin

Ha Jin

Ha Jin left his native China in 1985 to attend Brandeis University. He is the author of eight nov­els, four story collections, four volumes of poetry, a biography of Li Bai, and a book of essays. He has received the National Book Award, two PEN/ Faulkner Awards, the PEN/Hemingway Award, and the Flannery O’Connor Award for Short Fiction. In 2014 he was elected to the American Academy of Arts and Letters. He is a professor in the creative writing program at Boston University.

Photo Credit: Copper Canyon

John Freeman
John Freeman

John Freeman

John Freeman is the founder of the literary annual Freeman’s. The author and editor of eleven books, he lives in New York City, where he is an executive editor at Alfred A. Knopf. His latest book is the poetry collection, Wind, Trees. His work has been translated into more than twenty languages and appeared in The New Yorker, The Paris Review, Orion, and Zyzzyva. Each month he hosts Atla magazine's California Book Club, an online discussion of a new Golden State classic.

Photo Credit: Copper Canyon

Harvard Book Store
1256 Massachusetts Ave., Cambridge, MA 02138

Walking from the Harvard Square T station: 2 minutes

As you exit the station, reverse your direction and walk east along Mass. Ave. in front of the Cambridge Savings Bank. Cross Dunster St. and proceed along Mass. Ave for three more blocks. You will pass Au Bon Pain, JP Licks, and TD Bank. Harvard Book Store is located at the corner of Mass. Ave. and Plympton St.

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FAQ:

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