Poetry Peasant Woman - 2
Provided by: Han Shimei

How a Rural Woman Found Solace in Poetry

How poetry helped Han Shimei endure a loveless marriage and a lifetime of hardship in rural China

This story was originally published in podcast form by Story FM.

My heart cradles an orange light
Not quite fit for the warm spring sunshine
Only a wisp of plum fragrance lingers in the chilling wind
I knead it all, this hurt in my heart
into ten thousand rays of light
Aiming at the sun, the moon, and the stars
Rolling with the waves of the South China Sea
The pain dilutes into the lights of thousands of homes
Only the passing clouds linger
The sky is full of you.

—Han Shimei, “Orange in the Heart”

This is a poem written by Han Shimei, a 52-year-old woman born and raised in Nanyang, Henan province. Confined to her small, impoverished mountain village, Han speaks a local dialect and her world is narrow. Her days are spent caring for her husband, parents-in-law, and children, as well as tending to greasy stoves, rough farmland, and the family’s dilapidated house. Working by day and sighing her nights away, Han led a thankless, harsh life that is all too often the standard in China’s rural communities.

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author Story FM

Founded in 2017 by Kou Aizhe, Story FM is one of the most renowned podcast in China. Each episode focuses on ordinary people’s lives and viewpoints, including the difficulties of marginalized people. Through intimate and private interviews, Story FM digs out first-person experiences and lets listeners immerse themselves in another person’s voice and feelings. You can listen to their podcast in Chinese on Ximalaya, Qingting FM, Apple Podcasts, and the 故事FM mini-app on WeChat.

Translated By
author Ana Padilla Fornieles

Ana Padilla Fornieles is a Spanish translator, writer and creative currently based in Beijing, where she is part of Spittoon International Arts Collective and a regular contributor to The Beijinger. You can find her prose and poetry featured in The Shanghai Literary Review, Voice & Verse Poetry Magazine, Womanhood, Sledgehammer and more. Her comics and linocut prints have appeared in Shaving in the Dark, F*EMS and Celestite Poetry. Her literary translation work has been published or is forthcoming with a series of publishing houses and magazines, such as Penguin, De Gruyter, Spittoon Magazine and Books from Taiwan.

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