Sonnet I: Liu Haixiao

Mr. Liu Haixiao (pronounced Leo High-shaow) is serving a 16-year prison sentence in Jilin Province, China, where he was arrested for tapping into the local TV network to broadcast programs that debunk state propaganda demonizing Falun Gong. He has been given opportunities to walk free contingent upon giving up his practice of Falun Gong, but he has refused to do so. Read his story here.

A freezing wind wisps snow through window bars
Into the cell where shivering convicts crouch,
But Liu Haixiao shakes not, his gaze afar
Is drawn by such fine flakes now prison-couched.

O how they fly! As if they are propelled
By the same unseen force that led him here
A moral quest to see the state’s lies quelled,
That risked his life and yet to peace adhered.

He feels a flake alight upon his neck,
Where once his flesh was seared by charged batons,
And senses Earth as well is but a speck,
The aching years gone by mere speck neurons,

And he the space that will not melt away,
A diamond forming stronger every day.


On the Dangers of Internet Pornography

The famous musical millennial Mark*
Was charged for having loads of child porn,
And in the depths of shame so cold and stark,
He hung himself to rise above the scorn.

Yet, in my heart I mourn this pervert star,
A member of a generation drowning
In a sea of porn yet more bizarre
With access ever greater—tastes are diving.

We must call out to those who float in filth,
Who drink it up and see no sign of peril—
Adrift, he breeds a monster in himself,
A Darwin ape who is ignoble, feral,

And slowly bloated, slowly sinks toward death,
In need of rousing by a saving breath.

*In reference to the conviction and suicide of actor-musician Mark Salling in January of this year.


The Creator

An alexandroid

Lord, King, Creator of mankind
_____Upon His throne,
A greater being you won’t find
_____Nor more alone.

In taking charge of making us,
_____He sits apart
In regions we find dangerous
_____And wrench the heart,

Where all we know and treat as dear
_____Sinks off the map,
And when it’s time He reaches near
_____To bridge our gap.


Evan Mantyk is President of the Society of Classical Poets and teaches literature and history in upstate New York.

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24 Responses

  1. Sally Cook

    There is so much ugliness in the world.
    A remarkable person, Mr. Liu Haixiao rises above it. He is an example to us all.

  2. Amy Foreman

    All three poems are thought-provoking and well-crafted. The second strikes me especially as a clarion call to the masses in our culture who, without considering the cost, rush headlong down the road to destruction. May God give strength and resolve to the millions who have been sucked into this insidious trap of pornography, so accessible now, and so fraudulently devastating, for it promises instant gratification but, in the end, serves up only death and hell. Thank you for these, Evan!

    • Evan

      Thank you, Amy. We have a world of adults or people from earlier generations creating this technology and not regulating it, people whose hormones have long been dulled and who are roped into real world responsibilities probably thinking its all but a bit of mischief and fun and not realizing how disturbingly far a new, fresh, young generation will run with it. They have time, they have technology, they have unconquerable wills, and they are very actively destroying themselves with constant and ever new forms of pornography, perversion, and violence. It’s really a crisis.

      • Amy Foreman

        Spot on, Evan. Maybe the lives and deaths of celebrities like Mark Salling will serve as a wake-up call for some. We can only hope and pray.

  3. Sam Gilliland

    Difficult to respond to the tale of Liu Haixiao without letting personal feelings of sorrow for his confinement destroy objectivity and the subtlety of analysis; neither of which are the least bit of use to our confined friend. Once invited to China when its doors were closed to the West, I know that word of the kind of support aired for Liu shall probably not even filter through to him, but I echo every line, every thought this poem brings to those most likely to read it. A piece I heartily applaud. Aye & aye, Sam.

  4. David Watt

    Sonnet 1 perfectly expresses the quiet dignity and resolve of Liu Haixiao. I particularly like the image of light and soft snow as stark contrast to Liu’s harsh surroundings.

  5. Lu "Reed ABCs" Wei

    As is not surprising, Mr. Mantyk has inspired me again, by promoting knowledge of such unsung heroes of unwavering faith.

    Liu Haixiao
    by Lu “Reed ABCs” Wei
    “…his flesh was seared by charged batons…”
    —Evan Mantyk

    Liu Haixiao, from Shuangyang, Changchun, Jilin’s capital,
    of over seven million people in its metropol,
    who go about their busy lives of work and play and rest,
    are probably completely unaware of him unblessed,
    who’s spending his life in a jail for faith in Falun Gong:
    2002, arrested long ago. It has been long.
    That same year, when his father died, renouncing his belief,
    police harassed his mother—Liu was given no relief.
    Guards tortured him upon a chair for hours long on end,
    and he was forced to memorize detention center regs.
    It hurt to bend; his legs were sore; there were no eggs with spice:
    potatoes rotting for the soup and sand mixed in the rice.
    With no hot water, ice-cold winters; life was very hard;
    and the batons—electrified—cut even as they charred.
    His home is Jilin Prison since October 23,
    2003, where he was transferred—expeditiously.
    He shared his cell with seventy, but none of them could talk;
    feet blisters, due to scabies, made it difficult to walk.
    He was still forced to do hard labour; but could not get help.
    Unless he gave up Falun Gong, he would remain in hell.
    He itched, he was in pain, he slept just minutes every night;
    his weight dropped under eighty, but he tightly held to life.
    Brainwashing, by the likes of Zhao Jing and Wang Yuanchun,
    could not force him to disavow belief in Falun Gong.
    Batons came out, then off he went to solitary time,
    for fifty days and more he sat amidst the wretched grime.
    Though members of his family have pleaded he renounce
    his faith, he won’t, this brave man of conviction, free from doubts.

    • C.B. Anderson

      Though many of the rhymes here ring with blatant flaws,
      The overall intention cleaves to higher laws
      Of universal justice; rightfully forgiven,
      Then, exact congruity for which we’ve striven.

    • Evan

      Thank you, Lu, a rousing fact-filled monument,
      Worth the mental energy that you have spent!

  6. Leonard Dabydeen

    Immense joy and delight to read these sonnets and the alexandroid poem, Evan. Brilliant and inspiring. Notwithstanding, I take note of the sad human rights situation regarding Mr. Liu Haixiao in the Chinese prison, and his affirmative stand for his belief in the practice of Falon Gong. He will not be forgotten in the annals of human rights history. And your poem, Sonnet I: Liu Haixiao will be treasured.
    I will certainly share these poems of yours as favorites in my blog: Poems Jogging in the Mind ( Thank you for Sharing.

  7. Leonard Dabydeen

    Kindly allow me to share two of my poems on LIU XIAOBO, Chinese Dissident Who Won Nobel While Jailed in a Chinese prison…

    #106 (p.122)
    wide watch
    empty chair
    his soul sits on
    frail hands waive to his people with warm heart.
    Hearts waving back with hands like pendulum
    his chair is warm
    with freedom
    his name

    #107 (p.123)
    my tongue
    and I shall
    still speak to you
    with a voice of freedom you cannot muzzle.
    Your stubbornness is your weakness I hold
    in the palm of
    my open
    *From my book, Watching You, A Collection of Tetractys Poems, Xlibris Publication (2012)

    Asia Pacific|Liu Xiaobo, Chinese Dissident Who Won Nobel While Jailed, Dies at 61

    Thank you.

    • Evan

      Thank you for sharing. There are so many groups and individuals who are persecuted in China, it is astounding.

  8. Fr. Richard Libby

    These are well written poems that convey truths about important matters. Well done, Mr. Mantyk!

    • Evan

      Thank you, Mr. MacKenzie! Reading your sonnets has helped me to understand the inner workings of the classical sonnet in a modern context. So, double thank you! And, as it were, happy St. Patrick’s Day!

  9. James Sale

    Sonnet 1 is heroic, and the concluding couplet superb: as a diamond crystallises carbon, so the poet here crystallises meaning, and we feel its compressed power. Great writing – and delighted to see you utilising the force of the sonnet form.

    • Evan

      Thank you, James! And for someone who has written so much on modern attempts at the epic, which I associate with the heroic, this is wonderful praise.

  10. Wendy Bourke

    All of these pieces are powerfully rendered. The Sonnet, in particular, was very moving. The snow, for me, is a stunning image – the fragility of a snowflake: so nuanced.

    ‘The rhyme is masterful, contributing to the pulse and progression of the pieces. All of these poems are imbued with a clarity befitting the themes … and which, to my mind, accentuates the impact. Wonderful writing!

    • Evan

      Thank you, Wendy! If I had to guess, a focus on clarity and imagery are facets that define my work (of course it is difficult for oneself to pick out one’s defining traits), which you have adeptly identified. I think these facets may go back to my interest in drawing and painting in my youth. I would paint you a picture with pigments rather than words if I could. Ms. Chen has done a marvelous painting above at any rate (though not precisely of the subject of this poem, it is likewise a Falun Gong practitioner persecuted in China).


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