Poetry

Waterfall of Youth

A seminal Tibetan poem, in a new translation by Lowell Cook

The tragic yet prolific life of Dondrup Gyal (1953-1985) was one of foremost catalysts for the birth of modern literature in Tibet. Having grown up during the Cultural Revolution, Dondrup Gyal was one of the first Tibetans to attend Chinese universities in the Reform and Opening era. Not only did studying with renowned Tibetan and Chinese scholars at the Central Nationalities Institute in Beijing hone his writings skills and give him access to a new world of literature, it also shaped his progressive vision for the Tibetans. It was this combination of literary skill and innovative thinking that Gyal would soon become famous for. Unfortunately, his progressive views also made him a target for criticism and ostracization in the highly conservative Tibetan society of the day. This, in addition to strained relationships with colleagues, local officials, and his wife Yumkyi, contributed to his suicide in 1985 at the age of 32. Despite Gyal’s short life, his collected works contain six volumes of poetry, fiction and essays.