/ 24 April 2024

Versopolis Podcast #15: Contemporary Chinese poetry

Yang Lian


Chinese contemporary poetry is flourishing. The most exciting poetic voices come from the 200 million migrant workers working in China. This phenomenon is still largely unknown, even though some of these workers come west to pursue their creative pursuits. The Chinese Swiss-born poet Yang Lian is one of the seminal voices of Chinese contemporary poetry from the 1980s onwards, when his work with the Misty poets combined traditional Chinese poetry forms with western modernism. He posits that every poet is the centre of the concentric circle that radiates outwards and intersects with his peers, family and society at large. Yang rejects the simplistic individual-collective dichotomy of society and states that poetry should be intimately connected with life and language. What if all poetry is in fact just one large piece of art, transcending languages, traditions and cultures? What if at the centre, this project is nothing more but an endless pursuit of a conscience’s perpetual questioning of itself?

Yang Lian is a poet and writer, who has published fifteen collections of poems, two collections of prose and one selection of essays in Chinese. His work has also been translated into more than twenty languages, including English, German, French, Italian, Spanish, Japanese and many Eastern European languages. His work has been reviewed as ‘like MacDiarmid meets Rilke with Samurai sword drawn!’, ‘one of the most representative voices of Chinese literature’ and ‘one of the great world poets of our era’.