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Avant-garde poetry in China: the Nanjing scene 1981-1992.

PRELUDE: THE MISTY POETS. Following the climactic events of 1976 that brought a close to the Cultural Revolution, the final years of the 1970s would see the first indications of a new post-Mao literature in mainland China. The new political leadership - whose authority depended on the delegitimization of the Cultural Revolution - found it in their interest to allow, within limits, a more critical literature. For the most part, this new writing was rather unsophisticated, cathartic literature protesting the many injustices of the preceding decade and egregious cases of official corruption. However, at the end of 1978 there appeared in Beijing the first issue of an unofficial literary magazine, Jintian (Today), that would prove of seminal importance in the coming decade. Edited by the young poets Bei Dao and Mang Ke, Jintian lasted only two years before it was suppressed in the aftermath of the crushing of the Democracy Wall Movement. But already a number of the Jintian poets had been appearing in official journals, including the prestigious Shikan (Poetry Journal),(1) and the official censure and controversy they aroused only added to their appeal among younger readers and poets. Besides Bei Dao and Mang Ke, the most important of these poets included Gu Cheng, Yang Liang, Shu Ting, Jiang He, and Duo Duo, who as a group became known as the menglong shi or Misty (Obscure) Poets - initially intended as a label of dismissal by their official detractors. It is no overstatement to say that virtually all poetry of significance written in mainland China over the past fifteen years or so has derived from or developed in conscious reaction to Misty Poetry; so, while this paper is primarily concerned with a number of these later poets, a preliminary understanding of Misty Poetry is requisite.(2)

Originally the Misty Poets were brought together less by any specific esthetic program than by their mutual opposition to official verse and the social and political dogma it espoused. What most obviously linked them was simply an insistence on the validity of the individual. Some of their work expressed a defense of the individual against ideological coercion in forms that were little more than a relatively more poetically and allegorically expressed extension of much socialist verse of the preceding decades. More significant, however, was the work that earned them the designation "Misty," poetry which expressed itself in more obliquely symbolist or imagist forms. A typical example is Bei Dao's "Notes from the City of the Sun," a sequence of fourteen very short poems, of which a few follow here:(3)


Tranquillity. The wild geese have flown over the virgin wasteland the old tree has toppled with a crash acrid salty rain drifts through the air


Red waves drown a solitary oar


A million scintillating suns appear in the shattered mirror


The child strikes the railing at random at random the railing strikes the night



These titles may initially strike one as a bit portentous, a tendency to which Bei Dao is rather prone, but one ought to keep in mind the context in which the poems were composed; it is part of Bei Dao's strategy to redefine or perhaps undefine these reified terms, which, according to official ideology, ought to have fairly fixed meanings. Such elliptical, imagistic poems are familiar enough to Western readers, but their indeterminate suggestivity, the manner in which they sometimes do and sometimes do not appear to illustrate their titles, posed a challenge to official critics. While detractors accused such work of willful obscurity, it is clear enough that Bei Dao was engaging in the time-honored practice of thinly veiled social criticism. The "red waves" of "Youth," quoted above, uncomfortably suggest both the mindless group-thought of the Cultural Revolution and perhaps of the Red Guards in particular, as well as the bloodied individuals they rolled over. Bei Dao imagines the younger generation he represents as struggling to survive, to hold on to some sense of individual self-worth amid this red tide. "Art" suggests that with the shattering of the utilitarian mimetic mirror of official socialist esthetics, art will be freed to fulfill its manifold subjective possibilities.

The notorious final poem, "Living" (in the original Chinese text, the title has two characters while the poem itself has just one), was dismissed as unworthy of being called a poem at all. But again the implicit social criticism must have been evident enough. The image is exemplary in its openness, suggesting any number of entanglements, relationships, interconnections in which we inevitably find ourselves caught. Or we might read the relationship between title and text as antithetical rather than analogous, so that life in its more authentic sense is that which eludes the net of society that the latter would designate as "living." However, such allegorical translations are less significant in and of themselves than the very indirectness of manner and the purposeful ambiguity that most offended conservative readers - a poetry that defied the ideological instrumentalization that had been dogma since Mao's "Yen'an Talks on Literature and Art" (1942). As is so often the case, what was most politically explosive was precisely that which presented itself as beyond politics.

THE THIRD GENERATION POETS IN NANJING (1982-1988). Although Jintian was forced to cease publication in 1980, the nationwide controversy it stirred up only intensified, and it was in this heady atmosphere that the younger poets across mainland China passed the beginning of the 1980s.(4) Inspired by the example of the Misty Poets, whose activities were largely confined to Beijing, the first half of the decade would see the appearance of rival groups in a number of other major cities. Some of the most daring innovations developed in the old capital of Nanjing, and in what follows we will focus principally on two very different tendencies there, as represented by the poetry of Han Dong and Che Qian-zi.

In 1981 the nineteen-year-old Han Dong won the most prestigious Chinese literary prize for young writers, the Youth Literary Award, for his sequence "Hold Up the Indomitable Head," but at this point he was still strongly influenced by Misty Poetry. So, it was something of a shock when in the following year he published "Mountain People," which clearly challenged Misty Poetry in its heyday. While Bei Dao's poetry expressed a distrust of society, it nonetheless hoped for society's rational reconstruction, and consequently the poetic subject attempted to shoulder the responsibility of the entire society - a heroicism that tended toward messianism. Bei Dao's work is somber and dignified, with a strong awareness of history and its burdens. His language attempts to build up images and symbols, and, following him, symbolism became the rule among younger Chinese poets.

Han Dong's "Mountain People" deploys a very flat, unadorned language to express the unheroic, even fatalistic consciousness of ordinary people whose concerns are more immediate and limited than the great national and ideological questions that have so preoccupied China's intellectuals and political leaders throughout this century. Rejecting the use of poetic imagery and symbolism, Han Dong undermines the more grandiose pretensions of both official and Misty Poetry. It has been plausibly suggested that Han Dong's position is somewhat analogous to that of William Carlos Williams vis-a-vis Bei Dao as T.S. Eliot. Indeed, in a 1988 essay titled "After Three Worldly Roles" Han Dong castigates Chinese poets in general and Bei Dao in particular for catering to Western expectations. In the early 1980s Western modernisms abruptly poured into China in an unsorted mass and inevitably have had a considerable impact on recent literary, artistic, and intellectual developments. However, it ought to be kept in mind that this influence has been strongly mediated by the haphazard selection and highly uneven quality of translations, and that the critical digestion of Western modernism and postmodernism has lagged far behind the pace of poetic creation. In the case of Han Dong, his colloquialism and concentration on common, often nonurban characters and concerns can be partially understood as a reaction against what he saw as an uncritical enthusiasm for all things Western.

One can better understand the startling impact of Hah Dong's work by considering another of his early poems that directly responds to Misty Poetry. A well-known poem by the Misty Poet Yang Lian is entitled "Wild Goose Pagoda," referring to the famous pagoda that still overlooks present-day Xian, the city now most famous for its terra-cotta warriors. The city, formerly called Chang'an, was the capital of the Chinese Empire in its most glorious period, particularly during the Tang dynasty, an era when China produced its greatest poets and was unusually outward-looking (the city was also gateway to the Silk Road). In Yang's poem the ancient pagoda speaks of the glories it has witnessed and laments their loss as China turned inward: "I am held fast in a cage I have myself forged / History of millennia weighs heavy on my shoulders, / Leadweight; my spirit / Shrivels in this venomous solitude." Although alluding to China's long history, such lines also obviously apply rather neatly to the more recent events of the Cultural Revolution and its betrayal of the original hopes of the Chinese Revolution. However, the poem concludes on an optimistic note with hope for a rebirth: "Let me destroy at last this nightmare-cage, / Realign shadow of history, spirit of defiance, / Contiguous, like night and dawn."(5)

Drawing on a classical tradition of poetic lament, Yang's poem is complex in its literary, historical, and mythic allusiveness. The primary point for our purposes is its strong historical and nationalist consciousness, its formal and dignified tone, and its aspiration to be a vehicle for the renewal of Chinese culture. This is Han Dong's response:

About Wild Goose Pagoda

What do we know About Wild Goose Pagoda Many come from far away Just to climb to the top To be a hero for once Some will come back a second Or more times Those who are frustrated Those who grow fat All climb to the top To be heroes at least once Then walk down Go into the broad street Disappear in an instant Also a certain type jumps off Blooming on the steps into a red flower Becoming a real hero A present-day hero

What do we know About Wild Goose Pagoda We climb to the top Take a look at the scenery Then walk down again

Han Dong deflates not only Yang's poem but also a whole classical tradition of poems written on climbing famous heights to meditate on topics of great import. Here the climb, an act of reverence for China's glorious past, is reduced to nothing more than a banal tourist stop, reflecting the ordinary person's lack of historical consciousness or even interest. The only one to climb for some purpose is the suicide, through whom Han Dong unleashes his most devastating barbs to puncture the rhetorical vacuousness of the nationalist and revolutionary catchwords "red," "blooming flowers," and "heroes." Undoubtedly, behind the Wild Goose Pagoda alluded to by both Yang Lian and Han Dong looms the familiar pagoda at Yen'an, which paradoxically became an icon of the early heroic period of the Communist Revolution. Han Dong's no-nonsense antisentimentalism went well beyond demystifying merely the Misty Poets and offered younger poets a "lost generation" cynicism that has its own sort of exhilaration. Within a few years this sarcasm would be taken to far greater extremes than Han Dong by a number of the younger fiction writers, who in some cases seem intent on nihilistically undermining belief in anything whatsoever.(6)

Similarly, Han Dong's poem "The Ocean Is Before You Now" (see appendix), which purportedly was written in response to Shu Ting's "Morning Songs at the Seaside," ironizes the too predictable and sentimental poetic symbolism of the sea. The heavy use of repetition, so characteristic of Han Dong and many of his followers, tends to undercut any suggestion of lyric flight. But some of Han Dong's most interesting poems, such as "News About a Child" and "A Woman I Don't Know" (see appendix for both), go beyond a demystifying realism to suggest enigmatic parables. In addition to the usual destabilization of perspective, the male speakers of these two poems also appear to be losing their customary patriarchal footing. Merely emphasizing Han Dong's cynicism is to focus too narrowly on one, albeit important, aspect of his work. Even in "About Wild Goose Pagoda," the underlying suggestion is that for the ordinary person there simply is no reason to be much concerned with all the past grandeur associated with the pagoda and the ancient capital. Not only did the common people reap rather limited benefits from these glories, but recent history and the routine demands of everyday survival have effectively erased any meaningful sense of historical consciousness, except to the degree it is evoked for chauvinistic purposes by government propaganda. Many of Han Dong's poems empathize unsentimentally with the ordinary Chinese citizen's ground-level view of life - a view with no grand vistas or extravagant hopes but rather a fatalistic and stoic acceptance of the lot that has been dealt them. It is worth keeping in mind that, for all the dramatic changes that have taken place in recent decades, still today close to 80 percent of the Chinese people live in the countryside - an existence very different from that of urban dwellers and well beyond the ken of even the most sympathetic Western imagination.

Although the designation "Third Generation," used to describe the younger generation of poets following the Misty Poets, would not be introduced into literary circles until 1984 by the Sichuan poet Shang Zhong-min, Han Dong's "Mountain People" (see appendix) can be considered as decisively inaugurating the Third Generation.(7) The "first generation" refers to the largely political poets of the period after 1949, the "second generation" to the Misty Poets themselves. The Third Generation poets are in most cases only a few years younger than the Misty Poets; but given the tumultuous social changes over recent decades, a few years can mean dramatic differences in experience and attitude, and those who came to early maturity after the 1960s tend to take a significantly more cynical perspective than do their slightly older compatriots. While the Third Generation acknowledges the seminal importance of the Misty Poets' break with official poetry and emulate their example of innovation and challenging authority, they are identifiable by their deliberate reaction against the Misty Poetic stance and language, which became sloganized as "anti-sublimity," "anti-expression," and "anti-imagery." Because Han Dong both challenged the newly established idol of the younger poets and opened up a new direction for continuing their revolution, he naturally came to be regarded by many young poets as the leader of the Third Generation. It should be kept in mind, however, that "Third Generation" does not designate a specific group of poets but rather a broad spectrum of different poets nationwide who represent an important shift in orientation or attitude toward poetry.

In 1984, Han Dong and Yu Jian of Kunming (Yunnan Province) joined to found the group "Tamen" (Them), based in Nanjing, and brought out their own underground publication bearing that same name. The designation "Them" was taken from the title of Joyce Carol Oates's 1969 novel to suggest a sense of alienation from mainstream society. Han Dong, Xiao Hai, Xiao Jun, Ding Dang (from Beijing), A' Tong (who later changed his name to Su Tong and became well known as a New Wave fiction writer), Yu Xiao-wei, and Ren Hui formed the backbone of the group. Han Dong's original intention in founding Tamen was the same as Bei Dao's in founding Jintian: to challenge the official publications. As in the West, it is through these small magazines and presses that the more innovative work is disseminated, and they offer space to young poets relatively free from the distractions and vanities of official success. Throughout mainland China most of the new poetry of importance since 1978 has initially appeared in these unofficial journals.

The group Them can be taken as marking the inception of contemporary modernist poetry in Nanjing, and within a few years of its founding the members' wider impact would become clearly evident. The year 1986 would prove to be a watershed. By then two loyal members of Them, Xiao Hai and Xiao Jun, had established national reputations. Dui-hua shijie (Dialogue Envoy) appeared on the streets of Nanjing, presenting a broad range of underground poets and offering a rival journal to Tamen. Although its editor, Zhou Jun, always hoped it would become the focus of a coherent group, it never succeeded in this ambition; despite its initial momentum, many came to feel that the journal was too indiscriminate in its editorial policies, and the more radical poets turned away. Nevertheless, Zhou Jun has been tireless in publishing and promoting Third Generation poets from Nanjing and elsewhere. In the same year, Shige bao (Poetry Press) in Hefei (Anhui Province) and Shenzhen qingnian bao (Shenzhen Youth Press) sponsored "An Exhibition of Modern Poetry Groups 1986," published in several consecutive issues, the first large-scale revelation of the new underground poetry in official journals. This exhibition not only made Them's poetry known to the public at large, but also stripped Beijing of its status as the sole center of modernist verse. Chengdu, Nanjing, and Shanghai all became rival centers of innovative poetic activity. A couple of years later, much of the work from these exhibitions was collected in Exploratory Works of the Third Generation Poets, published in Beijing in 1988, the first official book publication of the Third Generation poets.

LANGUAGE POETRY IN NANJING (1988-92). The radical wing of the Third Generation is epitomized by the work of the Suzhou poet Che Qian-zi. Che's "Story of the Crystal Vase," published in 1982, showed inklings of his greater interest in the play of language, which was pushed further in the sequence "My Sculpture," published the following year. Especially the third poem of this sequence, "Three Primary Colors," attracted considerable adverse criticism, because Che seemed wrapped up in the anarchic possibilities of language.

I, on a blank sheet of paper A blank sheet of paper - there's nothing With three crayons Each draws a line Draw three lines

Without a ruler The lines are crooked

An adult says (he has grown up): Red yellow blue Are three primary colors Three lines Stand for three roads

- I don't understand (What was it he said?) So sticking to what I like Draw three round circles

I want to draw the roundest circle

Here Che rejects the automatic metaphorization of poetry and insists on a childlike absorption in the very act of writing, striving for a sort of purity and satisfaction within the medium itself. This does not, however, prevent the poem from suggesting an allegory of the poet's effort to pursue his crooked way in opposition to the straight lines of conventionalized language use and all the social strictures this stands for. Although his concerns are more esthetic, Che's use of unadorned conversational language aligns him with Han Dong against the Misty Poetry.

As an indication of the larger situation within which these younger poets, including the Misty Poets, were working, it is worth taking a brief look at the sort of official reaction this seemingly innocent poem provoked. In Shikan (Poetry Journal) the older poet Gong Liu struggled to make sense of the poem.

"Three Primary Colors" sings of the soul of the younger generation. . . . "Blank paper" is their self-portrayal, and "three lines" represent three different paths in life. "Red" stands for revolution, "yellow" for degeneration, and "blue" for uneventfulness. "Crooked" means things are beyond one's control; "three circles" implies that no matter whether you engage in the revolution, become degenerate, or live a nondescript life, you cannot get out of these pitiful predetermined circles.(8)

However, Gong Liu quickly dismisses this reading, as well as the poem itself, for its hopeless obscurity or, worse, its malignant message. Initially, under such public pressure Che made limited concessions, and his more restrained efforts were much praised by the authorities. Nevertheless, Che could not bridle himself for long, and in the latter half of the 1980s he would rapidly push forward into realms of poetic possibility where even most younger poets have been unable to follow. While his critics complained because they could not readily reduce his poems to stable metaphoric readings, Che would develop a radically metonymic poetry with proliferating perspectives and no obvious coherence.

In association with Che, Lu Hui (later Yi Cun) and Zhou Ya-ping also began more radical experimentation. Initially, they too were more or less followers of the Misty Poets and also, in the case of Zhou, for a while were influenced by Them. But in 1986 appeared Zhou's "New City" and "Youth" (see appendix), expressing an adolescent rebelliousness whose exuberant irreverence and playfulness marked a distinctive new development and hinted at the direction his mature work would take. Around 1987, while both were students at Nanjing University, Che Qian-zi and Zhou Ya-ping joined forces to organize the Formalist Poetry Group, founded to consider the possibilities for a more radically innovative writing. At this time Huang Fan was embarking on related poetic experiments and soon became associated with the Formalist Group. In 1988 Che first proposed his concept of a language-centered poetry he called Original Type, and the following year they formed another group under this designation to put their ideas more rigorously into practice. In early 1991 Che and Zhou brought out the first issue of Yuanyang (Original, or Prototype), presenting an initial selection of their own new work. The following year the second issue offered a more substantial presentation, also including poetry by Yi Cun, Huang Fan, Hong Liu, and Xian Meng, along with a group manifesto and critical pieces.(9)

Compared with other Third Generation poets, the Original poets renounce the use of language as a tool and instead concentrate on exploring the literary potential within language itself. In most other Third Generation poetry, language is still transparent, is still the expression of everyday truths or pseudotruths; readability and tangibility are its main concerns, since it begins with a predetermined concept of poetry. However, the Original poets would rather consider "poetry" as a concept waiting to be defined through continual practice. Thus poetry evolves in process, and new practices are constantly being tried out. The Original poets are fascinated with the meanings generated out of the aural and visual relations between Chinese characters and word combinations. This requires a new and more active orientation toward the text on the part of the readers such that their own discoveries become part of the evolving definition of the concept poetry. In other Third Generation poetry, idea prevails over form and technique, but in Original poetry this is reversed. Han Dong once made the now-famous remark that "poetry begins and ends in language," but the full implications of this slogan have only been realized in practice by the Original poets.

The Original poets quickly explored a wide range of new possibilities. As usual, this was especially the case with Che Qian-zi, who precociously absorbs and generates a bewildering variety of new and old forms and techniques, ranging from classical-style lyrics to concrete poetry. A couple of stanzas from a long poem entitled "Chair" - Che refers to it as a "five-legged chair" - will give some indication of the radical advance made over work of just a few years earlier.

Countenance in the water, people in the water Big fiver flows through flesh, like light penetrating glass Carrying silt toward the lower reaches And boats, loaded with goods Mathematics, flowers of anti-allegory

Forging gold rings for nipples Pink human body. Jewelsmith The village detective raises donkey skins under lamplight

A paper horse treads the candy-counter, 11:20 Nipple, the eye of the candle sweltering, about to drop

Water is a recurring image in much of Che's work, which seems appropriate for this verse of swift-flowing transformations. Various images or associations will reappear like elusive threads to bind the myriad possibilities the poem allows. Che once called "Chair" a detective poem, and indeed the "village detective" periodically reappears, as do oblique suggestions of some crime; but whither it all tends is impossible to say. Clearly it is the poet-reader who is the detective pursuing a case without final resolution. Such poetry evokes both the anxiety of instability and the exhilaration of discovery. Perhaps echoing Baudelaire, these "flowers of anti-allegory" refuse to allow themselves to be reductively solved, and the mystery continues. Anti-allegory is a key term in the Original poets' manifesto, and their work is clearly an effort to salvage both the language and the reader from the severe deprivations both have suffered under the reign of Mao-speak.

The Originals adamantly resist more or less direct political reflection as a degradation of the poetic. Nevertheless, even if it is frequently indirect, satire is almost irresistible given the situation against which they are reacting, and in general Original poetry is notably humorous. Whereas Che tends toward the mischievously playful, the work of Zhou Ya-ping can be more pointed. In a characteristic piece entitled "University" (see appendix), from Big Machine (1990), there are recurring suggestions of phoniness and sterility which presumably might reflect Zhou's feelings about higher education. Yet, while the biting wit is evident enough, neither the target nor the position of the poet is clearly identifiable; indeed, both appear to be in constant motion, with the unnerving result that we cannot be certain whether the poet is aiming his barbs at them, at us, or at himself.

As has been often remarked, traditional Chinese poetry is notable for its paucity of long poems; so, one of the significant developments pursued by a number of Misty and Third Generation poets is the composition of extended poems or sequences, many of which adopt loose narrative or mythic structures. In recent years both Che Qian-zi and Zhou Ya-ping have worked almost exclusively in longer forms or sequences that are startling in their abandonment of predictable structures as well as in their extended musical and visual inventiveness and improvisation. At present, Che seems especially to favor serial poems in which the individual sections often vary markedly in both form and style. By placing such apparently incongruous sections together, Che further stretches the possibilities of connections and conjunctions between the widely dissimilar. Certain sequences, such as the remarkable "Cloth" poems (see appendix), cut across other sequences, with different sections written over many years appearing here and there, grouped with other poems or series.

Although Che is enormously prolific, only a small percentage of his work has seen print, and most of that in unofficial publications with limited circulation. While the general direction Che has taken will undoubtedly strike many readers of contemporary poetry as inevitable, despite the rapid literary transformations taking place in China recently, his work is too far out even for most of his fellow poets. Not surprisingly, Han Dong's work has enjoyed much greater popularity and influence, although few of his epigones can manage his touch, tending to fall into either easy cynicism or sentimentality. Particularly in their handling of language, Han Dong and Che Qian-zi seem to represent two antithetical reactions to the Misty Poets, but there has been an enormous range of other developments by younger poets that fall somewhere in-between. Unfortunately, judging from the translations presently available, the reader can hardly avoid the impression that there has been little going on in China aside from the early work of the Misty Poets, which, despite its seminal importance within the Chinese context, is simply not first-rate poetry. Yet this poetry is constantly recycled in various collections, while the more recent and more mature work of the Misty Poets, much less the great variety of work done by important Third Generation poets, goes largely untranslated and undiscussed. It is to be hoped that along with the current surge in translations of contemporary Chinese fiction, a more representative and interesting offering of contemporary poetry will eventually make itself available.(10)

National Chung Cheng University, Taiwan

1 Shinkan (Poetry Journal) was the premier poetry magazine in Communist China from 1957 to 1965 and represented the official esthetic inclination of those poets approved by the government, an inclination which manifested itself primarily in romantic eulogies and revolutionary battle songs in both free verse and ballad form. However, even these works were considered unacceptable by the ultraleftists during the Cultural Revolution, and the journal was suspended in 1965. It was revived in 1976 by the older poets, and because of their own recent experiences they initially took a liberal and benevolent attitude toward the early work of the Misty Poets; however, they soon realized that these younger poets threatened the prestige of their own work, and most turned against them.

2 The most useful selections of translations of early Misty Poetry can be found in Mists: New Poets from China (Hong Kong, Renditions, 1983) and A Splintered Mirror, tr. Donald Finkel (San Francisco, North Point, 1991). There are also individual volumes of poetry by Bei Dao, Yang Lian, Gu Cheng, and Duo Duo which include more recent work.

3 From Bei Dao, The August Sleepwalker, tr. Bonnie S. McDougall, New York, New Directions, 1990. I have modified the translation of the last poem by omitting an indefinite article; the character for "net" (wang) can be read as either a verb or a noun.

4 By the late 1980s, most of the major Misty Poets went into self-imposed exile, and after the events of June 1989, Jintian (Today) was revived as an exile journal based in Oslo, Norway. See Bei Dao, "The Purposes of the Magazine Today (Jintian)," Sulfur, 34 (1994). A selection of work from the revived Today can be found in Under-Sky Underground, eds. Henry Y. H. Zhao and John Cayley, London, Wellsweep, 1994.

5 Tr. John Minford with Sean Golden, Renditions, 19 & 20 (Spring & Autumn 1983). "Wild Goose Pagoda" is part of a larger poem cycle entitled Bell on the Frozen Lake.

6 While throughout the early 1980s the most innovative work was being done by poets, 1985 would see a veritable explosion of startling new fiction, mostly by previously unknown young writers. It has been noted that many of the most experimental and sardonic of these writers come from the Yangtze River valley, and this may reflect Han Dong's early influence; the more notable of these writers include Su Tong from Nanjing (who began as a poet closely associated with Han Dong), Yu Hua from Zhejiang, and Ge Fei from Shanghai. Other leading practitioners of New Wave fiction (xincao xiaoshuo) include Ah Cheng, Can Xue, Mo Yan, Han Shaogong, and Liu Heng. Quite a few of the recent films from mainland China that have gained international attention have been based on New Wave works, including Zhang Yi-mou's Red Sorghum (Mo Yan), Raise the Red Lantern (Su Tong), and Ju Dou (Liu Heng). In the past few years there has been something of a mini-explosion of translations of this fiction as well; good samplings can be found in The Lost Boat: Avant-garde Fiction from China, ed. Henry Zhao (London, Wellsweep, 1993), Running Wild, eds. David Der-wei Wang and Jeanne Tai (New York, Columbia University Press, 1994), and Chairman Mao Would Not Be Amused, ed. Howard Goldblatt (New York, Grove/Atlantic, 1995).

7 A number of different terms are current to designate this younger generation of poets, including "Newborn Generation" and "Post-Misty"; the latter is perhaps the most aptly descriptive, although we will usually prefer "Third Generation" simply because this is the most common usage among the Nanjing poets themselves. Little of this poetry has been translated, but a short selection of a number of major Post-Misty Poets can be found in Renditions 37 (1992).

8 Quoted in Michelle Yeh, Modern Chinese Poetry: Theory and Practice Since 1917, New Haven (Ct.), Yale University Press, 1991, p. 87.

9 This latter gathering, with an afterword by J. H. Prynne, has been translated as Original Language-Poetry Group and published as a special issue of Parataxis (Brighton, Eng.), 7 (1995).

10 Thanks must go to Zhen Zhen, Xu Yi, and Ma Ming-qian for their invaluable information and suggestions for this article.

JEFFREY TWITCHELL is an associate professor at National Chung Cheng University in Taiwan. From 1987 to 1992 he taught at Shandong Normal University and Nanjing University in mainland China. His publications have primarily been on modernist and contemporary poetry.

HUANG FAN works as an editor in Nanjing. Recently he has ventured into fiction writing, while remaining active as both an editor and a poet in the Nanjing literary scene.
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Author:Twitchell, Jeffrey; Huang Fan
Publication:World Literature Today
Date:Jan 1, 1997
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