Saturday, October 4, 2008

Simmons International Chinese Poetry Festival

I attended one of the sessions today. One thing I found interesting was that, given China's morality crisis and the lack of a dominant belief system, some poets proposed having poetry as a replacement for religion. Poetry can purify the soul, they argued, and popularizing poetry education might improve morality. Perhaps I'm too cynical - I doubt that's a feasible solution. It seems we are getting fewer, not more, readers of poetry these days. And those who have engaged in the recent scandals are most unlikely poetry readers.


R. Joy Ricci said...

I have just spent September in Fujian Province, China, writing poetry which flows from the everyday life of the visitor. Poetry, apart from the products of a few weird contemporary poets, is a spiritual thing - particularly Chinese poetry. Unfortunately, modern Chinese poetry is mostly the same as poetry anywhere in the Western world and holds little interest for me. Classical - pre 1911 - Chinese poetry is a breathe of fresh air to modern readers. Perhaps third millennium Chinese poets would do well to read their own classical poetry before trying the mimic Western style and content.

Xujun Eberlein said...

Glad to hear that we have something in common - I, too, am a huge fan of Ancient Chinese poetry but don't have much feeling for its contemporary counterpart.

Afaa M. Weaver said...

The considerable weight of many centuries of ancient poetry weighs on the modern as much as it inspires the same among Chinese poets writing today. In time what is now considered ancient will become more so. Chinese poets are writing out of their own cultural context, and I might add that every poet does. Western poetry is not a monolith, so to say contemporary poets are writing like Western poets is to cast a wide and nonexistent net. Specifics beg. The British tradition of formalist poetry differs from the ancient Roman, which differs from the ancient Greek, and so on. As for readership of poetry vs. fiction, I would say the vast majority of fiction in America goes unread or poorly read. People do not have time. I will not speak to fiction in China, which I do not know. Given the onlsaught of information in our technological globe, as some would characterize it, we are hard pressed to "read" a television screen with messages going in opposite directions, not to mention a print newspaper. We have an explosion of text, and some people find poetry refreshing in that context, if I might play on the sound for a moment. To give American and Chinese poets a space to be with and talk with each other bodes well for poetry, the literary art that is "first" in literary innovation. I admire the novel as a literary art, but when you speak of mimicking Western literary ways, what could possibly be more imitative than to take up the mantel of "novelist" in this world of ours? Having said that, I admire anyone who tries to write anything creative, as much of the rest of the world considers us all weird, no matter the genre. Afaa M. Weaver