Letter from Beijing: New Poets and New Trends in China
From Ming Di
Chinese New Poetry started as a literary revolution a hundred years ago influenced by the new poetry that appeared in Poetry magazine in Chicago. Hu Shi was a student in the US from 1910 to 1917. He wrote the first Chinese free verse in vernacular speech in July 1916, published “A Tentative Proposal of Literary Reform” in the New Youth journal in China in January 1917, followed by eight free verses in the same journal the next month, and returned to China in July to promote the New Poetry. This literary revolution was preceded by the downfall of the Qing dynasty in 1911 and reinforced by the May Fourth Cultural Movement in 1919. Poets in China today are celebrating 2017 as the one hundred year anniversary of New Poetry. But how do we re-evaluate Hu Shi and the other earlier modernists in China? How do we re-evaluate our New Poetry tradition? There are still over two million people in China writing the rhymed metrical verses. Many people have criticized the free verse as “degrading the classical tradition”, “not an artistic form [because it is] without meters and rhymes”, despite the fact that the avant garde poetry has moved forward and split into many different schools and trends.
Foreign influence vs revival of Chinese tradition
While some poets continue to integrate foreign influences in their writing, others try to revitalize traditional elements. “Seabirds” by Xi Du (西渡 1967-) is a nice example of the new efforts. The poem sounds very classical but it’s in contemporary free verse:
by Xi Du
[Continue at Poetry International]