In an article titled “Two Poets’ War of Words Shows China’s Yawning Generation Gap,” Sixth Tone reports on a bit of bickering between elder statesman of Chinese poetry Shi Zhi 食指 (Guo Lusheng 郭路生) and relatively recent arrivée Yu Xiuhua 余秀华:
“I watched a video in which Yu Xiuhua said her ideal afternoon would involve drinking a coffee, reading a book, chatting a bit, and having a screw,” Guo said. “How can a poet not spend a moment considering the fate of humanity, or thinking about the future of her nation? How can a poet from the countryside not speak of the miseries of rural life or their dreams of prosperity? How can they just forget everything?” The elder poet concluded that Yu was abandoning her obligation to history, saying, “If we do not treat history responsibly, we will find ourselves mocked by it.”
Yu soon struck back on her social media accounts. “Shizhi said I don’t mention the miseries of rural life,” she wrote, “but I’ve never felt rural life was all that miserable.” Then a few days later, she added: “My fault lies in being on the bottom rung of society and yet still insisting on holding my head up high. My other fault lies in my inability to expose those idiots who think they’re superior to me.”
Fortunately, there is still room for nuance in the arena of Chinese poets:
In the aftermath of this latest controversy, the poet Liao Weitang [廖偉棠] rallied to Yu’s defense, noting that the misery of rural life permeates every detail of her work. “Only she doesn’t weep over it or make accusations; she doesn’t talk about how tragic her own life is,” Liao said. “Rather, she is extremely stubborn, and she uses language to master her own world.”
Click on the image above for the full report.