Chen Cao started writing during his college years in the early eighties, a period sometimes described as a “golden” one for modern Chinese poetry. After the end of the Cultural Revolution in 1976, a considerable number of young people burst confidently onto the literary scene. But Chen is more of an accidental poet. While majoring in English and American literature, he studied with the well-known poet and critic Bian Zhilin (1910-2000), and handed in several pieces written as a sort of homework. With Bian’s encouragement, Chen had them published in Poetry and other magazines. In the meantime, he started translating T. S. Eliot and other Western poets, which added to his visibility in the circle. While doing research for his thesis on Eliot, he fell in love with a young librarian named Ling in Beijing Library. Some of his early poems turned out to be idealistic in spite of the modernist influence.
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