300 Modern & Contemporary Chinese Poems

Collections of the “three hundred best poems” have been popular in China ever since the Three Hundred Tang Poems 唐詩三百首, compiled in 1763 by Sun Zhu 孫洙 (a/k/a Hengtang Tuishi 衡塘退士, “the Retiree from Hengtang”), and that anthology was probably riffing off the Shijing 詩經 (The Classic of Poetry), whose “three hundred poems” were supposed to have been culled by Confucius.

Now, as reported on Martin Winter’s blog some time ago, poet Zhao Siyun 赵思运 has put together his list of the best poems of the twentieth century (or, from 1917 – 2011), the Three Hundred Chinese New Poems 中国新诗 300 首. In its breadth it’s not a bad representation of the most significant modern and contemporary Chinese poets; it’s mainland-heavy, at the expense of Hongkong, Macau, and Taiwanese poets, but that’s no surprise. Still, with 236 poets by my count, it’s easy to be broadly representative, but of course it’s limited to only a few poems by each poet, leaving a lot to be desired by way of depth (as a point of comparison, I count 77 in the Three Hundred Tang Poems, with some poets having as many as thirty pieces). Here’s the entry, for instance, for Xi Chuan, who at three poems is about as broadly represented as it gets, though only with early poems:

  • 西川 (1963— )/ 在哈尔盖仰望星空 / 停电 / 虚构的家谱

For a sense of whether these poems are representative of Xi Chuan’s work, know that he and I decided to include only one, “Power Outage,” in Notes on the Mosquito.

2 thoughts on “300 Modern & Contemporary Chinese Poems

  1. Thanks for the reference. Your book sounds great, from the Bookslut review. Notes from the Mosquito as a title reminds me of Bei Dao’s Harvest, don’t know if that is intended. An anthology of poetry from the last 20 years would be more meaningful than starting with Lu Xun, maybe. There is 张新颖’s fine anthology from 2000, incl. 2 interesting poems by Zhou Zuoren. 张新颖 has close to 100 poets and up to 10 poems from each of them. If you cover the last 30 or 40 years, it would have to be rather thick to include at least ten or twenty examples each from 食指、芒克、多多、楊煉、于堅、韓東、西川、伊沙等等,to mention only a few older living males. My favorite contemporary anthology is 黃梁’s大陸先鋒詩叢. 10 volumes came out in 1998/1999, another 10 came out in 2009, incl. 唯色 and 郑小琼(鄭小瓊), and a few not-so-well-known poets like 庞培(born 1962). Huang Liang is operating in Taiwan, but he still had some trouble with Mainland authorities about meeting and publishing Woeser 唯色. The 300 modern poems anthology includes the blind folk singer 周云蓬, who is also in the 10/19/12 New Statesman issue curated by Ai Weiwei, along with 左小祖咒. On the other hand, compiler 野鬼 (赵思云 is not the editor, see http://blog.sina.com.cn/iptrc1995) told me they could never include 李勤安‘s (http://blog.sina.com.cn/s/blog_68d1119901018t1h.html), because with books you have to worry much more about (self-)censorship than online. I think When Martial Law Was Lifted 解嚴以後 is a landmark poem in any sense. I like Xi Chuan’s poetry very much, but on the whole now and then it needs to be complemented with something more explicitly political. Actually you could say the same about 夏宇, maybe. Anyway, 李勤安 still sounds relevant in Taiwan today, according to some of my friends there. On the Mainland, the role(s) of poetry are more acutely questioned, also by 赵思云and 野鬼, for example. See Diablo 野鬼’s “非诗” (http://blog.sina.com.cn/s/blog_5f9f84d80102e03i.html) and Zhao Siyun’s Lili’s Story (http://blog.sina.com.cn/s/blog_68d111990101afbr.html).

  2. Pingback: 再说中国新诗 300 首 (中英对照) 300 Modern and Contemporary Chinese Poems (Chinese-English) « 中国大好き

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