Although his profession as a writer and a college professor makes Yi Sha an intellectual in his own right, his sympathies lie firmly with the less advantaged people of China, as can be seen from the poems included in this section (indeed, the dichotomy that has developed in contemporary poetry discourse between intellectuals and the “popular” or folk is a false one, given China’s long intellectual tradition of showing concern for the common people in literature). His poetry is predominantly narrative in style, relating with brevity and wit the kinds of everyday stories and detailed observations that are left out of most public records of contemporary life. As Tang Xin reports, the characters in his poems include criminals, prostitutes, traitors, punks, and drunks; no person or topic is omitted for being too lowly or crass. Maghiel van Crevel suggests that a quality of rejectiveness can be detected in Yi Sha’s poetic attitude of “cynicism, disbelief, negation, demystification, desecration, deconstruction, aggression, and destruction,” but readers could equally see the stories he tells as evidence of a more receptive or broadminded approach to poetry and its capacity to accommodate humanity in all shapes and sizes.
The feature also includes Inwood’s translation of six poems by Yi Sha.
Bonus point: last time I saw Heather, she had the same haircut as Yi Sha does in the picture above.