Thirteen Yunnan Poets

A Selection of Poems by Thirteen Yunnan Poets (云南十三人诗选), was officially launched in early January at Loft Jindian 1919 in Kunming. It brought together a lively and highly-charged gathering of poets, including veteran poet Yu Jian who was among the special guests handing out humorous awards to each of the young poets.

The thirteen poets are: Shang Zhengcan (尚正灿), Li Xuliang (李续亮), He Wenzhao (和文朝 )Yang Xiaowen (杨晓雯), Shi Yuanxi (施袁喜), Wu Yunli (吴云粒), Zhang Xiangwu (张翔 ), Fu Ziwen (伏自文), Lu Wei (陆薇) Yang Qing (杨青), Hei Niao (黑鸟) Fengren Yuma (蜂人与马) and Ye Feng (野风).

This collection of over one hundred poems has all the big themes-- love, longing, separation, the intimacy of human relationships, the fragility of life, the solace of nature. They are also characterized by rich metaphor, startling imagery, and a compelling sense of immediacy.   

Perhaps the hardest thing for any poet is to include the reader in every verse, a line that refreshes and reinvents our world. Dan Weber, a visual poet and multimedia artist writes that ‘the power that poetry has is the judo throw of a paradigm shift.’ If that shift is done with grace, insight and poise, the poem can wake us up and allow us to see the world with fresh eyes. Whether or not a poem works or whether you 'get it' is not easy to pin down, but there can be no higher praise for the poet if you’re struck by the language and syntax and want to say: 'Now this is a poet.'

A few memorable lines from this collection have stuck. Take for example the following line from Yang Xiaowen’s 'Moments of Forgetfulness' –'on a spring day, I had to confront the premature death of a flower.' (p.127), or the following line from Hei Niao’s ‘My Happiness’—'Let the errors of my childhood be shown again like a film' (p.216).     

The shorter poems (less than one page) are much more assured in the directions and more skillfully executed than some of the longer poems. One of my favorite shorter poems in collection is called ‘Alleyway' (胡同)  by Hei Niao:

An alleyway at three o’clock in the morning
I brace myself in the darkness
A man walking in my direction also braces himself
A scary-looking alleyway
We brush past each other.
At that moment when the robbers start their day
A lonely man
Conceals all the weapons of the world. 
(p. 209)



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