Inspire Me, Please

| 8/23/2011 7:33:23 PM

Tiananmen SquareModern literature is uninspired, complains poet Bei Dao, whose acclaimed poems helped fuel China’s pro-democracy movement in the ’70s and ’80s and led to his exile for decades. He blames the literary decline on mindless consumerism and base entertainment, reports China Daily/Xinhua in an interview with the poet:

[Bei Dao] pointed out that previously a clear-cut division existed between “vulgar” culture and “serious” culture, but today vulgar culture is swallowing serious culture like a black hole, and unfortunately, many writers are forced to lower their writing standards to cater to vulgarity.

To overcome this debasement, he calls for a new generation of smart readers to reignite the art. And the place to start is the poetry classroom: “Modern education kills young people’s imagination and creativity, so we need to promote poetry instruction to sharpen their awareness of literature,” says Bei Dao, who teaches at the Chinese University of Hong Kong. Critics, it seems, are the key to our literary future.

Bei Dao’s most recent book is The Rose of Time: New and Selected Poems (2010). Best known for his 1976 poem “The Answer,” written in response to an early Tiananmen Square protest, the meditative poet continues to write long-form poetry, saying, “I’ve always believed my best poem should be the next one.”

Source: China Daily 

Image by DoNotLick, licensed under Creative Commons. 

9/5/2011 11:41:18 AM

I agree with Mr. Dao that, in general (i.e., in mainstream), literary quality is appalling shallow, but it has much to do with the book news media -- especially reviewers who do not read and therefore do not report on new, significant literature. I invite Mr. Dao to attend the &NOW Conference of Innovative Writing in San Diego this October. I likewise invite the Utne Reader to do the same. You'll discover hundreds of important writers, editors, educators and publishers who are breaking literary, socio-political and cultural grounds. The festival grows larger each year, as a healthy antidote to the AWP Conference. This year there were over 300 Debra Di Blasi Publisher, Jaded Ibis Press

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