Giving Their Word: Conversations with Contemporary Poets

By Steven Ratiner | Go to book overview
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12
—RECLAIMING THE WORD
Bei
Dao

BEI DAO IS THE PEN NAME of China's foremost dissident poet, Zhao Zhenkai. Reading about his work, one is hard-pressed not to conjure up an almost-mythic image of the man. He is hailed internationally, in both literary journals and the popular press, as one of China's most extraordinary young talents and as a driving force behind the 1976–1979 Democracy Movement. It is said that literally millions of readers in his homeland know his poem “The Answer” by heart. Any of the young students massed in Tiananmen Square in 1989, struggling to bring democratic reforms to their nation, could have recited it as easily as any member of the Woodstock generation could muster the lyrics to Bob Dylan's “Blowin' in the Wind. Bei Dao currently lives in exile in Denmark, but the Chinese government refuses to allow his wife and young daughter to join him. The tacit choice he was given: come home and be silenced or live apart from everyone and everything he loved. The precepts of conscience are not without their

-221-

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