Old Snow: Poems

Old Snow: Poems

Old Snow: Poems

Old Snow: Poems

Synopsis

Most of the poems in Bei Dao's new collection Old Snow were written while the author was aboard. After obtaining a passport in 1985, he was finally able to accept the many invitations he had received to take part in poetry reading in Europe and America over the next few years, often accompanied by his wife, the painter Shao Fei, and their daughter, Tiantian.

Excerpt

Most of the poems in Bei Dao's new collection Old Snow were written while the author was abroad. After obtaining a passport in 1985, he was finally able to accept the many invitations he had received to take part in poetry readings in Europe and America over the next few years, often accompanied by his wife, the painter Shao Fei, and their daughter, Tiantian. After a year in Durham, England, followed by a tour of the United States, he returned to China in late 1988 and again became actively involved in the movement for democracy and human rights. In the spring of 1989 he went to Berlin for a six-month visit, which was to be followed by three months in Oslo where he would once more be joined by his wife and child. He was in Berlin when the massacre of June 4 took place, and has remained abroad, alone, since that time. The poems in this collection reflect his initial forebodings, his overwhelming grief at the time of the massacre, and his anguish as the separation from his family was prolonged.

The eight poems in Part I were written between late 1988 and early June 1989. During the 1980s, Bei Dao found himself unable to join in the general optimism about the 'emancipation of the mind' and 'opening to the West' proclaimed by the Chinese authorities and welcomed by their friends abroad; he was too acutely aware of the continuing repressiveness of the régime's campaigns against 'spiritual pollution' and 'bourgeois liberalization'. Even as he took part in organizing the famous February 1989 letter of protest against the imprisonment of the democratic activist Wei Jingsheng, he expressed, in poems like 'The Bell', his fears that the movement would meet with bloody suppression. In 'Requiem', however, written a few days after June 4, there is a sense of faith and hope: it was hard for anyone in those days not to believe that this brutal use of terror must soon bring about the downfall of its perpetrators.

In September Bei Dao moved to Oslo, where he joined his old friend and collaborator Chen Maiping who had been living there . . .

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