Academic journal article Journal of Modern Literature in Chinese

The Born-Again Forest: A Preliminary Chapter in the Post-Misty Development of Avant-Garde Poetry in China

Academic journal article Journal of Modern Literature in Chinese

The Born-Again Forest: A Preliminary Chapter in the Post-Misty Development of Avant-Garde Poetry in China

Article excerpt

It comes as something of a surprise how little has been publicly said in China or elsewhere about the Born-Again Forest (Cisheng lin), the earliest of Sichuan's privately produced poetry journals (April, 1982; henceforth to be referred to as Born-Again). The works of fifteen poets are featured in Born-Again, of whom ten are Sichuan poets and five of the total are now prominent and prolific poets known throughout China and overseas--in itself a remarkable achievement. The latter five poets are Ouyang Jianghe, Zhai Yongming, Zhong Ming, Bai Hua and the then Guizhou-based poet-dissident Huang Xiang of The Enlightenment Society of Beijing Spring-renown (1978-1980). It is also somewhat surprising how little Bai Hua and Zhong Ming have had to say about the genesis of this journal. In the 1990s, both wrote officially published, lengthy autobiographical books dealing with developments in Sichuan poetry, focusing to some extent on events during the 1980s (Bai 1994; Zhong 1998).

The neglect of the gestational role of Born-Again in the development of post-Misty avant-garde poetry within China, and Sichuan in particular, is remarkable given recent literary discussions inside China concerning a North-South divide in contemporary avant-garde Chinese poetry, and claims that China's poetic center of gravity has moved southward from Beijing (Keller 2000; van Crevel 2001), the locus of Today magazine (Jintian) and related poets during and after that unofficial literary journal's brief existence (1979-1980).

In Zhong Ming's own words:

... At the time, I very much wanted to unite northern and southern poets by way of a mimeograph publication even more special than Today and The Rising Generation. I don't know why I then felt this was very important. I remember that Luo Gengye was responsible for contacting the Beijing poets, but don't know why he wasn't successful. I invited You Xiaosu, Guo Jian, Chen Jinke and Ouyang Jianghe to Sichuan Normal University to discuss putting out a publication. Before this, Wang Daorong had put out Wild Grass (Yecao) in Chengdu. We had never met, only corresponded a few times. But later included his poetry in The Born-Again Forest. With no northern poets participating, I found myself considering the issue of southern poetry. I contacted Guizhou by way of Li Jinxi, a female classmate in the Chinese Department who wrote poetry. From Tang Yaping she got the addresses of Huang Xiang, Ya Mo (Wu Lixian) and Zhang Jiayan. And the poetry manuscripts of Chongqing's Bai Hua and Guangzhou's Wu Shaoqiu, I got from Peng Yilin who was at the time still studying at Sichuan Normal. Zhang Jiayan was the main editor of The Rising Generation (2), and through him poets in Hunan and Hubei also mailed in their work.....(Zhong 1997: 67)

Here we get the very barest of bones with regard to the genesis of the journal, and this is tinted by a seeming reticence about certain very important factors. For example: Is it indeed possible that Zhong would have "forgotten," or had no apparent interest in, important issues such as why the northern poets did not wish to participate, and why no work of Hubei and Hunan poets was chosen for publication? Aside from Huang Xiang and Wu Shaoqiu, the three other out-of-province poets were Liang Fuqing and Chen Yuanling, both of Guizhou, and Lu Lu (3) (Lu Guoxin) of Xining in Qinghai, but formerly a classmate of Zhong's in Sichuan. Zhong must have exercised his editorial judgment, of course, but he does not wish to comment on the subject, just as he chooses not to talk of any of the poetry published in the journal, with the exception of Bai Hua's most famous poem, "Expression" (Biaoda), which was first published in Born-Again (Zhong 1998: 677-680). Bai Hua himself in "The Left Side--Lyric poets of the Mao Zedong Era" (Zuobian--Mao Zedong shidaide shuqing shiren), frequently refers to this poem (4), but not once to its publication in Born-Again, except to say that his poetry was supplied to Zhong by Wu Shaoqiu (Bai 1994: Part 2, chapter 4, p. …

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