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Let me offer two considerations. What do you do with things that are said off the record aside from the fact that they affect your perceptions anyway? Yes, and this takes me to a second point. I am a returning visitor who has benefited for many years from the hospitality and generosity of Chinese poets and scholars, male and female alike, through books, journals, stories, directions, invitations, connections, and conversation.

Of course, to them a strangely amorphous designation , a foreign researcher and translator also presents a channel for outward mobility, meaning foreign recognition—and hence, increased domestic recognition—and translation of their work in various ways. Be that as it may, I would not be able to pursue my interest in contemporary Chinese poetry and its milieu very effectively without their help, and I think that most of the time, what drives them to help me is a shared obsession rather than self-interest.

To return to the issue of complicity, the loyalty that is fundamental to fieldwork relations is of an ambiguous kind, especially if the fieldwork involves unpleasant or disturbing situations—which get short shrift in idealizing portrayals of ethnography. To make this explicit is the least we can do, and sometimes the most. What it means to do fieldwork on the Chinese poetry scene is a question that has accompanied me since my doctoral research. Put simply, I had come to a project on Duoduo not out of a terribly sinological motivation, because I wanted to engage with his oeuvre as a representation of Chinese culture or some such thing, but because I was into poetry and foreign languages and translation.

It was going to be totally textual research—basically reading a bunch of poems and then writing a book about it—which I could have done at a desk in a library. Except that at the time, libraries outside China had next to nothing by or on Duoduo or on contemporary poetry at large, so I had to go find this stuff. One of those who commented on a draft version of this essay, a specialist of Dutch and European literature and culture, called it a poetry industry. I did read those poems and write about them, but that was part two of a book whose unplanned part one turned out to be about the poetry scene.

From then on, for me, it has always been about text and context and metatext, and their interactions. About, say, the dynamics of publishing and polemicizing or images of poethood as much as about rhythm and metaphor. I had established a tangential connection with the poetry scene when making an anthology of Dutch poetry in Chinese together with Ma Gaoming, during my time as an exchange student at pku in , and the summer of was my second time in China and my first foray into fieldwork.

Over the years, I have sampled the landscape around literary studies in the general direction of anthropology and the sociology of culture, and worked my way from intuition and improvisation to a conscious if basic acquaintance with ethnography. There are plenty of issues swirling around this sort of research, in methodology, ethics, and positionality—meaning, not just where you stand but where you come from, and not just how you think about yourself but how you are viewed and positioned in the social context of your work.

By contrast with the proverbial lack-of-access problem, for this case and for similar cases across disciplinary and regional specializations, we might speak of hyper-access, where the researcher is sought out by the people they study as much as the other way around, and sometimes given more access than local researchers—of which the local researchers are keenly aware. When I visit poet Ya Mo in Guiyang in May , the first thing I see when we enter his studio is a whiteboard with six talking points for our conversation.

The handwriting that says I would love to visit is definitely mine, and he chides me for having taken twenty-five years to show up. Of course, even if—or precisely because—the researcher has hyper-access, they run the risk of being manipulated by the people they study. Or, to return to gender and sexism and machismo and misogyny and zoom in on what they mean for fieldwork: Still, all else being equal, which is of course a bizarre way of putting it, how does the gender of the researcher affect this kind of work in this kind of environment?

What do women scholars and translators have to put up with? Where are they excluded and what are the assumptions underlying instances of inclusion? Short of more ambitious interventions, one thing that might work is pinning up some of the stuff in my fieldnotes right away, for all to see. Like getting sucked in and letting it happen, but also feeling compelled, and motivated, to talk back —which is what the humanities and the social sciences are all about, in the field as at our desks. With plenty of attention to individual poems and oeuvres, as well as to the intricacies of the poetry scene.

Snapshots, each suggesting that the image continues outside the frame. Numbered for pace to mirror the breathlessness of the poetry scene, episodic like the experience they mediate, cumulative yet rearrangable and coherent but messy. Not from inside some Orientalist explorer fantasy, but because as globalized as we may hope or fear to be, physical proximity and distance to the things we study continue to matter.

As do the dynamics between lingual and cultural selves and others, duly relativized in cognizance of the diversity and the fluidity of where we come from, what we do, and who we are as scholars. As I read through my fieldnotes, it struck me that what I should have started calling the diy tradition in Chinese poetry many years ago might work well as a base camp.

Many of the stories start there, even if they play out elsewhere. I end with a coda on being in and out. The Zhengzhou unofficial journals exhibition curated by Shizhongren.

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So there were presentations in Zhengzhou, and there was a communique, and there were opportunities to eat, drink, and be merry. Not as a joke, but as a serious advertising slogan, found in high-speed train cars among other places. In fact, it would be perfect for the Leisure Gardens. On our third day in Zhengzhou, there was a doubtless expensive, earsplitting wedding party with professional mcs and all manner of technically enhanced frills, inside the dining hall where we were trying to have our serene literati lunch. By a stark contrast that is typical of the metropolitan China experience these days, we had just come from a room full of rare and influential unofficial poetry journals, in print, with no mcs.

The exhibition was curated by Shizhongren, who is foremost among a handful of renowned collectors and documentalists of the poetry scene. Changyang , February 16, The final stretch is above-ground, with farmland on the left and a gleaming, newly built extension of the village on the right, whose empty parking lots will soon fill up.

Changyang has not moved, but the world around it has. It is now cut in two by a four-lane freeway that is enthusiastically used by truckers who appear oblivious to speed limits and the admittedly faded signs that mark pedestrian crossings. Getting to the other side takes a certain stoicism. Shizhongren, who has come to meet me at the light rail station, can do it while smoking and working his phone. The notion of the unofficial usually refers to institutional matters, such as publications, events, and groups with varying degrees of organization.

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The ground floor is filled with farm tools and machinery—the family own some land, which they let out on lease—and mountains of torn-up snail mail and courier packaging. But he continues to travel, to visit other collectors, private donors and sellers, and to curate exhibitions at poetry events.

And, in recent years, to conduct video interviews with poets. It is unlikely that public screenings of the documentaries he plans to make will be tolerated any time soon, but there will be plenty of interest from private audiences. To date, he has filmed no fewer than seventy poets. One of the more politicized local poetry traditions, the Guizhou posse claim an underground history predating that of Today , with Huang Xiang, now in exile in the US, as its cultish figurehead.

He is a man with a plan. And he works across generations and persuasions, as is apparent when I visit him again a couple months later and we are joined by Du Sishang, a poet who is some sort of inspector in the military and whose chauffeured army jeep, with a license plate that impressively has zeros only, picks me up from the light rail station. But Shizhongren knows them all. The goods are on the second floor, in four deep, parallel library-like rooms toward the back of the house, with a large sitting area in front.

The collection is incredibly rich, containing countless journals, individual collections, multiple-author anthologies, scholarship, and more. Amazingly, the Archive can probably lay claim to a semblance of completeness, meaning that it has most if not all of the journals that have truly mattered in the period from the late s to the present day, and a book collection to match. It is, quite simply, invaluable. Shizhongren at the Archive of Chinese Poetry.

Photograph by Maghiel van Crevel. And I am worried. He is in the process of digitizing the material, but it is unclear if and when and where the files are going to be accessible. Winter is cold and dry in Changyang, but summer is hot and humid. I see the specter of mildew, of a fire, of high-cultural burglary, for some of the journals are now worth a lot of money. In the late s and the s, the avant-garde poets and the unofficial journals were at the cutting edge of a tectonic shift in literature and art.

But even though just about everybody who is anybody in contemporary Chinese poetry has emerged through the unofficial circuit, this was given little space in official literary historiography until around the year , and it continues to be politically sensitive, as is apparent from textbooks among other things. These days, some university libraries and the National Library are finally taking an interest, and they need people like Shizhongren.

Notably, aside from hunting for journals, Shizhongren also makes poetry collections, together with his wife Chen Xia. Some of these books list the Archive as their publisher. Many appear in an open-ended series of small volumes called 60 Poems by So-and-So whose back cover says they are published by a Hong Kong company called the Category Press, whatever this information may mean, or not mean, in practice. The couple have been doing this since and claim to have produced a mind-blowing 1, volumes, which is roughly one every three to four days on average, if we allow for the occasional holiday or bout of flu.

This includes both those whose poetry would be censored—books are monitored much more closely than journal contributions—and those without the money to publish. Official publication usually requires financial investment on the part of the author beyond the cost of production and distribution, and prices are steep. That the poets in question want a book even though they can and do publish online more or less for free is because print publication of individual collections remains an important status symbol. In sum, Shizhongren is unhappy with political and financial obstacles to poetry entering the public realm on paper, and is using his position to mitigate the situation.

In the ecosystem of Chinese poetry, this makes perfect sense. It is not just in China that someone can write for a lifetime and not get published. And of course, varieties of unofficial publishing happen in places other than China as well. So let me be real scientific about this and observe that proportionate to population size, the rate at which the Archive brings out the 60 Poems volumes would equal roughly one per year in my native Holland.

Second, and this is the crux of the matter, this is not just because Shizhongren and Chen Xia are workaholics. Rather, the explanation lies in the power of poetry as a meme in Chinese cultural tradition that remains operational today. Rent from the family land enables Shizhongren to dedicate his life to documenting the avant-garde.

He is the most professional and influential poetry collector, but by no means the only one. And there are many other people in China who live for poetry in one way or another and turn poetry into a way of life—by writing, by publishing, by activism, by identifying as poets. Some can afford to because they are rich, or because they are sponsored by someone who is rich. Or because life in China can still be cheap.

Fan Si leaving traces of trash in all-under-heaven. Photograph by Ting Yue. Puge , May , Faxing, too, lives for poetry, but he also holds down a daytime job as accountant in a factory in this village in the Daliang mountains of southern Sichuan. The end of the month is when he is busiest, and when he gets off from the morning shift and finds me at the bus station I have come from Xichang and am waiting outside the gate , he is quite literally running.

He grabs my forearm and rarely lets go until we reach his family home, on an uphill alley just off the main street, where three generations live under one roof. A driven, energetic person, he explains that he has been displeased with a slow commute to work on foot, ever since the new party secretary banished motorbikes from the village. I will be staying in a guesthouse down the road, but he informs me in no uncertain terms that I am to have every single one of my meals here, with the family—Faxing and his wife Deng Zhixiu, their two sons and his parents—at the low stone table in the courtyard, from breakfast to evening snacks.

And so it goes. Faxing is a figure of some repute, in Sichuan and beyond, to which romantic visions of a Wild Poet in the Distant Mountains contribute, combinable as they are with both ancient Chinese lore and the Western romanticism that has fallen on such fertile ground in China. To him poetry is a faith, rooted in its local environment and connected to local traditions but no less compatible for that with cosmopolitan modernities. It is hard to get a word in edgewise, but his warmth and his narrative energy make that mostly unnecessary.

And when I do ask questions, he listens and responds. Faxing was born and bred in Puge and has lived here all his life, except in —, when he trained as an accountant in Xichang, where he got into poetry after attending a lecture by Zhou Lunyou at the municipal Culture Palace.

And while poetry is a city thing in China, he is not about to leave his native place. I had heard of him for some time, and was finally put on his trail, so to speak, in March of this year during a visit to Chengdu. There, Tao Chun and other poets associated with a journal called Being who have stuck together for over twenty years, with the publications to show for it, urge me to get in touch with him. The way they talk about Faxing makes him look like the memory of the Sichuan poetry scene, with a rich collection of journals which I get to see on the second night of my visit , correspondence and other poetry materials.

The journal he runs, Independence , has a nationwide scope but privileges his native province, and it is one of the longest-running unofficial publications. Starting from , close to thirty issues have appeared, each the size of a big book. Over time, the trend has been toward physically bigger publications. And Independence is not just huge, it has also steadily kept going for almost twenty years.

Meng Yifei, whose involvement in an unofficial journal reportedly led to pressure to leave his hometown in the Guizhou mountains many years ago, says that Faxing, who is not rich, sent him money when he was broke. Zheng Xiaoqiong recalls how at some point in the early s, when she was a migrant worker in a Dongguan sweatshop and wanted to turn herself into a writer, she wrote to Faxing after coming across Independence —and he sent her a stack of poetry books and journals along with his reply, which she says helped tip the scales toward poetry over fiction as her genre of choice.

Faxing sees Independence not as his personal playground but as a platform for supporting poetry, as a channel for passing on knowledge, as part of a tradition in the literal sense. So as editor, he casts his net wide. On that note, while Shizhongren has begun to digitize his material and Faxing emails and apps word files of Independence to all and sundry, both feel that print journals are the real thing.

Overall, after a dip from circa to circa , when it looked like the web was taking over, [21] unofficial journals continue to appear on paper, and they are thriving. To do their documenting, both Shizhongren and Faxing do more than collecting. Shizhongren publishes the 60 Poems series. Otherwise, while he is among the most knowledgeable people on the poetry scene and an opinionated person, he does not speak out.

He writes no books or articles or columns, and what little publicity there is about the Archive is low-key. Maybe it comes with the territory of doing it all, and not taking sides in tussles and battles on the poetry scene. Zhai Yongming, early s. From the cover of Poems by Zhai Yongming. Original painting by He Duoling. Faxing, then, is a poetry historian from among the people. I meet Hu during my visit to Chengdu, after a talk I give in the White Nights, a bar and cultural hub with close ties to avant-garde poetry and the Chengdu fine arts scene.

It seats several hundred now and is posh in a welcoming way, and hard to picture as the tiny space with a counter, a few tables and chairs, and a couple of bookshelves I remember from when it opened in Hu gives me several issues of Meta Writing , a journal he edits, and an anthology of which he is the executive editor, called Prelude to Power: From Haizi to Ma Yan , an anthology of poetry by authors who died by suicide or whose death has been associated with suicide in the popular imagination, with an extensive introduction.

Poetry historians from among the people, poetry scholars from among the people, poetry anthologies by province, suicide, and zodiac sign. And I could go on. Shenzhen , May 21, This sort of thing keeps happening—hospitality, heroism, hyper-access, whatever, and the ways in which the dots connect by themselves. Having just arrived in Shenzhen, I send Fang Xianhai, who teaches painting at the Chinese Academy of Arts in Hangzhou, an sms , to introduce myself and ask about the Black Whistle Poetry Publication Plan, an operation he runs that I learnt about in the fall of in Beijing, after a screening in a seriously hard-to-find basement bar of Bridges Burned , a movie by Wang Shenghua about poet Xiao Zhao, whose Black Whistle poetry collection of the same name is graced by a picture of the poet wearing handcuffs, for which—get this—the publisher has carefully worked two tiny steel snaplinks into the front cover of the book, so the reader can personally choose to leave him dancing in shackles or uncuff him, which feat of formatting may have something to do with the fact that Xiao Zhao killed himself and with a particular type of diy publishing that this paragraph had promised to be about.

There are no full stops. I send Fang Xianhai an sms to ask about Black Whistle, and find out that he is also in Shenzhen, for the Tomorrow music festival. We meet two hours later. He has directed me to the Old Heaven bookstore in the oct-loft creative space, a former factory district like in Beijing. Never Closed actually never closes. One of its outlets has tiny rooms with a spartan desk and a single bed for rent, with cloth curtains for doors, where people spend pre-deadline nights or maybe just make themselves unfindable.

He is suave and forthcoming, and so is Lu Tao, whom Fang calls over to join us. Lu does the Black Whistle book designs and is also here for the festival. While Fang answers my questions, Lu takes one of those lift-camera-up-high-without-looking-at-lens, drunken-angle pictures of me scribbling away, and posts it on WeChat. I see the fear that my notes will be legible to whoever takes the trouble to zoom in confirmed and keep quiet about it.

They tell me Black Whistle has been making books since The name was inspired by a bribery scandal involving soccer referees. Black Whistle has published nine poetry collections to date. Seven are by Chinese poets: Charles Bukowski, translated by Xu Chungang and, hot off the press, Mikami Kan, who is here today for his book launch, and whose work has been translated by Xiao Niao.

The books stand out by their exquisite physical appearance. Each volume is clearly a project, meticulously designed and made. Fang says he has two selection criteria. Obviously, the quality issue is going to be, well. Another way of putting it might be that Fang privileges his personal favorites, including himself.

If authors put in money themselves, they are paid back from the sales, if at all possible. Independent publishing is motivated by three things, in various permutations: This also holds for publishing journals, but bibliophilia is more prominent in the books. Generally, inasmuch as independently published books are sold, this happens through personal networks, with payment typically triggering a thank-you-for-your-support note, and less commonly through progressive, fringe, elite bookstores.

But the Black Whistle books are also available on Taobao , showing yet again that the distinction of official and unofficial is less than absolute. Resistance to censorship and the desire to document are clearly in evidence, but bibliophilia is not. It contains graphic male gay sex scenes, interwoven with denunciations of social injustice. The other is the Century Classic of Poetry: This book sends two signals at once. It celebrates a hundred years of new poetry, with more room for the truly contemporary than most other centennial publications; and it alludes—as several official publications have done in recent decades—to the ancient Book of Songs that is the mother of all Chinese poetry anthologies, and, in its wake, to the Tang-dynasty compilation that has acquired unassailably canonical status in modern times.

It includes poetry by the Tibetan-Chinese activist Tsering Woeser, whose writing is censored in China. But the trained eye sees that they might just have been made—in every sense—in China, and not in Ohio and Vancouver, respectively. Its colophon lists Otherland as its publisher, which is based in Kingsbury, Australia and run by poet Ouyang Yu online information is sparse, but the table of contents is available in a post by Mu Cao on the Poemlife website, which remains one of the richest online resources because it operates as a kind of clearinghouse, albeit with an avant-garde bias.

And there are books and journals whose colophon lists what would almost appear to be a pop-up publisher, where one is hard put to find other products from the same press, such as Eagle Books, whose name appears in several special issues of Independence. The bulletin carried news about publications and events, and, importantly, the contact details of poets and critics. Like Lang Mao, Feng had started doing journals in the s and now drifted away from poetry and embarked on a business career.

He returned to an active role on the poetry scene in , as one of the editors of the new journal Underground , but left a few years later because of tensions in the editorial board. In fall , now based in Changzhou, he started his own journal, which he runs more or less single-handedly, although sponsors of individual issues get to be called honorary editor in chief. Called Freebooters , it is named after a Chinese expression that has been a key descriptor of the poetry scene since the turn of the century and is one of the untranslatables I will do some yelling at later on. By citing famous journals and chronicling poetry events, Freebooters also explicitly reflects on the unofficial circuit of which it is a part.

By mid, the journal had put out eleven issues, each to the tune of a stunning four hundred pages, and a set of playing cards adorned with photographs of Chinese poets that claims to be the first of its kind. This is sophistry, since a group of people including Shizhongren had in fact put out several poetry card sets since —but ok , those carried texts rather than pictures. It all goes to show that Feng is another one who lives for poetry.

He is also a radical and one of the most ideologically driven, political people on the scene. He rejects any involvement whatsoever with the Writers Association, any material support that can be traced back to the official circuit, and the rules of censorship. But he tests the limits by dedicating issues of Freebooters to literary dissidents such as Lin Zhao, Huang Xiang, Liu Xiaobo and Liu Xia—this was before Liu Xiaobo died and the censor went into overdrive—Liao Yiwu, Bei Ling, and Meng Lang, by thinly veiled references to June Fourth, and by, shall we say, advocating for the underside of things.

One way of putting it is that within the avant-garde, Feng takes an anti-establishment position. In any case, by seeking out young and lesser-known authors, Freebooters presents a subversive complement to more canonically inclined publications. When I interview Mu Cao in Tongzhou in February , he grumbles a little about being identified as gay before anything else but concedes that the design of his website might help explain the label. In conversation, they are called prostitutes. From a distance, you could easily mistake these for regular issues of Freebooters.

They display a conspicuous resistance component, some of the desire to document, and not quite bibliophilia but unmistakable attention to visual appearance, which is a little artsy and a little sci-fi. It was designed by Feng, who likes to be in control and do his own thing. He is easily as polemical as some of the other players on the scene, but not at all into romantic, exalted visions of poethood.

Perhaps it comes with a talent for getting things done and disregard for convention. In February, when I first meet him in person, we start the interview while we are in line for a cab at a pick-up point underneath Changzhou Central Station and during the ride through a congested city center and we continue in a self-service restaurant, between five and eleven pm.

He then takes me to an empty apartment where he takes pictures to post on WeChat, where my travels are duly recorded by various of my interlocutors throughout the year. We talk past midnight, Feng rolls out the scooter that is parked next to the bed into the hallway to go home for the night and I crash in every piece of clothing I have with me, right up to my winter jacket, because the bedding belongs in a warmer season. Originally from rural Zhanjiang in Guangdong and now living in Songzhuang near Beijing, he has undertaken to manually make poetry collections that definitely come under resistance and maybe under bibliophilia, although the bibliophilic component is kind of quick and dirty.

Using regular household gear, Wuliaoren makes threadbound books. This is rhetorically clever because of the tension between their transgressive content—they are sexually explicit on the outside as well as the inside, and crudely socially engaged—and the material reference to traditional Chinese literature, which has its sexually explicit moments, but is easily associated with socially conservative high culture.

Or perhaps we should say he has put them on the menu, since this is a print-and-sew-on-demand operation. He advertises his project as the Scum Publishing Plan and sells the books on WeChat, for outrageous prices, which he justifies by the fact that they are handmade to order. When I visit him in Songzhuang, he shows me how. A copy of his own collection, Not a Pretty Death , costs five hundred yuan. Back to Shenzhen and Old Heaven. After Fang and Lu have left, I sample the contemporary poetry shelves, and the bookstore lives up to its name. And Old Heaven holds more fringe stuff than All Sages, including quite a few unofficial publications.

Conversations in the line outside indicate that people have traveled from all over China to see this. Fang is there, with his partner, poet Yuan Wei. Fushitsusha is completely overwhelming and sustainably explosive. Guangzhou , December 6, When Yang Ke learns that I prefer vegetarian food, he insists on crossing town during rush hour to find the right restaurant, despite my protestations that most regular eateries can handle this too. Yang, who is vice-chairman of the Guangdong Writers Association and editor in chief of Artworks , has also invited Zheng Xiaoqiong.

She has worked at the journal since and has just been promoted to vice-editor in chief. And there are countless other examples of the entanglement of official and unofficial cultural institutions and the crossing-over that happens between them. In an ongoing give-and-take, official institutions borrow from the unofficial circuit as a talent pool and a source of proud inspiration, and unofficial institutions borrow from the official circuit as a source of money and infrastructure. Yang Ke, for one, is a ranking Association official at the provincial and national levels.

Institutions are made of people, and their entanglements are embodied in individual lives. I have the feeling that while many avant-garde poets and editors are reluctant to publicly identify with the Association, it is no longer something from a different planet. Even larger numbers partake in activities co organized or co funded by the Association. The radicals say the Association is incorporating the avant-garde.

Both positions are defensible, the former from an institutional perspective and the latter from the point of view of aesthetics. I have carried on about unofficial publishing, historiography and commentary from among the people, independent publishing, and so on because the diy tradition is a massively important, distinguishing characteristic of Chinese poetry today, and because its materials and its stories are fascinating and not automatically available to scholars outside China.

At the same time, official publishing has changed beyond recognition in the decades since the Cultural Revolution. Especially since the mid and late s, it has put out enormous amounts of poetry and commentary that will hold their own beyond the confines of politically orthodox cultural production. This is not to say that the distinction of official and unofficial has lost its relevance.

Several of my interlocutors make the simple point that the unofficial circuit ultimately exists because there are firm limits to freedom of expression in China.

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They are not, and people, texts, ideas, and resources cross over all the time. So in this bubbly landscape, who is writing and what do they write? If I had two minutes to give a class of students the lay of the land in Chinese poetry today, what would I say? Where would I point first and where next? What are the main departments, so to speak?

Beyond some generalizing outlines, this essay is about people rather than texts, but the truism that people and texts are inseparable is, er, true in its own way. But first, let me throw up a hurdle. Beijing , September 11, This is a wonderfully inclusive category and my attempts to learn more are to no avail. On the day, when I arrive at an upmarket restaurant called Huaigulou, near Hangtianqiao, a waitress in a cheongsam shows me to a spacious private room with separate tea and dinner areas.

Five are academics, four are editors, two are businesspeople, one is a doctor, one is in the army, and one works at the railways bureau of a provincial capital. To my knowledge, two or three are fairly well known as poets one of the editors, the railways official, and maybe one of the businesspeople , although they might not be in the hottest top-tier anthologies at the national level. Minimally seven and possibly more have officially published poetry collections to their name. As usual, people have brought copies of their books for those among the other guests they have not met before, that are signed and exchanged along with name cards and WeChat scans.

We are here at the invitation of one of the businesspeople, who also hands out copies of a lifestyle magazine that is part of her media company, with a special on Guizhou cave tourism. The dinner is sumptuous, with our host explaining where the ingredients for the various dishes come from eel from Henan, kiwis from Hainan, that kind of thing , and enjoyable, with lots of collective and one-on-one toasting and generous drinking, and a mix of solemn speeches with raucous, loyal interruptions.

A triangle of identities as poets, professionals—especially the businesspeople—and scholars generates a dynamic between three representational frames, of which a single individual may inhabit more than one. Poethood is key, but this type of get-together is otherwise flexible qua frames and populations in terms of social class and orientation, education, profession, income, age, and so on.

The group that has gathered in Huaigulou today is just one possible line-up. It is probably safe to say that this sort of thing happens all over China all the time, as one of many manifestations of a resurgence of the social business of poetry in imperial times if this was ever really gone to begin with—but by Chinese standards, the Maoist years had less time for it than usual.

First, poetry as a social practice, in a wide range of situations. WeChat exploded when photographer Ren Hang, also known to write halfway decent poetry, killed himself in February Together, these two things lead to the production of infinite amounts of verse. This makes many people happy. But there are also those, especially the specialists, who lament what they see as a messy and chaotic situation in which everyone is writing and, more worryingly, everyone is publishing. Of the forest and the trees, then.

Where do you start? And, of course, by recognizing that this department will churn out lots of publications because these days lots of people and lots of institutions have lots of money. Lest we forget, avant-garde poetry took shape as a catchall category after the Cultural Revolution, as a site of resistance to the formidable power of the state-sanctioned literary establishment, and the notion operates in China in a local, specific sense. You should block out whatever you know about the avant-garde as a generic, transnational notion and its roots in the European interbellum—and, by the way, about avant-garde Chinese theater and fiction, which are different kettles of fish.

Or of becoming not quite absurd but minimally eyebrow-raising, especially if some of that blocked-out business were to make its way back in, as it is wont to do. In other words, according to this lucid, productive poetry scholar, avant-garde has come to mean something close to. But now it is time to think again. Tang Xiaodu and Zhang Qinghua seem to sense as much, judging by the title and the preface of their 30 Years of Contemporary Avant-Garde Poetry, Genealogy and Canon , a huge anthology with unmistakable milestone ambitions.

But if the category of the avant-garde is past its expiry date, this begs the question of what the classifiers should do next to handle. That was an eighty-two-word definition to end a giant thumbnail. As one of its foreign recognizers, I have been partial to the avant-garde, and struggled to define it, for a long time. Such avant-garde-centrism may strike the reader as odd for someone who says the category is past its expiry date. But the body of texts that was born in the underground some fifty years ago continues to grow and diversify, and it is pulsating with heterogeneity.

Add to that the profound changes in the world around the texts, and the question is staring us in the face: Again, while I am giving in to the de classification impulse, none of this is meant to box in or box out texts or people. One thing my long definition shows is that it is still hard to avoid defining the avant-garde in negative terms. It contains two elements that highlight things the avant-garde is not or two and a half, if we count its equivocal relation to classical Chinese poetry.

The first is cultural policy, which takes us to the next department on the list, that of official poetry. Quite aside from its metamorphosis in practice, the theoretical essence of cultural policy is unchanged and has been reaffirmed—on standby, as it were—by every Communist Party secretary-general since Mao Zedong laid down the law seventy-five years ago, asking that literature and art operate in the service of the nation as envisioned by the Party.

The cover names the collective of the Chinese Poetry Society as its editor, and it is only in the colophon information that an individual editor in chief is quietly identified as Jidi Majia. The volume is graced by a loose paper band of the sort used for celebrity endorsements and discount markers that looks like it was cut from a blurry old photograph of a battlefield scene.

The second element in my definition that highlights something the avant-garde is not is the largest common denominator of taste. This is catered to by what I will call the department of mainstream poetry, with Wang Guozhen as its one-time figurehead. Here are some of his titles: Put bluntly, many poets, critics, and scholars associated with the avant-garde hold that official poetry and mainstream poetry are irrelevant to the discerning reader.

A less arrogant choice of words would be that the appeal of official and mainstream poetry does not reach outside their limited, incrowd audiences. One suspects a self-serving, circular argument, since important aspects of avant-garde identity hinge on its dissociation from official poetry and mainstream poetry to begin with, bristling about the former and shrugging off the latter. Moreover, confinement to an incrowd audience is a charge that can equally be leveled at the avant-garde itself.

In their turn, when countering this counterclaim, avant-garde advocates will invoke two points that are deeply controversial. From the outside, this is widely and not unreasonably seen as a bastion of self-importance in which the interests of poets and commentators are inextricably entwined. I have outlined the semantics of this mutual finger-pointing to illustrate that there is no real dialogue between the avant-garde and official and mainstream poetry, at least not of the productive kind.

Tian Xiaofei pointed this out quite some time ago, with Lizilizilizi as a particularly captivating example, and her call for action has lost nothing of its urgency. On that note, in light of its huge, continuing impact, it would not be altogether outlandish to grant foreign poetry in Chinese translation department status as well. When the Jiangnan Seven kicked off in Changshu, for instance, convener Zhang Wei stressed the need for contemporary poetry to reconnect with tradition and the heartland of Chinese culture. At any rate, there is a great deal of distance between the avant-garde and classical-style poetry, premodern and modern alike.

An extra section was duly added to the book project, ostentatiously making minority poetry part of the avant-garde while not quite blending it in the sections are numbered only and otherwise unnamed. Throughout the first seven sections, the order of the poets appears to reflect two criteria: Aside from the question of how they hang together, both appear to have been dropped in section eight, on minority poetry.

That section eight was a late addition is not the point. As noted, crossing over happens at many levels and in many directions. Second, most of what one finds under minority poetry in Tang and Zhang and elsewhere is about ethnicity or connectable with ethnicity in one way or another: It makes more sense than forced attempts at incorporation by the avant-garde. Some of the basics are covered in the preposition game, which is also played in other quarters such as exile literature, queer literature, prison literature, and so on.

And who does the defining, for which audiences, to what end, and to what effect? Clearly the latter, as long as this is done not in a dull, square-angle matrixy kind of way but by foregrounding gender as an all-permeating dimension of experience of which we need to ask permanently whether it is being recognized. She is adamant that the success of her Selected Poems , the first contemporary poetry collection published by the Commercial Press and about to be reprinted, not be linked to her gender in any way.

Anyway, on to the final department on my list. Dongguan , December 10, The Dongguan Polytechnic of Science and Technology lies in a university district of the kind that have sprung up outside countless cities in China, as the schools make way for real estate development in the city centers. Knowing the local rules of conferencing and not knowing the first thing about Xiang, I frantically try to think of something sensible to say for when Liu will inevitably ask me to speak.

All ends well when the ongoing conversation shows that the symposium is anchored in a wider-ranging conversation about Dongguan and literature at large. Typically, this adversity comprises the challenges of low pay, family commitments, environmental hardships and lack of personal recognition. It is a term of respect and endearment intended to empower and recognize those who feel as though they exist at the bottom of society.

Nov 23, Ian Wood rated it it was amazing. This is the complete review as it appears at my blog dedicated to reading, writing no 'rithmatic! Blog reviews often contain links which are not reproduced here, nor will updates or modifications to the blog review be replicated here. Graphic and children's reviews on the blog typically feature two or three images from the book's interior, which are not reproduced here. Note that I don't really do stars. To me a book is either worth reading or it isn't. I can't rate it three- This is the complete review as it appears at my blog dedicated to reading, writing no 'rithmatic!

I can't rate it three-fifths worth reading! The only reason I've relented and started putting stars up there is to credit the good ones, which were being unfairly uncredited. So, all you'll ever see from me is a five-star or a one-star since no stars isn't a rating, unfortunately. It's Kids Can Press day today on my blog, and I have two reviews of cool books both from the same publisher, and both aimed at young children. The first of these is Walk on the Wild Side, a short and simple book for young children which relates the story of the bear, the beaver, and the moose, who one day decide to hike up a nearby - well, not so nearby - mountain.

Things seem to be moving along just fine until the eager beaver has the bright idea of turning it into a contest. So begins the race down the valley, across the canyon, over the river, and up the mountain. That's when trouble begins. The mountain isn't exactly the safest place to be running around on, and soon enough an errant boulder comes rolling down the hillside, and Moose ends up hanging from a tree, followed quickly by bear, who tries to save moose and fails.

Now they're both hanging from the tree. I love the picture that looks like like it's a re-creation of the well-known Grant Wood's no relation! American Gothic, and the picture of all three of them marching in lock-step on their mission. I have no idea what's with the pink bird. I think it's a CIA operative. Curiously enough, it's also a tree that saves the dangling pair, in the capable hands of a busy beaver. It soon becomes clear that despite what American society worships as a god, competition isn't all it's cracked-up to be.

Much more useful is cooperation as our three musky tearaways discover! Of course, women have known this for years, but it's a concept which men still seem to struggle to internalize. You don't get ahead by crushing your competition and devil take the hindmost. You get ahead by everyone helping everyone else to get a leg up. This book is an important reminder of that fact, and it tells a funny, interesting, and entertain story in bright colors evocative of the natural world in which these animals live.

I recommend this book, and if you like this one, there are several other featuring the same characters. Nov 17, Pop Bop rated it it was amazing Shelves: My New Favorite Animal Series The book's cover blurb tells you everything you need to know about the story - "There once was a bear, a moose and a beaver who loved adventure.

During the course of the fable-like story we observe that competitive streak, see the consequences, and enjoy the friendly and satisfying resolution. But, this isn't a "problem" book or a ham-fisted teaching fable. These three characters are fun, funny, My New Favorite Animal Series The book's cover blurb tells you everything you need to know about the story - "There once was a bear, a moose and a beaver who loved adventure. These three characters are fun, funny, and remarkably engaging.

Walk on the Wild Side

I can't exactly say why, but the way they are drawn just tickled some funny old bone somewhere deep inside. Even though they are simply drawn the pictures have tremendous movement and energy and personality. Maybe it's because the Beaver is always smiling, the Moose always looks a bit quizzical and the Bear always looks totally mellowed out, but I instantly just liked these guys.

I even liked the red bird who appears on each page observing the action. In any event, I challenge you to find a kid who won't like these three. Looking through the catalogue I see that this is book five in a series. There is one book at the outset for each character, and then the fourth book has the three pals squabbling on a canoe trip.

As far as I'm concerned they can keep writing these forever. Since this is a Canadian production you can also get them in French, and somehow even that strikes me as appropros. So, if you want to try something fun and a bit different, or if you want to strike out off the beaten path, this could be a very nice choice for your little picture book guy or gal.

A very jolly find. Please note that I received a free advance ecopy of this book in exchange for a candid review. Apart from that I have no connection at all to either the author or the publisher of this book. Dec 08, Storywraps rated it it was amazing. A beaver, a moose and a big old black bear Climbed up a mountain Their friendship to share. It turned into an adventurous race Each friend was vying for the first place.

After refuelling and grabbing a bite Moose's long legs gave him some flight He pressed ever forward, determined to run But alas and alack, found it not to be fun He plummets and tumbles, nearly falls on his head Is saved by a tree, so glad he's not dead. He hangs ever so tightly and clings to a limb He cries out for help Oh no, bear discovers himself too in peril Beaver must help He has to work fast, he has to work smart He thinks how to do it while stilling his heart His friends are in danger, his friends need a hand He dons super-powers and goes with his plan.

Hurray all is well, Beaver's plan a success His friends they are rescued, his friends are the best. The moral you see is not if you win But the love for you friends that you carry within. Walk on the Wild Side is a nice friendship story about a beaver, moose and bear. They like to go on adventures together and end up hiking on a mountain.

They decide to race, but of course it doesn't go the way they planned it, but the lesson they learn is surely the main thing. It's not about winning, but doing stuff together and helping each other along the way. Surely the idea works although it's quite cliched. The story in itself doesn't really bring anything new to the matter and I kind of m Walk on the Wild Side is a nice friendship story about a beaver, moose and bear.

The story in itself doesn't really bring anything new to the matter and I kind of missed humor. The picture book is very serious. The artwork is so and so. It's graphic and funny looking, but at the same time very simple.


  1. Walk on the Wild Side () - IMDb.
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It felt like it was made with Paint. The colors are kind of insipid and not many colors are used, which takes out the edge of the book. For adults this may seem cool, but for a kid this is kind of boring looking. There should be more playfulness, and facial expressions on the animals would've worked and helped making this easier to identify with. Now it's a bit too grownup and in a sense stuck-up. This is a loss for the story in itself is quite nice.

Dec 10, Sandra rated it really liked it Shelves: Beaver, Bear and Moose are really good friends, but sometimes they can be a little competitive. That's what happened that day they decided to climb the mountain together. Things went well while they friendly enjoyed the walk, but it turned less pleasant, and even dangerous when they agreed on turning the trip into a race. Moose got into trouble, and his friends had to decide between helping him or winning the race. Thankfully they are better friends than rivals.

See a Problem?

The race is over. Once at the top Beaver, Bear and Moose are really good friends, but sometimes they can be a little competitive. Once at the top of the mountain, Beaver, Bear and Moose felt happy they decided to slow down and take the time to explore, discover and enjoy each other. Three lovely characters in a funny story about friendship and its vicissitudes, with a happy ending. I'd love to read more Beaver, Bear and Moose adventures!

I received this copy from the publisher via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review. Check out more children's book reviews in my Reviews in Chalk Blog!

A Journey into Business Reviews

I've been a fan of Nicholas Oldland's art for awhile and this book doesn't let me down. Moose, Bear and Beaver just make me smile. They are so determined and so goofy at the same time. And even though my kids are tweens and teens now, they enjoyed finding out what these guys were up to. Moose, Bear, and Beaver set off to explore but soon decide that they need to push it up a notch; and so they find themselves racing through the woods and up a mountain. Because of their hurried pace they start having mishaps.

And after Bear and Moose end up having to be saved by Beaver, they decide to slow things down. That is when they discover that you can sometimes actually see more, and do more exciting things A good message for most of us. Due out in March. You should check this new addition to the series. Nov 18, Lindsey Lewis rated it really liked it Shelves: Moose, Bear, and Beaver go on a hike but their competitive nature gets the best of them! A sweet and funny story that can teach children about friendship and working together.

The accompanying illustrations are simple and add a touch of humor and personality to the characters and the story. The best part about this book is that the lesson doesn't feel forced or "speak down" to children, it just shows some of the consequences of the animals' b I received a free digital ARC from NetGalley to review.

The best part about this book is that the lesson doesn't feel forced or "speak down" to children, it just shows some of the consequences of the animals' behaviors and has a happy ending. Apr 04, Rxmi rated it liked it. Me encantaron los colores y las ilustraciones simples. Nov 26, Jay rated it really liked it Shelves: ARC kindly provided by NetGalley on behalf of the publishers another one my son really liked! Nov 18, Kathy rated it it was amazing Shelves: Super cute picture book. Easy to read text, great pictures, cute story that reminds us to enjoy the journey.

This is how I like my picture books. Nov 14, Sara Grochowski rated it really liked it Shelves: Nov 28, Emyrose8 rated it really liked it Shelves: The pictures definitely make the book. Cute story about competitive friends who learn that things can be interesting without being a competition. Thanks Netgalley for the ARC!

Apr 04, Cassandra Coburn rated it it was ok. Three friends — a beaver, moose, and bear — decide their sporadic mountain hike has proved fruitless in their endeavor to have an enjoyable experience. Aside from their obvious physical differences, the animals have no distinguishing personalities. Like many who pick up this book, I was drawn to the childlike, almost primitive artwork. The aspect I enjoyed the most about this book was the lesson it presented readers with at its conclusion: Looking back, the lesson is present in the daunting journey the characters took and subsequently overlooked.

I gave this story two stars, its artwork being the redeeming factor for me. Oct 31, Becky B rated it really liked it Shelves: Three friends decide to go on a hike together.