"Poetic Creation and the Online Environment" last Friday
By Canaan Morse, published
Communist Party philosophy is the philosophy of struggle!
Chinese poet and poetry critic Qin Xiaoyu invited the Proletarian to attend a meeting at Peking University last Friday on poetry in online media. The meeting was sponsored and chaired by Yang Erwen, founder of ArtsBj.com (北京文艺网), and Yang Lian, whom Yang Erwen has worked into some advisory position at the website. Having no prior knowledge of the event, the Proletarian thought it was just going to be another stereotypical academic meeting, where people made airy speeches over an audience checking their cell phones; who knew that the first item of news would be one of significant importance?
In the spirit of, “In China, all the numbers are big,” ArtsBj.com is managing a Chinese poetry competition, and they have over forty thousand entries already. They will be awarding prizes for single poems, with long poems and short poems judged separately, as well as a prize for the best individual collection. All judging is open; that is, the judges’ comments and decisions are posted publicly on the website and are open for comment by those who submit.
Well-known critic Tang Xiaodu moderated the first half of the meeting, while Yang Lian (who sounds a lot more like Ge You than I could ever have imagined) chaired the second half. Also at the table were Zhai Yongming, Xi Chuan, Qin Xiaoyu, Zhang Qinghua, Leng Shuang, Lan Ye, Zang Di, Ou Ning, Yang Xiaobin, Shang Zhen, Jiang Tao and a few others. Those who knew of the meeting well in advance (that is, everyone but yours truly) had remarks prepared, and there were several short speeches, prompted by the chair, ranging across several different aspects of poetry and the Internet. Unfortunately, there was a significant amount of empty talk and hopeful blazons waved; while the “symposium materials” packet handed out happened to be full of poems, and so I spent more time reading than listening.
There were, however, a few interesting notes made by interesting people. Zhang Qinghua touched briefly on changes affected on artistic forms by evolved media, and Xi Chuan expanded the point with his own observations on poetry throughout Chinese history. The bamboo slat as a medium made requirements on structures of writing entirely different from those made by paper, which was invented during the early centuries of the common era. Writing poetry during the Wei and Jin eras was, apparently, a two-handed affair, though I didn’t entirely grasp Xi Chuan’s explanation there. More recently, the transition that many Chinese poets made from draft paper （稿纸）to A4 paper has changed their writing styles, in particular allowed them to lengthen their lines.
Zhai Yongming pointed out with firmness that, while several female poets had been highlighted on the site so far, not one of the individual poetry collections had a woman’s name attached to it. (The competition is obviously not over, but the judges seem to have made some preliminary decisions.) This was received with attention by those at the meeting, and reflects a trend this writer believes has been developing recently of Chinese publications producing crops of post-80, teenage-girl poets, yet very few mature female voices. Like if He Wapi （何袜皮）stopped trying to write cute, she might write well.
Zang Di, who apparently teaches here at PKU, gave the Proletarian a copy of his latest collection. I let Yang Lian and Yang Erwen know that Pathlight would be very interested in considering the winners of this year’s prize for publication in our magazine. Hey, if there really are forty thousand entries, and Sturgeon’s law still applies, well, that’s two thousand poems that still have a chance…cough…right?