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People's Daily Online>>Opinion

Battle of words over the future of poetry (2)

(China Daily)

12:23, January 27, 2012

Many believe that the irrelevance, in today's world, of traditional motifs and a greater focus on the trivialities of daily life, plus the way language is changing, add to the poor outlook for the less prosaic forms of literature.

Most modern Chinese poets attracting attention are those who emerged in the 1980s, then aged in their 20s, such as Zhai Yongming, Zhang Zao (1962-2010) and Hai Zi (1964-1989). Their works are embedded with beautiful images, an enlightening spirit and perceptive thoughts relevant to the time that captured the imagination of the world when they were younger.

"In the 1980s, college students - even those majoring in mathematics - wrote and read poetry. However, few graduates and undergraduates studying Chinese literature are into poetry," said Ren Youqun, vice-president of East China Normal University.

Four college poet societies established in the 1980s became famous - the May 4 Literature Society at Peking University in Beijing, Fudan Poets Society at Fudan University in Shanghai, Innocence Poets Society at Jilin University in Northeast China, and Jiangnan Poet Society in Anhui province in East China.

In the 1980s the gathering of a poetry society would attract crowds of college students in and outside the biggest conference hall on campus, said Xiao Shui, a former president of Fudan Poets Society.

If anyone wanted to join Fudan Poets Society they had to sit a test for membership, according to Xiao. They had to write a poem on the spot after being given a set topic. Every year only 10 to 15 college students were admitted as official members. "Now students just need to fill in a form with their name and contact details to gain admission to the circle," he said. "But they rarely write anything or take part in activities."

Bei Dao, the pioneer of a new genre of Chinese poetry in the early 1980s, believes that college students and scholars who used to read poetry have lost their enthusiasm for it amid China's social transformation; now poetry only evokes nostalgia for them.

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