Yang Lian

Yang Lian
b. 1955, Switzerland
Yang Lian was the son of a diplomat and grew up in Beijing. He began to write poetry in the 1970s as an ‘educated youth’ in the countryside. On his return to the capital, he co-founded—with Bei Dao, Mang Ke and others—the influential literary magazine Today (Jintian). As a result of the ‘cleansing spiritual pollution’ campaign in 1983, his poems were banned in China. In 1989, while visiting New Zealand, Yang Lian received the news of the 4 June Massacre. Sad and furious, he expressed his protest by organizing a memorial for the dead of Tiananmen; he then claimed himself a ‘Chinese poet in exile’. After sojourns in Australia, Germany and the United States, he settled in London.
One of the most prolific and innovative of contemporary Chinese poets, Yang Lian has been widely hailed in Europe and America as a ‘highly individual voice’ in world literature. He has published seven books of poetry and two of essays; his works have been translated into many languages. Haunted by the traumatic experiences in his past, Yang Lian often deals with themes of death and inner darkness; his poetry is saturated with horrible images and disturbing voices. The enchanting, often eerie imagination evidenced in his works is embedded in a humanitarian concern for the everyday desires of the common people.
In search for new form, Yang Lian experiments with style, and has self-consciously expanded the aesthetic territory of Chinese poetic language. His highly modernistic style is sometimes reminiscent of Western masters such as Yeats, Pound or Eliot, but he has also mined the spiritual sources of the Chinese cultural tradition, as shown by his book-length poem entitled Yi, which was inspired by Yijing [Book of Changes]. In his 1999 collection, Where the Sea Stands Still, Yang Lian presents a myriad of poetic expression in a style at once serene and complex. This collection won a British book award in the same year.
Cayley John (2002). ‘John Cayley with Yang Lian’. positions: east asia cultures critique 10.3:773–84.
Yang, Lian (1999) Where the Sea Stands Still: New Poems. Trans. Brian Holton. Newcastle upon Tyne: Bloodaxe Books.
——(2002). Notes of a Blissful Ghost. Trans. Brian Holton. Hong Kong: Renditions [anthology].

Encyclopedia of contemporary Chinese culture. . 2011.

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