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an excerpt by John Taylor


If you, like me, were puzzled by the Nobel Prize awarded last fall to the Chinese novelist Mo Yan, may I suggest consoling yourself with the rich assortment of contemporary Chinese poetry that has become available in translation? Not only do we now have samplings of dozens and dozens of poets in English, but also detailed introductions enabling us to sort out Misty poets from Lower Body poets, post-Misty poets from Fei Fei (“Not Not”) poets, let alone Third Generation poets from Fourth Generation poets, which is not to forget the Trash movement and samizdat contributors. It’s a heady experience to work through all this material, but at the end you’ll have progressed well beyond your dated, rudimentary knowledge, which you probably picked up from Ezra Pound. Indeed, after reading poems by the excellent Bei Dao (b. 1949), whose collage-like work with its deep imagery first reminded me of surrealism and then, more specifically, of Italian hermetic poetry, I jotted down on a slip of paper this Poundian question that I want to pursue further: “Does it cohere?