Chinese Literature - Li-hua Ying 2010
XIAO KAIYU (1960— )
XIAO KAIYU (1960— ). Poet. Born in rural Sichuan, Xiao Kaiyu is one of the representative poets of Generation III. Recognizing the indebtedness of modern Chinese poetry to the West as well as to China’s ancient traditions, Xiao tackles the problem of self-identity, the raison d’etre of modern Chinese poetry and as an extension modern Chinese culture. Xiao represents Generation III’s anxiety and perplexity over the destiny and mission of the intellectual. Sharing his generation’s opposition to refinement and aestheticism in poetry, Xiao favors unfiltered colloquialism in his treatment of two main themes: the issue of culture as expressed in early poems such as “Hai shang huayuan” (Garden on the Sea) and “Hanren” (The Chinese), and the confrontation between the individual and society, as in “Yuanze” (Principle). Throughout his career, Xiao has been preoccupied with the relationship between poetic expression and reality, addressed in his main work, “Xiang Du Fu zhijing” (Saluting Du Fu), 10 individual poems in which the Tang dynasty poet witnesses, in anguish, “another China,” a kaleidoscope of 20th-century social phenomena, which represents the poet’s view on the anxiety and perplexity of Chinese culture. While interested in the spiritual and intellectual aspect of poetic expression, Xiao is equally if not more keen on the physical world. His poetry records a kaleidoscope of material phenomena, signaling his disapproval of the dismissive attitude of the Chinese intellectual elite toward material culture. The irony created in the clash of ideas gives Xiao’s poetry an added layer of sophistication and helps define his view on the role of poetry not as a representation of truth and beauty but as an objective witness of reality. His poetry collections include Dongwu yuan de kuangxi (The Ecstasy of the Zoo) and Xuexi zhi tian (The Sweetness of Learning). Xiao has been living in Berlin since 1997 and has worked as a visiting professor in the Shanghai Conservatory of Music.