YAN LI (1954— )
YAN LI (1954— ). Poet, fiction and prose writer, artist. Born in Beijing, and a member of the Misty poetry movement, Yan Li began writing poetry in the early 1970s while being “rusticated” in rural Hebei. Friends with some of the major Misty poets, including Bei Dao, Mang Ke, and Duo Duo, Yan was active in promoting a modernist poetry with his innovative verses, which emphasize wit and black humor, by juxtaposing seemingly unrelated images to reveal the absurdity of the human condition. “Yi renlei de mingyi shengcun” (Surviving in the Name of Humanity), “Niuyue” (New York), and “Hei’an zhi ge” (Song of Darkness) are some of his best-known poems. As an organizer and participant in the Star art exhibitions, Yan, along with other artists, represented significant breakthroughs in post-Mao modern art. Yan’s straddling of both poetry and art gave him a unique spot in the unofficial avant-garde movement. Although he is primarily recognized for his poetry and painting, Yan has also written essays and fiction. He moved to New York in 1985 and continued to write and paint. Two years later, he founded Yi hang (One Line), a poetry journal based in New York. He currently lives in New York and Shanghai.