YANG MU, PEN NAME OF WANG JINGXIAN (1940— ) - The Dictionary

Chinese Literature - Li-hua Ying 2010

The Dictionary

YANG MU, PEN NAME OF WANG JINGXIAN (1940— ). Poet, essayist, and translator. Born in Taiwan, Yang Mu began writing poetry in middle school. He graduated from Donghai University with a degree in English and from the University of Iowa with a master’s degree in creative writing, and received his Ph.D. in comparative literature from the University of California at Berkeley. Yang has taught Chinese and comparative literature at the University of Washington, National Taiwan University, and Hong Kong University of Science and Technology, among other institutions of higher learning. He has had a long and distinguished career. That he has studied both classical Chinese poetry and Western poetic traditions is reflected in his own creative work. Among Western poets, the work of John Keats and William Butler Yeats highly influenced Yang. Keats’s desire to return to an idealized and romanticized social order in the Middle Ages is echoed in Yang’s eulogizing of nature worship among indigenous cultures in Taiwan. Yang also expressed his admiration for Yeats’s innovative linguistic techniques. On the other end of the spectrum, classical Chinese poetry, from Shi jing (The Book of Odes) to the great poets of the Tang dynasty, has been a constant source of intellectual nourishment for him. Yang has systematically studied classical Chinese philosophy and literature and considered the Chinese poetic tradition an essential element in his blood and spirit; his Ph.D. dissertation was a study of Shi jing.

Yang’s own poetry shows his familiarity with Chinese images and allusions, as well as its rhythms, and with a wide variety of forms and meters of English poetry. His poems are characterized by fragmented imageries that demand active participation from the imagination of readers to fill in the blanks. Yang is particularly noted for his experiments with integrating forms of poetry and lyrical prose, innovations partially inspired by the rhymed prose of the Six Dynasties (221—589) and early Chinese philosophical texts, which Yang studied during his college years. Most of all, he is known for his lasting interest in expressing the romantic spirit, for living a life that embraces the energy of rebelliousness. His poems and essays often deal with questions about life and death, truth and beauty, and the significance of spirituality. Similarly, his autobiography attempts to define the meaning of beauty through recollections of his early life in Taiwan. See also MODERN POETRY MOVEMENT IN TAIWAN.