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Poetry center welcomes exiled poet


Photo
Josh Fields/Arizona Daily Wildcat
Modern Chinese poet Bei Dao recited a selection of his poetry last night at the Poetry Center. Dao was born in Beijing in 1949 and lives in exile in the United States.
By Cassie Blombaum
Arizona Daily Wildcat
September 14, 2005
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An exiled Chinese poet shared stories and read poetry last night about his experience with literature and the consequences he suffered for writing freely. Bei Dao, a modern Chinese poet who was removed from China in the late '80s, read a variety of different poetry, including prose about his feelings of being in exile, his father and his political activism.

One such poem, titled "The Black Map" describes his return to Beijing to visit his dying father. Dao has written a half a dozen poetry collections, said Dian Li, assistant professor of East Asian studies.

But most of the poems are not finished, said Dao, adding how he is never happy until each poem feels complete.

"It's like chasing a perfect dream," Dao said.

Dao, who was born in Beijing during the politically pivotal year of 1949, presently lives in the United States, Sjoberg said.

"As I understand it, he has been in exile since the 1989 revolution at Tiananmen Square," Sjoberg said. "Students (on Tiananmen Square) chanted his poetry and displayed it on signs."

He was out of the country at the time, and after the incident, authorities wouldn't allow him to return to China, Sjoberg said.

Because of his exile, many people labeled him as a hero, Dao said, but that is a title he refuses to accept.

"I never wanted to be a hero," Dao said.

Dao is associated with the "Misty School" of poetry in China, which is sometimes characterized as obscure, oblique or elusive, said Frances Sjoberg, the literary director of the Poetry Center.

"Misty poetry seems to be an open-ended free verse in which subject, tense and other grammatical elements are not always clear and can be interpreted in numerous ways," Sjoberg said.

Overall, the UA benefits tremendously from his visit, Li said.

"Students need to hear different voices and to learn how poetry is still relevant in the multimedia world of today," Li said.



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