[excerpts from Wang Ping's introduction to _The New Chinese
Avant-garde Poetry 1982-1992_, forthcoming]
"The purpose of this anthology is to introduce Chinese avant-garde
poets and their works (1982-1992) to American readers. The poets included
here. . . ,[only some of these are included in Rif/t] most of whom were
part of the 'misty' school at the beginning of the 1980's but soon revolted
strongly against their 'ancestors,' are known as the 'new generation' (also
known as 'post-misty' and the 'third generation'). This label, much like
'misty poetry,' is quite ambiguous and inappropriate. It points only to
the temporal phenomenon of 'newness,' which becomes meaningful only in
reference to the past.
. . . .
'New generation' poets emerged abundantly and aggressively at the
beginning of the eighties, when _Today_ (jin tian), the magazine of misty
poetry ceased publication. Misty poetry (meng lung shi, also known as
'obscurist poetry') had been the most controversial poetic phenomenon in
China since 1978. The misty school poets rebelled against the official
artistic ideology which held that arts must serve politics and the people.
They believed that the socialist reality had been contaminated by excessive
ideological propaganda, so much so that 'ideology' had become a kind of
siumulacra that 'served to alienate the human being from his or her true
self.'  For Bei Dao, Mang Ke, Yang Lian, Shu Ting and other misty poets
of this first post-Mao generation, the function of poetry has first of all
been to recover the human self. This emphasis on recovering and refining
the self was accompanied in poetic practice by the imagist language the
poets fashioned. Landscape was humanized and poetry was a mirror with
which to see oneself. By infusing landscape (sky, rain, mist, river) with
personal emotions through an impressionistic prism, and often turning these
imgages into political allegories, the misty poets strove to transcend the
confines of realism and form a new entity between the self and the external
. . . .
The 'new generation' poets defied the misty school belief in 'heroism'
and the 'imagistic' method of writing. They criticized their predecessors
'for being too historically conscious and too ornate in their poetic
imagery' (Leo Ou-fan Lee, xxvii). Dissatistifed with the value, slogy,
and art in the existing world, they voiced six 'anti-s': (1)anti-tradition;
(2)anti-sublimity; (3) anti-lyricism; (4) anti-culture; (5)anti-aesthetics;
and, (6) anti-poetic. 
. . . .
The 'new generation' poets are trapped between their rejection of the
Communist ideology and their distaste for the relentless advance of the
capitalist mass culture. Facing the threat of losing their identity and
subjectivity, they feel an urgent need to find a foothold in a local and
global environment which is in constant and rapid transition. To the 'new
generation' poets, the misty poets' single-minded belief in truth,
perfection, and humanity, and their imagistic, symbolic method for writing
poetry are outdated. The most important task now is not to celebrate
'heroism' and utopian idealism, but to strip off the facades of decency,
beauty and sublimity from language and art. The poems of the 'new
generation' tend to point to the eternal darkness and ugliness of human
nature. The works included in this anthology are characterized by a
generalized sensitivity to breaks and discontinuities, to difference rather
than identity, to gaps and holes rather then seamless webs, and by an
emphasis on re-establishing the 'pure' relationships between words and
objects, spatial experience and exploration.
. . . .
'Since words were handy
what fun have I ever had?'
--Lian Xiaoming _Since Words Were Handy_
'Poetry begins from language and ends with language'
--Yu Jian: _Brown Cover Journal: Rejecting Metaphor_.
This paradoxical attitude towards language is characteristic among the
'new generation' poets. They are fully aware of the indispensablity of
language--'Poets live in language.'  At the same time, they realize
that 'the nature of language is to cover. When it expresses, there's
always something in between. . . How difficult it is to write poetry, not
only difficult, it is desperate.'  To these poets, being means writing,
and writing means constant battles with language. The necessity of
expressing and the impossibility of expressing have put these poets in a
very painful position. 'Only language can redeem the collapsed and
collapsing life.'  The 'new generation' poets seek pure language,
defying any symbolic 'meaning' or imagistic juxtaposition that their
predecessors--the misty poets--have forced on words. They believe that
meaning is illusory and ideological, and should not have power over
language. The only meaning for language is its 'meaninglessness,' its
resistance to human conceptualization and social, cultural value.
. . . .
A Few Words on the Translation
The translation of this anthology is a passionate, persistent search
for a perfect partner to the original. My choice is based on two
principles: the representativeness of the Chinese avant-garde poetry in
terms of content and form over the last decade, and its translatablity. It
wasn't an easy job. China is a vast country with a dense population and a
long history of enthusiasm for poetry. There are different voices
everywhere. The representativeness is inevitably confined by my knowledge,
personal interest, and the availability of the materials and information.
As for the translatability, it is one thing to read poems and decide
whether they are translatable or not, and another thing when the real
translation begins. Poets like Yu Jian, Liang Xiaoming and Mo Mo are
highly translatable. The form and meaning in the translation can match the
form and meaning of the original almost perfectly; i.e. literalness and
freedom, fidelity and the translators' creation are truly united. But
translating Liu Manliu's works was a hard battle. I spend hours trying to
work out the multiple intentions and meanings in an image, a phrase or a
line before transplanting it into another language, or trying to smooth out
his complicated syntax, to make his poems comprehensible. Many times I
felt I counldn't go on any more. But when I finally gave up the impossible
task of finding the exact equivalense in English to replace the original,
and let the foreign tongue penetrate and grasp the esential intention of
the original, things got much easier. During the process,
I realized that
my main task as a translator was to find the intended effect (intention),
to convey the effect and its form of the original as accurately and clearly
as possible, and to avoid the superficial and indefinable similarity
between the two language.
The translation of this anthology is a collaboration with twelve
American poets: Elizabeth Fox, Ed Friedman, Gary Lenhart, Murat Nemet-
Nejar, Ron Padgett, Simon Pettet, Leonard Schwartz, David Shapiro, Anne
Waldman, Keith Waldrop, and Lewis Warsh.  The teamwork made this task
more challenging and interesting. The first draft of translation I did was
aimed to be as close to the original and as comprehensible as possible.
The American pots read them and marked everything which seemed unclear,
strange or hackneyed. Then we would meet and go over all the problems. At
these meetings, the original and translation, the two cultures and
language, and the two translators' personalities and poetic tastes
sometimes clashed, and sometimes went smoothly. In either case, the end
result was often extremely interesting.
'A real translation is transparent; it does not cover the original,
does not block its light, but allows the pure language, as though
reinforced by its own medium to shine upon the original all the more
fully.'  It is never easy, but always worth trying."
1) Leo ou-Fan Lee, introduction, _The Red AzaleaU, ed. by Edward Morin
(Honolulu: Univeristy of Hawaii Press, 1990)
2) Zhu LInbo, "The Six Anti Attitdues and Three Characteristics of the
Third Generation Poets," _Youth Poetry Review_ No. 2, 1988.
3) Mo Fei, letter to Wang Ping, 12/23/91.
4) Mo Fei, letter to Wang Ping, 7/3/92.
5) Yang Xiaobing, "the Collapsed Poetry Groups," _Writers_ NO. 9, 1989:64.
6) All the translation was done by me and the twelve American poets, except
for Yan Li and some of the poems by Wang Jiaxing and Zhang Zhen.
7) Walter Benjamin, "The Task of the Translator," _Illuminations_, ed.
Hannah Arendt, (NY: Schocken Books, 1978) 81.
From: UBVMS::V421E32R "Yunte Huang, your Comrade" 20-FEB-1995
As part of a larger project (The New Generation: Anthology of
Chinese Avant-garde Poetry 1982-1992), this selection is a noble
effort by the major translator, Wang Ping, to represent the
vitality and diversity of contemporary Chinese poetry in the
eighties. "New Generation," as Wang Ping admits herself, might
not be a very appropriate label for the poems selected here. It
is not only because some of the poets here used to be part of the
Misty School, which they have now started to rebel against, but,
more importantly, it is because some of their works still
resemble those of the Misty poets. But this is an intrinsic
virus inside the body of Chinese poetry itself rather than a
problem on the translator's part.
An innovative writer and poet herself, the translator Wang Ping
here has done a superb job of introducing to the English-speaking
world the most exciting part of "new" Chinese poetry. Although
the selection ignores the works of some other equally significant
experimental poetry groups such as Original poets (based in
Suzhou) and Feifei poets (based in Sichuan), it still embodies
the new elements in contemporary Chinese poetry. Mo Fei's "Words
and Objects," Mo Mo's "Betraying Fingers" and "Sold Out," and Liu
Manliu's "Mayfly's Journal" represent the New Generation poets'
fresh awareness of language as "the house of Being." Such
freshness contrasts the staleness of Misty poetry's symbolism and
creates a possibility for more radical experiments in Chinese
poetry. Liu Manliu's "Autograph Book" and Yu Jian's "Fence" and
"Mouse" indicate a further step in the field of formal innovation
and direct Chinese avant-garde poetry towards its maturity.
The oversight of some other experimental poetries mentioned above
is probably due to the limited availability of information as
compared with the amazingly huge body of contemporary Chinese
poetry. Not only is experimental poetry still marginalized
inside China, but the introduction of Chinese poetry in the West
has so far been restricted to a very narrow scope. A quick look
at the translation anthologies of contemporary Chinese poetry
published in the United States in recent years will show that
Misty poetry still dominates the stage of representation. While
such a narrow-mindedness in poetry's reception needs a careful
investigation for its political and cultural implications, a
project such as Wang Ping's will definitely broaden the Western
view of Chinese poetry and bring a new phase to our literary