Yu Jian: Selected Poems
By Yu Jian
Translated by Simon Patton and Naikan Tao
Born in Yunnan province in 1954, Yu Jian has developed a unique poetic voice that has little to do with the cultural centres of Beijing and Shanghai. In 1971, during the Great Proletarian Cultural Revolution (1966–1976), he came across a booklet of classical Chinese poetry hidden away in a remote village temple. This chance discovery ‘ripped the blindfold’ from his eyes and strengthened his desire to become a poet. Despite the fact that he was working as a riveter in a factory at the time, Yu managed to read widely in world literature thanks to the large volume of banned books in circulation underground. For many years he wrote in virtual isolation, but made an unexpected breakthrough in 1986 when his long, rough and tumble ‘stream of life’ poem ‘6 Shangyi Street’ appeared in China’s leading poetry journal. Since then, Yu has gone on to become one of China’s most unlikely contemporary poets, combining a down-to-earth approach with strong interests in wilderness, the loss of local and indigenous ways of life, and a Taoist-inspired mysticism of the ordinary. His numerous books of poetry include Sixty Poems (1989), Naming to a Crow (1993), Note of Anthology (2001), Anthology and Image (2003), and Only the Ocean is as Vast as a Screen (2006). To this day, he continues to live and write in Kunming. This is the first representative selection of his work to appear in English.