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Book Review: A Selection of Thirteen Yunnan Poets

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A small launch party was held earlier this year to celebrate the publishing of the anthology A Selection of Thirteen Yunnan Poets (云南十三人诗选) by Yunnan Publishing Group (云南出版集团公司) and Yunnan People's Publishing House (云南人民出版社).

The reception at Loft Jinding 1919 brought together a lively and highly-charged gathering of young poets from around Yunnan. All thirteen contributors attended.

The newly published authors were joined by other local poets including Yu Jian. The more venerable writers, led by Yu, handed out humorous awards to congratulate each of the young poets.

The collection of over one hundred poems ranges widely through myriad subjects, such as love, longing, separation, the intimacy of human relationships, the fragility of life and the solace of nature. Many of the poems are characterized by rich metaphor, startling imagery and a compelling sense of immediacy.

Perhaps the hardest task for any poet is to include the audience in every verse. Writing a line that refreshes and reinvents the world is particularly challenging. A poem can make the reader see the world in a new way when composed with grace or special insight.

This enthusiastically written collection aims to do just that. It is carefully measured and crafted. Some poems are highly enigmatic, others less ambiguous. The language and syntax throughout the collection are both striking and inventive.

One of the shorter poems in the collection is called "Alleyway" (胡同), by Hei Niao:

An alleyway at three o'clock in the morning
I brace myself in the darkness
A man walking in my direction also braces himself
A scary-looking alleyway
We brush past each other.
At that moment when the robbers start their day
A lonely man
Conceals all the weapons of the world.

The shorter poems contained in this anthology are usually less than one page long. They are much more confident in their overall crafting and more skillfully executed than the longer ones.

The thirteen poets are:

Shang Zhengcan (尚正灿)
Li Xuliang (李续亮)
He Wenzhao(和文朝)
Yang Xiaowen (杨晓雯)
Shi Yuanxi (施袁喜)
Wu Yunli (吴云粒)
Zhang Xiangwu (张翔武)
Fu Ziwen (伏自文)
Lu Wei (陆薇)
Yang Qing (杨青)
Hei Niao (黑鸟)
Fengren Yuma (蜂人与马)
Ye Feng (野风)

A Selection of Thirteen Yunnan Poets is available at Wheatfield Bookstore for 28 yuan. More information about the authors and their book release event can be found (in Chinese) on Shi Yuanxi's blog.

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This is a thoughtful review of this Yunnan poetry anthology, and I liked the poem included as an example. Are the poems in the book presented in both Mandarin and English?

The anthology is currently published only in Chinese.

Wow, what a great poem. I am a poet coming to Kunming in June. I am excited to see the community involved in this great genre.

Congrats on your endeavor.

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