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China Turns to Poetry After Wenchuan Earthquake

Daily News

Online Only, posted 6.23.08

In the wake of China’s May 12 earthquake, both amateur and professional poets have contributed to a surge of poetry written in response to the disaster, prompting the publication of a number of anthologies, China.org.cn recently ported. The Wenchuan earthquake, named for the location of its epicenter in the nation’s Sichuan Province, killed nearly seventy thousand people and displaced an estimated five million more.

The speedy publication of anthologies has been bolstered by poets’ presence on the Internet, with many pages of poems having received millions of visitors in recent weeks. Though poet Hai Xiao initially planned to simply create a section on his Web site, Xshdai.com, where writers could contribute poems relating to the earthquake, he decided to compile an anthology. Edited over six days, Love Knows No Borders: We Are Here With Wenchuan was released by New World Press on May 22, following the national three-day period of mourning. The press plans to turn over all proceeds from sales of the book to relief efforts.

On May 24, Qunzhong Press published Anthology of Poetry for Wenchuan, consisting of many poems that previously appeared online. Two thousand copies of the book, which includes the work of policemen, aid workers, and other volunteers alongside that of well-known poets Ye Yanbin, Zhang Xuemeng, Wang Xiaoni, and Yang Liuhong, were donated to Xinhua Bookstore, to be distributed to those affected by the disaster.

The collection We Are Here Together was published on June 12 and includes poems by over a hundred residents of Qinghai Province, which borders Sichuan and was hit by a quake on June 9.

"The country has just witnessed a historical renaissance in Chinese poetry," said novelist Yan Yanwen in a speech at Renmin University earlier this month. "Ordinary people are choosing to express themselves through poetry, and so the poem is once more the property of ordinary people.”

 

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