Forms of Distance

Pei-Tao, Author, Beidao, Author, Bei Dao, Author
Pei-Tao, Author, Beidao, Author, Bei Dao, Author New Directions Publishing Corporation $16.95 (86p) ISBN 978-0-8112-1266-3
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Bei Dao ( Old Snow ), a prominent poet and Chinese dissident, has been living in exile since the Tiananmen protest. This bilingual collection is also a protest, though not in any overt sense. Rather, its exposure of the pain of exile evokes both a man who has lost his country and a country that has lost its voice. Even from exile, poetry holds out the possibility of liberation: ``a song / is an ever hostile tree / across the border,'' Bei Dao writes. Exile permits speech. Yet, as his work also shows, exile enforces rootlessness and a detachment from the poet's sources and the site of conflict, inducing ``a strange homesickness.'' Condemnation mingles with despair. The poems reflect the influence of ancient Chinese poetry, and also the work of modern Western poets, particularly in the use of surrealistic imagery. The images here are usually oblique, mysterious and resonant. There is perhaps a veiled warning in the poems not simply to lionize the poet for political courage, but to appreciate him as someone who, regardless of time and place, can imagine the world. (June)
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