Dr. Dian Li teaches Modern Chinese Literature at the University of Arizona, Tucson. He has published numerous articles, translations, and book reviews in academic journals including Positions, Jintian (Today), Modern Chinese Literature and Culture, Asian Cinema, The Kenyon Review, The Green Mountains Review, Journal of Modern Literature in Chinese (Hong Kong), Senses of Cinema (Australia), Babel (Europe), Concentric (Taiwan), and Sungkyun Journal of East Asian Studies (South Korea).
2006 0-7734-5875-1 This book studies the poetic works of Bei Dao, one of the most important and influential contemporary Chinese poets. Bei Dao’s hermetic style of poetry has been baffling his critics ever since he started writing in the late 1970s. While his earlier “Misty” poetry met with strong resistance from official Chinese critics, his continuing insistence on fragmented syntax and disjunctive imagery while writing in exile has earned him some detractors in the west. Does Bei Dao resist reading? Can one make sense of his poetry? What is the relationship between meaning and interpretative certitude? These are some of the questions that the study addresses. Through a close reading of an expansive selection of his poems, the book constructs a conceptual roadmap of Bei Dao’s complex poetics that is both unabashedly individualistic and deeply synchronistic with traditional Chinese and post-modernist aesthetics. The reading of Bei Dao not only dismisses the myth of the poet’s unreadability but also demonstrates that the poetics of uncertainty and plentitude are a reflection of Bei Dao’s ingrained skepticism that comes from his frustrating experiences with the Maoist ideology force-fed in his formative years, a skepticism that later expands to produce a suspicion about all discourses of power. Bei Dao’s poetry, in a nutshell, is an exercise in survival, a battle of voices, and a strategy of mapping out the vanishing self against all antagonistic forces in contemporary societies, real or imagined.