Before and since his enforced exile, Yang Lian has been one of the most innovative and influential poets in China. Widely hailed in America and Europe as a highly individual voice in world literature, he has been translated into many languages.
Lee Valley Poems is his first book to be wholly conceived and written in London, once his place of exile and now his permanent home. It includes an extended sequence, What Water Confirms, translated by Brian Holton and Agnes Hung-Chong Chan, and a suite of shorter poems translated by several poets, most of these working with Yang Lian: Polly Clark, Antony Dunn, Jacob Edmond, W.N. Herbert, Pascale Petit, Fiona Sampson and Arthur Sze.
The book’s preface, A Wild Goose Speaks to Me, takes as its springboard Yang Lian’s comment ‘There is no international, only different locals’. With this perspective, the Lee Valley of his first London poems becomes the international inside the local: the poet may travel far but never really leaves the ground of his own inner self, and the value and joy of poetry is seen as fishing in the deep sea of existence.
‘Yang Lian is one of the most astonishing poets I’ve read for years. He has a westernist, modernist sensibility allied with an ancient Chinese, almost shamanistic one. He can both excite and frighten you – like MacDiarmid meets Rilke with Samurai sword drawn!’ – W.N. Herbert, Scotsman.
‘Yang Lian distinguishes himself in representing the pain of life caught in between historic eras…a new version of an old issue for world literature as well as Chinese literature is proposed: how to continue writing, relying on individual rather than enforced communal inspiration’ – Allen Ginsberg.
‘It wouldn’t surprise me if he became a future Nobel Laureate. His style is one of extraordinary grandeur and ambition…a monumental drive, a sensuous strength and intellectual clarity’ – David Morley, Stand.
Yang Lian on Concentric Circles
Chinese poet Yang Lian talks about his book Concentric Circles in English, and then reads the first part of the first poem in Chinese. This film is from the DVD-book In Person: 30 Poets filmed by Pamela Robertson-Pearce, edited by Neil Astley, which includes poems by Yang Lian from both Concentric Circles and Where the Sea Stands Still read in Chinese and discussed in English.