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.
Yang Lian has written that Concentric Circles is ‘the most important piece since I came out from China’, and that it is emphatically not a political work, but instead a work focused on ‘deep reality’ and the nature of how humans understand that reality through the medium of language. The book, like the sections of which it is comprised, uses a kind of collage, where many small fragments, each complete in itself, are aligned together in a series of patterns to form a grander mosaic: from line to line, poem to poem, cycle to cycle, in ever-widening concentric structures.
Yang Lian regards this English version as an integral part of the work as a whole – indeed, it could be said that the work is incomplete without its English parallel, and that as he reads it he is ‘struggling free from time and incorporated into the beautiful “concentric circles” of ancient and modern poetry, in China or elsewhere’.
‘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
‘He continues his work bridging Chinese tradition to western modernism. The scope of his creative imagination is astounding …Yang Lian is one of the great world poets of our era’ – Klaus Rifberg, Edinburgh Review
‘It wouldn’t surprise me if he became a future Nobel Laureate. His style is one of extraordinary grandeur and ambition… Without question, the sequence Where the Sea Stands Still has a monumental drive, a sensuous strength and intellectual clarity; it could prove as enduring an achievement as Montale’s Xenia or Elytis’s The Axion Esti’ – 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.