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Modern Poetry in China: A Visual-Verbal Dynamic By Paul Manfredi

Chapter 1:  Li Jinfa
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Modern Poetry in China:

generation, amount to a series of lessons drawn from afar, with very little “close at hand.” The critique of Li’s work could therefore simply be turned around: Li’s visual and poetic work attempts to put things together, often for the first time, drawing disparate elements of the naked human form and the obscure, ineffably portrayed subject to the textual forefront both poetically and in terms of his plastic art. The result is one man’s view of a genuinely chaotic situation.

In Li’s “Expressions of Time,” mentioned before, is found thematic and visible convergence, a poem broken clearly into segments (nine numbered stanzas, a rarity in Li’s verse) and united in the theme of time. This poem first appeared in China in the literary journal Thread of Talk 語絲 (Yusi) in August 1925 , the third poem by Li Jinfa to appear in this journal. This printing of the poem, moreover, is the first instance of the use of Li’s pen name, the former two poems having been published under Li Shuliang. In other words, the appearance of “Golden-haired Li” in the Chinese literary record is a kind of pronouncement, the arrival of “what had not been before,” an ex nihilo force. The first line of the first “Expression” again is as follows:

The wind and rain on the ocean
A dead deer in my heart.


The “dead deer,” to which Sun Yushi took exception in his article, is a reference to the literary tradition, specifically the Book of Odes 詩經.24 Li’s “Time” marks a literary-historical space of centuries, a common feature of classical Chinese poetics, of course, but not as much of modern poetry. Where the traditional poet could position him or herself in a variety of postures vis-à-vis literary precursors, from respectful and laudatory to competitive and rebellious, Li’s is fragmentary, a reiteration of rift that separates his work from his own tradition. In this posture is an element of loss, like the lost points of connection between the unrelated