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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:

stanzas, or the lost “string” of meaning that would ostensibly link his multisized beads. The segregations are seen in this poem formally but also thematically, in a palpable lyricalization of modernity. Most clearly, they emerge in the word Look. The mere fact that Li’s “golden-haired” debut occurs in conjunction with this single-word imperative accentuates the role of looking as dramatic even in the articulation, the placement of lyrical perspective as modern (time-conscious) poetic posture.

Sorrow is a main element of Li’s lyrical posture, a mourning in equal parts acute and vague. The intensity of his sadness would suggest origin in certain life experiences, the precise nature of which one could only speculate. On a general level, though, the distantiated experience of modernity, sojourn in Western Europe, and ongoing travels in “foreign” studies brings tinges of regret to his life experiences, concisely formulated in the final “Expression”:

Our memories are in the wilds
Looking for the road home

我們之 souvenirs
在荒郊尋覓歸路。

In the context of burgeoning Chinese modernist poetry, Li’s work clearly “breaks with the past” even of his immediate predecessors, and this, in fact, is how he is literally “sold” to the Chinese reading public in 1925. In the November issue of Thread of Talk, following the publication of “Expressions of Time,” the advertisement for his collection of poetry reads,

[The collection’s] contents, style, and sentiments are all different from what we see in modern Chinese poetry today. This is a work that simply opens a new page in the world of poetry. (Sun 1986, 64)

In apprehending the difference, however, a focus on content, or even formal features, does not reveal anything unprecedented. Li’s innovations are a matter of new reading strategy, a new view of textual practice. If