A further spotlight on contemporary Chinese poets – Here’s Allen in 1986 in New York City at the PEN Club introducing a reading by (and conversation with) the poet Shu Ting
AG: My name is Allen Ginsberg and I’m a member of the PEN Club executive board. To begin with, it’s an interesting audience (at least from my view looking out at you). Aside from mathematical or business meetings, and aside from Buddhist congregations, it’s one of the most interesting mixtures of European, American and Oriental faces that I’ve seen in the United States since I’ve been born. So that really is a charming sign of one world. Of the folks at the table, the translator is Mr. Ikai Ching, the general editor of Chinese Culture Quarterly who has been translating for the distinguished poet, Shu Ting – Shoo Ting? – How do I say it? How do Americans pronounce her name properly? (Allen is told via translator, “It’s perfect already!”) and Sharon Olds, the American poet. To begin with there will be a colloquy between Shu Ting and Sharon Olds, a conversation beginning with some poetry by Shu Ting which Sharon will read in English and then conversation hopefully satisfying everybody’s curiosity about secret family life, political life, (literary) life, gangs of thousands of poets, whatever we’re most inquisitive to know. We might be able to ask questions also. Shu Ting, as a poet, is famous all over China, particularly among the younger generations because of her radical poetry, radical in that introduced a new theme to the surface, which was young love. Her early poems were put up on the Democracy Wall (well, actually mature poems were put up on the Democracy Wall), particularly a poem declaring love in terms of the image of a tree with branches touching, equality of love between the sexes, which implied, ultimately, equality between the people and the Party (or was so interpreted in the social circumstance of the ebbing of the Cultural Revolution and the re-emergence of human feeling in China.
When I was in Baoding in 1984, December, among the younger students, when I asked who was an interesting poet in China, Shu Ting’s name was the first that was spoken, and younger students, seventeen-year-old kids, even went to the trouble of translating her best-known poems for me to make sure that I was introduced and understood what was going on. So that I found out that wherever I went, asking who was representative of a younger generation of Chinese writers, Shu Ting’s name arose, So, we are very happy to have her here tonight and we’re lucky to get so humane a person to talk to – with Sharon Olds, equally humane, who was born in San Francisco, educated out West and New York, living and teaching in the East, who’s poetry also has elements of narrative with emotion, direct contact with the world in affect, real feeling, as part of the narration of story. So we have two women poets of distinguished feeling to converse with us tonight. So, I will gleefully rest the floor to them.