Riding Pisces

Poems from Five Collections

brings together poems from over two decades and from five different volumes, all in both Chinese and English, many of which have been unavailable for some time, or hard to find. It also includes recent work, translated especially for this collection, and some poems that have been retranslated especially for this book. Included are poems from Masks and Crocodile (1990), Non-Person Singular (1994), Notes of a Blissful Ghost (2002), Sailor’s Home (a six-handed anthology, 2005), and the as-yet uncollected Dark Blue Verses. The book therefore presents an invaluable artistic portrait of the poet over a period of 20 years, showing the evolution of his work from the final poems composed in China to work composed in exile in New Zealand, Australia, the USA and the UK. These are shorter poems—although there are several poem-sequences—that serve to expand the reader’s understanding of Yang’s work, best known as he is for his longer poems such as Concentric Circles and Yi.

Yang Lian was born in Switzerland in 1955, and grew up in Beijing. He began writing when he was sent to the countryside in the 1970s. On his return to Beijing he became one of the first group of young ‘underground’ poets, who published the literary magazine Jintian (Today). Yang Lian’s poems became well-known and influential inside and outside of China in the 1980s, especially when his poem ‘Norlang’ was criticised by the Chinese government during the ‘Anti-Spiritual Pollution’ campaign.

Yang Lian was invited to visit Australia and New Zealand in 1988 and became an exile after the Tian’anmen massacre. Since that time, he has continued to write and speak out as a highly individual voice in world literature, politics and culture. Yang Lian has published seven collections of poems, two collections of prose and many essays in Chinese. His work has also been translated into more than twenty languages, including English, German, French, Italian, Spanish, Japanese and Eastern European languages. Yang Lian has been living in London since 1997.

He is currently co-editing The Anthology of Contemporary Chinese Poetry for Bloodaxe Books.

“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, The Scotsman