NYS Writers Institute, November 29, 2001
3:00 p.m. Weinberger Seminar | Humanities Room 354, Uptown Campus
4:00 p.m. Dao "Craft of Poetry" Seminar | Humanities Room 354, Uptown Campus
8:00 p.m. Joint Reading | Recital Hall, Performing Arts Center, Uptown Campus
One of China's most celebrated poets-in-exile, Bei Dao served as a member of the Red Guard during Chairman Mao's infamous Cultural Revolution. In 1969, however, he was sent into the countryside for "re-education "-- seven years of forced labor in the construction trade. During this time, Bei Dao became disaffected with the Chinese political system, helped to organize dissident reading circles, and began writing poetry and short stories. He distributed his work illegally, and helped to found one of China's most influential-- though short-lived-- underground literary journals, "Jintian" ("Today").
During a period of cultural openness in the 1980's, Bei Dao's identity became known, and he became more of a public figure as an outspoken critic of the government and society. When students took over Tiananmen Square in 1989, they recited his poetry as chants and emblazoned it on banners, notably the lines,
"I will not kneel on the ground Allowing the executioners to look tall"
Away in Berlin for a literary conference during the political crisis, Bei Dao was not allowed to return to his wife and child in China (they were reunited six years later). He has lived since that time in Europe and the U.S.
Written in a pioneering modernist style, Bei Dao's short stories tell of lives destroyed or rendered
absurd by the Cultural Revolution. Published in Chinese as "Bodong" (Hong Kong, 1985), and in
English translation as Waves (1987, ISBN 0-8112-1134-7), the stories established Bei Dao as one of China's leading
literary figures. Historian Jonathan Spence, writing in the "New York Times Book Review," called
the stories in "Waves," "almost unbearably poignant."
He lives with his daughter in Davis, California.
"To categorize Bei Dao as merely an exile or disssident is to miss the point. Bei Dao is simply a poet. There's no greater threat to totalitarianism than individuality, and few living writers possess a voice
as elegant as that heard in Unlock." - Andrew Ervin, Philadelphia Inquirer
In the course of many years of friendship, Weinberger collaborated with Paz on translations of "Selected Poems" (1984), "The Collected Poems: 1957-1987" (1987), "A Tree Within" (1988), "Reading John Cage" (1989), "Sunstone" (1991), and "In Light of India" (1997). He defines the translator as "an actor playing the role of author," and says that "a translation is based on the dissolution of the self."
Weinberger is also a critic and essayist with eclectic interests. His most recent collection of essays, "Karmic Traces: 1993-1999" (2000, New Directions, ISBN 0-8112-1456-7) is a wide-ranging exploration of poetry, places, peoples and cultures. Subjects include Aztec religious practices, the Vikings of Iceland, naked mole rats, and Hong Kong's transfer to China.
For additional information, contact the Writers Institute at 518-442-5620 or online at http://www.albany.edu/writers-inst.