Tuesday, 31 July 2018

Book review: You Jump to Another Dream, Yan Jun (2012)

Occasional bits of interesting stuff emerged when I read this book of poetry but they were rare. In ‘February 14th, Going to the Hospital with my father’ (2008) there is a solid ending and a clear focus, but in the majority of the poems the abrupt juxtapositions of images, tropes and metaphors reveal no insights worth noting.

It’s not clear when Yan was born. The book says that he started writing poetry when he was 14 and the earliest poems in this collection date from 1991, so we know at least that he belongs to the post-Deng generation that has grown up in the new China of unfettered capitalism and record economic growth. He lives in Beijing and does other things as well as writing poetry: music critic, organiser, producer, sound artist.

The lines of poetry are often disjointed and broken off before they reach the end of a sentence. There is little punctuation. A new sentence will start in the middle of a line after the fragment of an earlier phrase has finished. All very avant-garde though ultimately pointless. In the prose pieces you get the feeling there’s an iconoclastic political identity here that might serve to explain the poet’s appeal to overseas critics, as though he represents something about an emergent progressive class in China. Perhaps this explains his appeal to the publisher. The book did nothing much for me.

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