Showing posts with label Poetry. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Poetry. Show all posts

Wednesday, July 16, 2014


So, I can not finish writing about Ha Jin's The Crazed without sharing one of my favorite "ramblings" from Professor Yang.  I found the preceding passages too thought-provoking to ignore, as it asks a great question regarding Western and Eastern poetry voices and mechanics.  It also reflects one of the overall arguments of the novel.  

"He lifted his face and began lecturing in his normal way.  'Comrades, when we analyze a Western poem, we should bear in mind that the speaker and the poet are rarely identical.  The fundamental difference between Chinese poetry and Western poetry lies in the use of the persona.  In the Chinese poetic tradition the poet and the poetic speaker are not separate except in some minor genres, such as laments from the boudoir and folk ballads.  Ancient Chinese poets mostly speak as themselves in their poems; the sincerity and the trustworthiness of the poetic voice are the essential virtues of their poetry.  Chinese poets do not need a persona to alienate themselves from their poetic articulation.  By contrast, in Western literature poets often adopt a persona to make their poetry less autobiographical.  They believe in artifice more than in sincerity.  Therefore, when we read a Western poem, we must not assume that the poet speaks.  In general the speaker is fictional, not autobiographical.'"

"'The essence of Western culture is the self, whereas the essence of the Chinese culture is the community.  But poetry in both cultures has a similar function, that is, to express and preserve the self, though it attains this goal through different ways.  In Chinese culture, poetry liberates and sustains the self despite the fact that the self is constantly under the overwhelming pressure of the community.  Thus Chinese poets tend to speak as themselves, too earnest to worry about having a characterized voice to conceal their own–they desperately need the genuine self-expression in poetic articulation.  In other words, the self is liberated in poetic speech, which is essentially cathartic to the Chinese poet.  On the contrary, in Western culture poetry tends to shield and enrich the self, which on the one hand is threatened by other human beings and on the other hand has to communicate with others.  Therefore, the persona becomes indispensable if Western poets intend to communicate and commiserate with others without exposing themselves vulnerably.  In this sense, the persona as a poetic device functions to multiply the self.'"

Seeing that Ha Jin is a poet himself, he must've been channeling himself through Professor Yang intensely during this moment/scene from The Crazed.  Nonetheless, I have to say that I need to familiarize myself with more poetry by Chinese poets to even construct a decent response.  Nevertheless, it all bears a thought.  However, what I will say from a cultural and societal standpoint is that I can most certainly see how Eastern cultures focus on the community/country as a collective; whereas in the West we do lean toward many of our inner, personal philosophies and identities as individuals.  If this is reflected between–say an American poet over a Chinese poet–then I wouldn't be surprised should I come to that conclusion after exploring each.

So what do you think?  Is there some reality behind Professor Yang's thoughts in relation to poetry and cultural differences?

As a minor sidenote, this whole post/subject kind of makes me think of those moments where I'm screaming at whatever current Korean drama I'm watching.  Watching a character bow, move, get slapped, and honor abuse to save face for him or herself, as well as to not embarrass or make another character uncomfortable, often gets to me and my Western way of thinking.  But that's neither here nor there.  It just is what is is.  I understand it completely, while knowing that if I were in that situation it would take every bit of me to hold myself back.

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