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Frontier Taiwan

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Containing translations of nearly 400 poems from 50 poets, this anthology reveals Taiwan's 20th-century transformation in a broad spectrum of themes, forms, and styles: from lyrical meditation to political satire, haiku to concrete poetry, surrealism to postmodernism. The in-depth introduction outlines the development of modern poetry in the unique historical and cultural context of Taiwan.

About the Author

Michelle Yeh is professor of Chinese at the University of California, Davis. N. G. D. Malmqvist is professor emeritus and member of the Swedish Academy in Stockholm.


Mainland China continues to try to bring the "breakaway Republic" of 22 million (and the 13th largest economy in the world) of Taiwan back into the fold, but as editor and scholar Yeh shows in her introduction, Taiwanand its poetryhas always been a complicated mix of influences. Multicultural and multilingual syntheses continue to characterize Taiwanese poetry, as this landmark collection, simultaneously published in Taibeiand, surprisingly, Beijingmakes clear. The first "modern" Taiwanese poems (eschewing classically ordained styles and subjects) were written in Japanese in the early 1920s, when Taiwan had been ruled by Japan for more than 30 years. The French-influenced surrealist experiments of the Le Moulin Poetry Society of the '30s were dubbed "decadent" by contemporary critics, but (as Yeh notes) Li Zhangrui's "This Family" remains a devastating critique of bourgeois torpor. Taiwan was returned to China at the end of WWII, and the government moved to purge Japanese elements from the language, with only partial success, but the Modern Poetry, Blue Star and Epoch poetry societies of the early '50s were made up of Chinese-speaking and -writing ‚migr‚s. In the '60s, modern poetry finally won the support of the universities, which has both professionalized and radicalized it since. While few U.S. readers will recognize the names here, the translations (by various hands) are solid, letting the work speak across cultures. But the main impact of this book will be sociopolitical, allowing connections between writers who might have had difficulty finding each other without this judicious letter of introduction. (Apr.) Forecast: Taiwan remains a flash point in geopolitical relations, particularly given current intensifications of U.S.-Chinese mutual wariness. Browser curiosity could be piqued by this collection if displayed to nonhabitual readers of poetry. Copyright 2001 Cahners Business Information.

The first English-language anthology to provide a truly comprehensive view of poetry in Taiwan. Los Angeles Times Book Review (Best Books of 2001) Sensitive fidelity to denotative and connotative meanings of the original Chinese and smooth, often inspired English. The 50-page introduction by Yeh is superb-- a comprehensive, nuanced scholarly overview of the historical social, political, cultural, and linguistic forces that combine to make Taiwan a unique example of what Chinese poetry may become when visions of past, present, and future mingle with issues of local identity, national politics, and international influences... Strongly recommended. Choice

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