China's Second World of Poetry: Grand Poetry Exhibition of 1986
"A Grand Exhibition of Modernist Poetry Groups on China's Poetry Scene 1986" (中国诗坛1986' 现代诗群体大展) was a seminal event in the development of contemporary Mainland Chinese avant-garde poetry. As such, the Exhibition is dealt with in some detail with regard to the poets of Sichuan in Chapter 8 of the e-book China's Second World of Poetry on this website. However - as noted in the aforementioned text - there is some confusion as to the exact contents of the Exhibition, and this appendix will attempt to address this issue.
Not a few scholars seem to have based their comments on the Exhibition on the subsequent book: A Grand Overview of China's Modernist Poetry Groups 1986-1988 (中国现代主义诗群大观 1986-1988), published in 1988 by the Shanghai Tongji University Publishing House (同济大学出版社) and edited by Xu Jingya 徐敬亚 (the original editor), Meng Lang 孟浪, Cao Changqing 曹长青, and Lü Guipin 吕贵品. Yet, as the new title suggests, the contents of the book are substantially different from that of the original Exhibition.
This situation is not wholly surprising given the poor quality of the newspaper on which the Exhibition was originally published in the October 21 edition of the nationally-distributed Hefei periodical The Poetry Press (诗歌报, Part I) and the October 21 (Part II) and October 24 (Part III) issues of The Shenzhen Youth Daily (深圳青年报) - subsequently closed in 1987 due to its liberal editorial stance.
Aside from the outrageous nature of the poetry and manifestos published in Exhibition - as judged by orthodox poets, critics, and readers, who were unfamiliar with the poetry being produced and unofficially published in China's Second World of Poetry - the layout of the Exhibition also laid itself open to criticism by some of the very poets whose work was published in it. (See scanned documents.) This was perhaps a natural reaction to the necessarily limited selections of poetry and abbreviated manifestos. Apparently, at the time, many contributing poets were unaware of the manner in which Xu Jingya would arrange for the Exhibition to be published.
In recent years, attempts have been made to recreate the attention-grabbing impact of the 1986 Exhibition. In 2003-2004, the largest such attempt was made by Chengdu's Stars Poetry (星星诗刊), the Southern Metropolitan Daily (南方都市报) and the Internet website New Wave (新浪网, www.sina.com.cn). After collecting manuscripts and manifestos through New Wave from August 2003 until the end of January 2004, from March the selected poetry etc was published in Stars and the newspaper's cultural supplement. That the "Jia Shen Storm Grand Poetry Exhibition" (甲申风暴诗歌大展) and other such similar poetry actions have not achieved the impact of the original Exhibition can be put down to the relative ease with which unofficial poets and poetry can be published on the Internet and elsewhere in the twenty-first century.
In fact, the very use of the Internet indicates the root of the difficulty. Readers interested in avant-garde poetry can find all they want online in poetry webzines, poetry forums, and comprehensive poetry and literature websites, of which a partial list (well over 300) can be found elsewhere on this site. In other words, the Internet itself can be considered an ongoing, ever expanding poetry exhibition. Attempts such as the Jia Shen Exhibition are in danger of appearing as money-grabs, trying to get poetry readers to spend money when much of what they may want is available at no cost on the Internet.
Finally, the original Exhibition has been somewhat mythologized over the years. It is often forgotten that 1986 as a whole was the most liberal year with regard to publication opportunities for experimental poetry to that date since 1949. The political and cultural crackdown that followed in 1987 threw the year into even starker relief, and it was not until the mid-1990s that a similar situation began to develop again. At the time, most of the sort of poetry that was published in the Exhibition was being published in several nationally circulated official literary journals well before the Exhibition appeared. That said, the Exhibition could be seen as a sort of in-your-face denouement for experimental poetry after 6 years of bubbling beneath the surface of the official (über-) face of Chinese poetry. The genie was out of the bottle and not even the events of June Fourth 1989 could put it back in.
Editor: Xu Jingya徐敬亚 编
· Xu Jingya’s lead essay in Part One of the Exhibition below can be considered
as an introduction, but is not to be found in the 1988 book.
· Below, all groups – or individuals presented as groups – with manifestos are
numbered 1-65. In the Exhibition approximately 50% of page space is given
over to these manifestos. The lettered poems/poets A-N in Part 3 of the
Exhibition are without manifestos or claims to be groups – these poems were
selected from various unofficial journals from different parts of
· The numbering of the groups below is my own based on how a reader would
see it when reading a modern Chinese newspaper page.
· Of the 65 ‘groups’ below, 25 consist of individuals with a manifesto.
· Of these 65 groups, 19 have 5-or-more members.
· Only 6 groups claim membership of 10-or-more, the largest being Not-Not 非非 (#21 below).
· 3 of the groups are not groups with manifestos, but loosely defined groupings defined as groups by the editor. (Misty Poets朦胧诗人，Overseas Poets海外诗人，the University Poetry School大学生诗派)
· 13 of the ‘groups’ are from
· In the individual group entries below, if a member is still an active, well-known poet and does not have a poem published in the Exhibition, the name of that member has been noted in parenthesis.
· The order in which the groups appear in the ‘exhibition’ and in the 1988 book is rather different. For example, in the book Them他们 is moved to #3 from #1 in the Exhibition, the Misty朦胧 poets are moved to #1 from #44 (1st in Part 3 below), and Not-Not非非 is moved to # 2 from # 21 (1st in Part 2). Politics as usual.
· The book includes more poems from more group members of the groups that the editors apparently believe to be of more importance or higher quality. There are also longer manifestos in some cases. Finally, some groups (at least 3) that were absent from the Exhibition are added in the book: these include the
· A study of the names in the ‘1986-1988 poetry collection’ part of the book (pp. 395-558) reveals that several well-known poets from the Exhibition are absent. One of the reasons for this was a feeling of anger among some contributors in 1986 with the way the Exhibition was published and how it was critically received (overwhelmingly negative), in part the result of how it was edited and published – how it ‘looked’. Among
Conclusion: From what I have said above, it appears that Xu Jingya徐敬亚 et al. did try
to make the 1988 book appear more ‘serious’, if not of higher quality, than
the Exhibition below.
* Key: The Exhibition is broken into the three parts in which it was published. After the three introductory prose pieces, groups etc. are numbered according to their appearance on the pages of the respective parts. As in the Exhibition, each entry opens with the place of origin (city or province). This is followed by the group name, number of members, names of prominent members without published poetry in the Exhibition, and the names of other group members with the title of their published poetry.
Part I The Poetry Press 21 October 1986 (No. 51)
第一辑 《诗歌报》 1986年10月21日（总第51期）
Prose Introductory Pieces:
Poetry Conference”> 〈诗的观念和诗的反思 – ‘新时期诗歌
- Held on September 10, organized by Poetry Monthly 《诗刊》and Poetry Exploration《诗探索》.
- Chaired by Yang Kuanghan杨匡汉.
- Attended by：Liu Zhanqiu刘湛秋, Xie Mian谢冕, Wang Guangming王光明, Tang Xiaodu唐晓渡, Wang Gan王干, Liu Xiaobo刘晓波, etc.
1. Nanjing南京：Them《他们》8 members （Ding Dang丁当, Xiaohai小海, Xiaojun
小君, Lu Yimin陆忆敏）: Poetry from Han Dong韩东
Friend>〈我们的朋友〉; Lü De’an吕德安
和我〉; Yu Jian于坚
多年〉; Wang Yin王寅 〈朗诵〉.