Poems by Bei Dao

Bei Dao is a Chinese poet who is one of key figures in the group of Misty Poets, who protested actively against restrictions of the Cultural Revolution. His poems can be characterized as paradoxical verbal protests. The first poem for analysis is “WE”.

It is a free verse, there is no rhyme in it, but there is a specific rhythm that reminds revolutionary slogans and the beat of the drum. The main idea of the poem is that even though the process of changing is difficult, people need to cooperate and to rewrite the laws for the better future. Bei Dao uses the imagery of changing seasons to underline the contrast between retrogrades and revolutionaries. For example, “Scared out of our wits Carry lanterns chasing spring” compared to “Searching for the heart of winter The end of the stream” (“Poems by Bei Dao”). The setting of the poem is the Chinese Cultural Revolution. There is an allusion to the red Guards, who led numerous campaigns against bureaucracy and rigid censorship they introduced: “Scars gleam, cups rotate, Rays of light are created. Watch for that moment of bewitchery. A thief steals into the post office letters send out shrieks” (“Poems by Bei Dao”).

Paradox is the most used figure of speech in the poem. It emphasizes the unreality of everything that happens in the verse, even if it is true. It also creates an atmosphere of the evil parade that should not take place in real life. Irony is another figure of speech used in the poem. For example, “Nails, oh nails! The words of this song will not be changed” (“Poems by Bei Dao”). It is an ironical allusion to revolutionary songs that are themselves meaningless and paradoxical.

The second poem for analysis is “This Day”. It is also a free verse with no rhyme, but there is no specific rhythm there either. The main idea seems to be complicated in this poem. It is a combination of two thoughts. The first one is that the society is living in a false and rigid system that is absolutely unnatural. The second is that it is possible to become free with the help of poetry. Bei Dao calls is “releasing those fish into the light” (“Poems by Bei Dao”). There is an imagery of technological society that pollutes the earth (“enrages the sea like an oil tanker”, “the earth’s wounds”), of revolution (“summer shimmers with imperial colors”, “please join in the meaning of the age”) (“Poems by Bei Dao”).

“This Day” is also a very paradoxical poem. The author combines the descriptions of the things that create an ironical picture together. For example, wind of love and revolution: “The wind is intimate with love, Summer shimmers with imperial colors”, ‘I quaff water from a bright mirror And spot the enemy in my mind’s eye” (“Poems by Bei Dao”). There are interesting new comparisons and metaphors created by Bei Dao: “The tenor’s singing Enrages the sea like an oil tanker”, “a bright mirror”, “fishing lonesomely measures” (“Poems by Bei Dao”).

Bei Dao has an active life position in the questions of politics and his poetry is a good expression of it. He creates the verses with serious ideological background and the abundance of paradoxes emphasizes that something in the real state of things is wrong. That is why there is an urgent need to make an ironical kitsch out of it.

Works Cited

Writing Handout. Analyzing a Poem.” Academic Support Center. Web. 11 Oct 2013.

Poems by Bei Dao.” The Brooklyn Rail. Web. 11 Oct 2013.

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