Zhai Yongming, born in Chengdu, Sichuan in 1955, has been awarded the Pamir International Poetry Prize as the best literary voice in the People’s Republic of China. She has also emerged as an essayist and art critic, and besides was named one of the fifty most beautiful women in by the press in 2005. Yet it is her poetry which laid the groundwork for her international recognition.
Her work is characterised by model development. It begins in 1983 with the private publication of the cycle »Women«, which, in its darkness, still remains within the tradtion of the Misty Poets, but at the same time heralds a new feminist and poetic discourse.
Her stay in New York in the nineties marks a poetic break with the past as well as a fresh start. Zhai began writing longer poems, whose narrative structures opened them up. They no longer dealt with one woman’s own suffering, but rather with the historical, universal suffering common to all women.
The second major shift in Zhai’s work followed on from her stay in Berlin in 2000, made possible by the German Academic Exchange Service. Her poems became laconic. Man per se remained a topic of critique, but her former tenacity came to an end: her work became more focused on universal social themes that affect as well as Europe.
Owing to the complexity of her texts, few of them have been translated to date. The one comparatively representative translation of her poems into a European language is the selection »Kaffeehauslieder« (t: Coffeehouse songs), translated into German in 2004. The translator Wolfgang Kubin has been following her career critically for a long time.
Zhai Yongming continues to live as a freelance writer in Chengdu. She runs an artists’ bar called »White Nights«, whose artistic ambiance has put it on the map.
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