Introduction: Contemporary Chinese Poetry and Literature on the Internet - Michael Day
While modern Chinese poetry may not be as in-the-news as HIV, SARS, the latest political victims of the CCP, and other such topics, there are many fascinating developments in this area to be found – or not – on the Internet.
As a researcher of developments in Chinese avant-garde poetry since the appearance of the unofficial journal Today (今天) in 1978 until today, it is readily apparent to me that many experimental poets have taken to the Internet in a big way since the late 1990s. Well-known former unofficial paper-journals and their poetry – and fiction in some cases – can now be found on-line: for example, Them (他们) of Nanjing established an Internet site in 2002 and has put out a new ‘issue’ every 2 months (the paper journal had published from 1985 until 1994). Other, newer unofficial journals sometimes have both paper and online versions, such as Poetry Research (诗参考) and the woman-poets-only journals Wings (翼) and The Woman’s Poetry Paper (女子诗报).
A particular interesting issue is the continuing polemic between poets and critics who claim to represent poetry of an “intellectual” (知识分子) variety and those of the self-proclaimed “among the people” (民间) style. What was once an argument fought out in various officially- and unofficially-published journals and papers in 1998-1999, moved on to the Internet in 2000, and continues there to this day.
Often the only way to access critical articles and literary work published in China is via the Internet. However, as with the above journals, there are no guarantees that these materials will remain on the WWW for extended periods of time. As with unofficial paper journals, there are always problems with funding and the danger of confiscation of computer hard ware and soft ware by the authorities. These issues are documented and have also been of my experience.
For example, early in 2003, via a Google search, I stumbled across some very valuable, extensive interviews, in the form of three chapters in as yet unpublished book, on a subject I am researching. As is my habit, I immediately printed off the 200-odd pages of material. Not very long after this I discovered that these pages were no longer available on the Internet, and still later I learned that the hard drives on which they had been kept had been confiscated by the authorities in Chengdu.
I hope I will be able to help DACHS identify and archive as many truly valuable literary sites and materials before they disappear forever into the files of the Public Security and National Security agencies of China, as so much already has over the past 25 years.
December 5, 2003
Poetry in DACHS