In the following undated statement from the 1990s, Zhai Yongming attempts to summarize the most essential aspects of the poetic art as she conceives it.
Poetry is an everlasting yearning for unknowable worlds and unattainable objects.
Poetry is the revision of currently existing language and the rediscovery of that which has already been discovered.
Poetry is a reason some people need to go on living. The place where most people come to a halt is precisely the place from which the poet sets out from. Most people kill time; the poet creates it.
Writing poetry is a process that involves waiting for a miracle to happen. That instant which we strive so hard to get close to is the instant we comply with the will of Heaven.
Poetry will always be a form of inquiry: transcending language, intellect, beauty and even death, it hangs its question marks high up on the brow of time.
A poet needs to be able to evoke intense emotion in herself and in her readers; a good poet has the capacity to control this emotion.
The worth of a good poem lies in this: no matter what angle you look at it or what method you use to make sense of it, it is still, no more and no less, a “good poem”.
A poet concentrates all her passions on a feeling for writing [wenzi qing]. She discovers things of the utmost importance in characters and words invested with ordinary meanings. The rise and fall of the tones of the characters give assistance to the secret games she plays in her heart of hearts, and helps her to deduce the intriguing rhythms of the ineffable.
The poet should be in possession of a sensitivity towards—and an understanding of—words and language that goes beyond that of the average person. In addition, she should demonstrate an ability to judge her own works and those of other poets. As well, she should have a “third eye” [tianyan] that opens when confronted with moments of mystery.
At the same time as the poet writes “prophetic remarks” for the world, she is also the one being “prophesied” about through her language.
Translated by Simon Patton