For Sheng Xing, a disquieting new voice in contemporary Chinese literature, poetry comes out of his engagement with an intensely personal inner world. Born in 1978, Sheng Xing grew in an around Laiwu, the town in Shandong province where he continues to live and work. He began writing as a high-school student, and currently pursues his interests as a poet alongside an office job that, in his own words, “bears absolutely no relationship” to his poetry.
Since the mid-1980s, Chinese poetry has been rebelling against a Romantic loftiness. However, in recent times, a more down-to-earth tone has prevailed. As the poet Yu Jian once wrote: “Poets realized that the spirit of poetry was no longer in the heroic risk-taking of legends, in epic human experiences, in bloody struggles. Poetry had reached the great ocean of the individual human soul concealed at the bottom of the unremarkable everyday lives.” In other words, contemporary Chinese has only recently found a meaning for the ordinary experience of human beings.
Sheng Xing’s poetry seems to echo Yu Jian’s statement. In it, we read of desperate people, frost-covered rocks, the “fine tiny toes” of a rat, rudeness, impertinence, a fish tank full of goldfish. Sheng is skeptical when it comes to poetry’s potential for changing the world, but he does believe that it can give coherence to that “inner world” we carry around in ourselves.
Although Sheng Xing’s publishing career is still in its infancy, his work has been represented in some important recent collections. For example, two of his poem were included in the influential 2000 Yearbook of New Chinese Poetry (2000 nian Zhongguo xinshi nianjian) edited by Yang Ke. Generally, however, he has tended to publish much of his work on the internet where the opportunities are greater.
These poems were translated by Simon Patton, a teacher of Chinese language and literature at the University of Queensland (Australia), with the help of the poet.
Sheng Xing: A Poet's Suspicions