From a creeping plant to a launderette, from the Chinese Wall to Florence and New Jersey, from Mandelstam to Nalan Xingde, no subject is alien to Chinese poet Zhu Zhu. But a poem is only rarely about the things it actually mentions. In one, the poet describes the creeper, similar to ivy, in terms of an attacking tiger (the Chinese word for such a plant is a "wall-climbing tiger") in order to represent a possessive lover.
By choosing his themes well and often concentrating them around one image, which he then illuminates from all angles, the poet (who also holds degrees in political science and law, writes essays, and is an art critic and curator of contemporary art) manages to create a detailed and visual style. In the poem featuring a creeper vine, every line extends the metaphor. In this manner, Zhu demonstrates a slight playfulness and irony, as he does in 'New Jersey on the moon', for example, where the "treadmill" existence of a Chinese woman who has emigrated to America is compared to a toy train running on its loop of track – a portrait which speaks of both regret and acceptance.
In the woman's apparent betrayal of the speaker and of ideals, we see that a concerned writer is concealed here. Zhu Zhu is a poet who reflects on individual developments, but also on broader social issues such as the refugee problem and terrorism (in 'Nice weather'), or Westerners applying double standards where living Chinese writers are concerned (in 'Florence'). An individual, lyrical view of the poetic process is evident in 'The sea in me'. All in all, Zhu Zhu's work is impressive in its originality, accessiblity and humanity.