Duo Duo
(China, 1951)   
Duo Duo

Duo Duo 多多 (penname for Li Shizheng 栗世征) grew up in the years when China was going through historical changes. He was born in 1951, shortly after the turnover of political power in 1949 and a few years before the “anti-rightist” movement in 1957-1958. His formal schooling was interrupted and eventually ended when the Cultural Revolution broke out in 1966. He was sent to Baiyangdian farm for reformation during Mao’s campaign which sent students and intellectuals from the cities to the countryside to receive "re-education". Incidentally, Baiyngdian became the cradle of contemporary Chinese poetry: Shi Zhi, Gen Zi, Mang Ke, Duo Duo and many other earlier poets spent their youth and early writing careers there.

      Duo Duo began writing in 1968 in the tradition of classical Chinese poetry but soon found it impossible to go beyond what had been achieved by ancient poets. After encountering nine poems by Baudelaire in translation in 1972, he immediately started writing modern poetry.  In his own words, it was as if “Baudelaire fired a gun shot at me.”  Like other poets of his generation, he read widely despite lack of formal college education, taking or discarding what was available: Lorca, Neruda, Pushkin, Mayakovsky, Shelley, Byron, T.S Eliot, Tsvetaeva, Plath, etc. a very mixed combination.  His literary explorations continued during his exile years (1989-2003) when he found intellectual kinship with Vallejo, Mandelstam, and many others. Despite this love of Western literature, classical Chinese prosody remains deeply-rooted in Duo Duo's poetry. His work thus represents this tension between cultures. Throughout his work, Duo Duo as we see consciously breaks away from the massive influence of Western tradition to carve out a style and approach of his own.

     After he went to Netherlands in 1989 and remained overseas for fifteen years, he returned to China in 2004 and was warmly welcomed by the avant garde poets and was awarded “The Poet of the Year” by the South Daily. Since 2004 he has been teaching at Hainan University in southern China and currently dividing his time between Hainan and his hometown Beijing. He won the Neustadt International Literature Prize from Oklahoma University (U.S.) in 2010.

© Poetryeastwest.com

Duo Duo was a guest at the Poetry International Festival in the years 1989, 1990 and 1996. In the righthand column you can listen to recordings of his poetry made on these occasions.


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