Song Lin
(China, 1959)   
Song Lin

Song Lin 宋琳 was born in Fujian, graduated from East China Normal University in 1983. He started writing poetry in the 1980’s and moved to Paris in 1991. After staying in France, Singapore and Argentina, he returned to China in 2003 to teach in Shenyang. Currently he is retired and lives in Dali, Yunnan province. 

      Travel is a prominent motif in the poems of Song Lin, which may have a great deal to do with the poet’s life,  always on the move: from a little village in Fujian Province, to Shanghai, Paris, Singapore, Buenos Aires, and back to Beijing and other cities in China.  But Song Lin is not interested in travelogue; his travel is as much about going to places as about an internal exile unbound by place, a sort of search for beauty and peace in-between the experienced and imaged worlds.

      The fact that Song Lin is not always a willing traveler influences how travel figures in his work. (In 1989 he was thrown into prison for supporting the student protests; he then married a French woman and left China not knowing a word of French). He is confined to travel which yet frees him because the mind’s eye can see things in reality that need to be amended by language. A belief in the power of imagination expressed through surprising word combinations and surreal imagery has been a trademark of Song Lin’s poetics since his coming-of-age as a “campus poet” in the early 1980s.  At that time he was known for a care-free spirit and a bohemian life style that typified “the cult of poetry” among Chinese youth. Not much has changed in Song Lin many travels later, except that more recognizable Chinese traditional themes now configure his inner landscape, which points to an attitude of transcendence and abandonment, or as poet Zhang Jie has characterized as a journey of “free and easy wandering” in the truest Zhuang Zi-ian sense. 

© Dian Li, New Cathay: Contemporary Chinese Poetry (Tupelo Press, 2013)

More poems by Song Lin  Poetry East West


Subscribe to the newsletter

follow us on facebook follow us on twitter Follow us (international)  

follow us on facebook follow us on twitter Follow us (Dutch)