Today i sloshed through the rain to Du Fu’s Cottage in Chengdu to attend a meeting of poets and lyricists. About a dozen read their works aloud — all concerning the earthquake. There were old men with wispy beards, country farmers speaking Sichuan Hua and young kids with I love China T-Shirts on.
Some were nervous, others were peacocked out.
In today’s poetry, the cadence is very important. I suppose. I wonder how it was back in Du Fu’s day … Anyway, the same cadence used by politicos when they announce new number-based theories filters down amongst the poets of today. I wish i could praise them and say that their words brought tears to my eyes. But it was stilted poetry. Appealing to heroic patriotism and ethnic pride. It wasn’t emotional for me at all. It was slave poetry spun by the professional intellectuals Said derides in his seminal work on … us … the intellectuals of today.
perhaps i didn’t understand. Perhaps its a cultural thing. Maybe i am just a dull American, jaded and arrogant.
But none of their words can match the scribbles in a schoolgirl’s notebook found amidst the rubble of Beichuan. No one had the courage to be a true poet. It was backslapping mimicry and bent knee professions. Even the women couldn’t resist it.
If Du Fu had been there, he would have clapped nonchalantly, peered dimly at the agenda and then stood up and leave for a smoke. He would have looked at the rain falling around the temples erected around what was once his leaky hovel, laughed derisively and composed something on the spot, using a pen borrowed from a bystander with a name-tag that said: Poet.