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A vice-chairman's bad, bad poem

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Oriental Guardian
June 18, 2008

A poem written by Wang Zhaoshan (王兆山), vice-chairman of the Shandong Writer's Association, recently caused controversy. The poem was obviously intended as praise for the government, particularly its efforts in the quake relief, but it was so badly-written some found it more disgraceful than flattering.

The poem was originally published in the June 6 issue of Qilu Evening News, a newspaper circulated mainly in Shandong Province. In the poem, Wang impersonated a victim expressing his gratitude to the government from his grave:

天灾难避死何诉,主席唤,总理呼,党疼国爱,声声入废墟。十三亿人共一哭,纵做鬼,也幸福。银鹰战车救雏犊,左军叔,右警姑,民族大爱,亲历死也足。只盼坟前有屏幕,看奥运,共欢呼。

Here is fairly literal translation:

Natural disaster is inevitable, so why should I complain about my death? The president calls, the premier asks, the Party cares, the country is concerned, the voices go into the rubble. One-point-three billion people shed tears. I feel happy even as a ghost. Silver eagles and army vehicles came to rescue: soldiers, police officers - the great love! I am satisfied to die. I only wish I could have a TV set so I could watch the Olympic Games and cheer with others.

Aside from the questionable quality of the writing, many readers found it offensive that the poem attempts to flatter the government using the voice of quake victims. However, it is hardly surprising: the China Writer's Association is a government agency and the writers, who receive stipends from the government, are obliged to offer up their services whenever called upon. If you are wondering what good this association serves, this English language Xinhua story may give you a clue:

Chinese poets and writers are producing new works depicting people who emerged as heroes fighting the snow and rain disaster that have affected many areas of the country since mid January.

The Chinese Writers' Association and its branch organizations nationwide have called on its members to go to disaster-affected areas to interview and write about the disaster-relief work. About 100 writers have gone to Hunan, Guizhou, Guangdong, Anhui and other affected areas to observe and help with the disaster relief.

"Literature should reflect people's true feelings and voice their thoughts," said reportage writer Jiang Wei, who went to southwestern Guangxi Zhuang Autonomous Region to witness the relief efforts firsthand.

"This time, my writing will be really inspiring."

The periodicals attached to the Chinese Writers' Association will publish the poems and stories about those combating the snow and rain disaster. The association will also organize symposiums and poem reciting activities to recommend outstanding literature works to the public.

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Wang Zhaoshan reading his poem

In response to Wang Zhaoshan's poem, popular writer Han Han has quoted this poem on his blog with the caption, "I was lucky that I didn't join the Writer's Association." Li Zhongqin, who was once a member of the Shandong Writer's Association, recently announced his decision to relinquish his membership. The reason given on his blog is that he felt ashamed to be associated with vice-chairman Wang.

The relevance and usefulness of Writer's Association has been questioned in recent years despite the fact that it is the only such organization in China. This incident is apparently a blow to the Association's already shaky reputation.

edited 2008.06.19

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There are currently 14 Comments for A vice-chairman's bad, bad poem.

Comments on A vice-chairman's bad, bad poem

Maybe they should take some advice from Amiri Baraka. He once told my class, "The job of the poet is to enlighten the people." He certainly wouldn't be happy with sugary praise for the establishment in poetry.

Wow, that's some fine fine verse. I wonder if he falls asleep at night thinking, "Critics, who needs them. I have my 'art'."

"Here is rather literal translation"
"Besides being terrible written,"
"If you are wondering what good is the association,"

Do you guys need an editor?

shame on stupid Chairman

I agree. It's terrible. But anyone who has exchanged views with Chinese about some moving issues will understand the fact that it is in the Chinese way not to despair openly and to seek for (naive) consolation in words that often sound like budget wishing-well cards. Plus, the bad translation.
R

"badly-written" indeed.

I know that there is a rush for the scoop or quickest post of hot news in the blogosphere, but it is kinda lame to criticize someone's writing in a post that is itself poorly written.

Articles: they're not just for the breakfast anymore.

I guess it's not "shangdong" but "shandong". I volunteer to be non-paid editor.
Just kidding... You guys did a good job and I love this website!

Your links and sources didn't last long on this one...

I believe the fairly literal translation missed a few points here:

1) "I only wish I could have a TV set BEFORE MY TOMB so I could watch the Olympic Games and cheer with others."

2) "I feel happy even as a ghost. " should be something like "Even as a ghost, I will feel bliss"

really gross ass-kissing performance here.

Confucius, the most famous inhabitant of Shandong province, must be rolling in his grave. Here is Spelunker's response to the Vice Chairman, in the form of a Chinese poem:

人生自古灾难多,唤醒诗人呼罗索
幼子诗被学校塌,声声入土豆腐渣
十三亿人共一哭,官包袱,亲报复
隐情消息无参考,左跑跑,右宝宝,
灭生活不灭圣火,看奥运解放中国
且蜀署盛暑公审,李鹏下台平民愤

...and here is an unfairly literal translation:


There's been many disasters since ancient times;
prompting pompous poets to write rambling rhymes.
Yet the verses of children collapsed with their schools;
their voices buried beneath tofu dreg pools.
One billion and thirty million people cry with no rest; as officials are burdened and parents protest.
Facts are now hidden; news reporters disappear;
instead we see Running Fan and a cute premier.
Is the Olympic torch more important than life?
Let's see if the Olympics will heal China's strife.
As we await Sichuan government officials summer day in court;
the memory of Li Peng somehow makes a retort!

I like it in the English. Funny and ironic.

和王兆山
天灾临世万民苦,孤儿啼,寡妇哭,中华儿女,含泪共祈福。十三亿人相扶助,此天劫,吾共渡。
兆山拍马悦官府,丧汝心,忘汝祖,尸海死寂,亡灵怎欢呼!显示器前网友怒,恨不能,碎汝骨!

Many of the so called literati really have no soul, insensitive to the extreme. Wang is one of them. The problem is that people like him could get a position of vice-chairman from a supposedly reputable and prestigious writer's association.

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