Out of the Howling Storm. Edited by Tony Barnstone. Published by Wesleyan University Press in 1993.




I taught in China in the mid-1980s, living in Beijing in a walled compound with guards at the gate to keep me in and to keep China out. However, I was lucky enough to tap into the underground poetry scene early in my stay, and soon I found pebbles being tossed at my windows by eager young poets who had climbed the walls to share their work with me and to comb through my rock and roll tapes. After the Tiananmen Square massacre in 1989 crushed the Democracy Movement in China, many of these poets went into exile, because of their involvement with the Democracy Movement or because they felt that China had decisively turned against freedom of expression. This book is a testament to their poetics and to their politics.


Reviews of Out of the Howling Storm:

"In this sampling of 14 contemporary Chinese poets, Barnstone, who spent a year teaching at the Beijing Foreign Studies University in the mid-1980s, brings together the works of "Misty Poets" and their successors. The "Misty Poets" wrote from 1979 to 1989, when the political and literary climate in the People's Republic of China loosened up and allowed individualism, albeit often obscure in theme. The works of their successors, called the "Post-Misty Poets" here, sometimes express new levels of internationalism and sensuality. A few of these poets have suffered imprisonment, and alienation and death are frequent themes in their poetry. The book includes an essay by Barnstone on translation, short biographical sketches of each of the poets, and an introduction to the political history of China in the 1980s, interwoven with an explanation of the departure from Marxist literature found in the poetry of that period. The translation is flowing and the sample chosen large enough to be representative, recommending this volume for both lay readers and specialists."
--Review from Library Journal by D.E. Perushek, Univ. of Tennessee Libs., Knoxville

"The introductory section contains a thought-provoking essay by the editor, "Translation as Forgery." The biographical notes are just long enough to help the reader understand the poet's general background and concerns, and the 38-page introduction, "Chinese Poetry Through the Looking Glass," is an ambitious attempt to integrate political, historical, biographical, literary, and cross-cultural perspectives on the poets and their works. The translation, done by pairs of translators, with Barnstone a participant in several, generally are readable and accurate. An important contribution to one's understanding of contemporary poetry in China."
--Review from Choice by J.W. Walls.

"New from University Press of New England, (arguably the front-runner of American university presses right now), is "Out of the Howling Storm: The New Chinese Poetry" edited by Tony Barnstone. The most comprehensive collection of contemporary Chinese poetry, it's a rewarding, fascinating, compelling collection.... The editor has gone the length here, not only bringing together first-rank translations, (some, his own), of the most representative poems of the widest range of voices, but also furnishing a really valuable, and readable, essay on the context out of which this truly remarkable body emerges, making it all the more marvelous. And the stance of his short note on the subject of translation itself is a refreshing breath of fresh air, in keeping with the vitality of the poets themselves. Risking a note of gravity, it is fair to say that the Nobel Committee would do well to peruse just this one book, having overlooked China for all these years. They may discover, along with the rest of us readers, some surprising additions to a 5000-year continuity of culture, a wealth of world-class voices, speaking to all of us today."
--Gary Gach, AsianWeek

"Tony Barnstone's Out of the Howling Storm is an important transitional anthology, a useful step in charting the course of contemporary Chinese poetry from the by now familiar Misty school to newer, less well charted generations of Chinese poets. Bei Dao, Yang Lian, Shu Ting, Jiang He, Gu Cheng, and other figures born between 1949 and the mid-1950s are all amply represented here, but so are seven other poets, most younger and all less familiar to the American poetry-reading public."
--Leonard Schwartz, Manoa

"This anthology begins with a lengthy introductory essay by Barnstone, the best I've seen for placing the Chinese poetry of the last fifteen years in contexts: literary, cultural, historical, and political ones. Barnstone describes briefly his life in 1984, holed up in the Friendship Hotel in Beijing with thousands of other foreign big noses while guards futilely tried to keep the foreigners' Chinese clients and students (some of the poets) away from them. These were indeed the golden days for the foreign teacher in China.... In the essay Barnstone argues for the influence of Western modernism on the new Chinese poetry in part because it was already present in pre-liberation Chinese literature, and in part because traditional Chinese poetry at one time affected Western modernism (see Pound and Hulme); his logic here is sound.... Barnstone's evoking of Hemingway in regard to current Chinese poetry is for me more interesting [than his comparison of Misty poetry with individual modernist poets]. I never made the connection as to why students in China are so interested in asking about The Lost Generation; I had thought it was because that period was something they had studied and could talk knowledgeably about. Barnstone suggests that young Chinese poets (by extension other intellectuals?) see themselves as a lost generation. A poet like Bei Dao, says Barnstone, is not only rejecting the established order, but like Hemingway is looking for "something new to believe in, in a world drained of meaning. It is a vital engagement with the possibility of cultural, as opposed to economic, renewal." This is a point lost on most Americans, it seems to me, who think of China in terms of either absolutist politics or vibrant new capitalism. But in China, too, just as in the States, there's a war on to revitalize a culture in decline."
--Richard Terrill, ACM (Another Chicago Magazine)

"From the Beijing Spring of 1979 until the student uprisings of 1989 a new generation of poets flourished in China. Influenced by Western Modernism and increasingly daring in their challenges to state control of their art, these poets disguised political protest and social commentary in shadowy images and metaphors, earning themselves the name the "Misty Poets." This new anthology is the most comprehensive English sampling available of the work of the Misty Poets and their even younger proteges, many of whom now live in exile in the West."
--Translation Review

"... I was pleasantly surprised to find Barnstone's [introduction] "Chinese Poetry through the Looking Glass" to be as interesting as it is long. Some of it was necessarily the standard treatment, but much of it was new, witty, and thought-provoking. It actually may be somewhat discursive for the general reader, but at least it is not the old soup of conventional remarks. His note on translation, "Translation As Forgery," is even odder and entirely unexpected; it is a very lyrical, abstract statement on the nature of text, reality, and value in art. Again not your standard "I want to stay close to the text, but also offer the reader poems in English" (the great oxymoron of Chinese translation theory). As perplexing as I sometimes found Barnstone's remarks, they were nevertheless a breath of fresh air."
--Joseph R. Allen, World Literature Today
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