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在线翻译:
szdaily -> People
Migrant worker finds exit for his soul in poetry
     2014-September-5  08:53    Shenzhen Daily

    Luo Songsong

    songsongluo@126.com

    AT an award ceremony held at Peking University last year, 47-year-old Guo Jinniu received his first prize for his first collection of poems from Bas Kwakman, president of Rotterdam International Poetry Festival and was asked by a poet from the Netherlands for his signature. On a pamphlet of his poems, he wrote, “Chinese Farmer Guo Jinniu.”

    Rotterdam and Beijing are far away from where Guo struggled over the past 20 years in places like Shenzhen, Shiyan Town and Luozu Village. “I worked as an unskilled laborer, a street vendor, a construction worker, a factory worker, a warehouse guard and other similar jobs,” said Guo in a thick Hubei accent.

    Over the past 30 years, tens of millions of Chinese farmers have swarmed into urban concrete jungles to pursue better lives, leaving their hometowns far behind, but only few of them have turned their experiences into poems, composing a trip on paper.

    “The teenager, in a dark morning, counts from 1st floor to 13th,

    by the time he completes, he’s on the roof.

    •••

    Fly, fly. The motions of birds, inimitable.

    •••

    My friend gone home on paper, besides rice and your fiancée,

    rarely does anyone recall that in Room 701 of this building,

    you occupied a bunk,

    ate Dongguan rice noodles.”

    In 2010, Guo was asked to install protective measures at Foxconn after 13 workers committed suicide at the world’s largest factory. The death of one young migrant worker in particular triggered him to write a poem entitled “Gone Home on Paper.”

    “There was no exit for his soul,” he said in a low voice, and then he explained the idea behind the poem.

    All drifters dream of returning home, but they can only either die in a strange city or return home gloriously with money or reputation. In China, people burn paper offerings at tombs to send away the souls of the deceased. “A piece of white paper is thin, light and a symbol of a drifter’s fate, but a man’s life is serious and heavy,” said Guo.

    The poem was included in the 44th Rotterdam Poetry Festival and has been translated into several languages. In June, two scholars from the University of Zurich in Switzerland visited Guo to shoot a documentary about him and modern Chinese poetry.

    European reporters were surprised to learn about how many poor Chinese migrant workers pursue the art of writing “elegant” poems. Guo found their shock unfounded, though. “Poetry is part of Chinese culture and is in Chinese people’s genes. It has nothing to do with literacy, education background or where you live and work,” he said.

    Guo entered the world of poetry as a migrant worker by chance about three years ago when he joined an online discussion group of Chinese poets that included Yang Lian, a renowned contemporary poet. Since then, Guo started writing poems fervently.

    However, he doesn’t want fame based on his identity, past experiences or the group of low-class Chinese people that his poems are mainly about. Instead, Guo is more keen on reflecting on himself, his surroundings, and society. He uses simple words to show the deeper meaning of life.

    Yang thought Guo’s poems originated from his own experiences and that they use simple language. “His poems help China’s massive population of “speechless and nameless” migrant workers to speak out,” Yang wrote in the preface of “Gone Home on Paper,” the first poetry collection released by Guo.

    “A poem usually begins with an individual, and then incorporates a village, a street, a factory and all human beings by the end,” said Guo. “If I write a poem about a factory assembly line, it might be a criticism of industrialization or the industrial age.”

    There are many levels in the world of poetry, and the highest level of poetry is to have sympathy for all human beings, said Guo. He realized that poetry is not simply a hobby for him, but a way to reveal humanity and show concern about the human race.”

    He said he enjoyed writing poetry because it is a free type of writing. “Poems are friends of mine, and they tell my stories and share my emotions, whether they be happiness, anger or sadness.”

    In his poems, nostalgia and drifting thoughts are dominant. “Whenever I slept in a strange city, I had bad dreams about losing jobs or being chased after by police. Once, when I returned home, the nightmares disappeared,” he said. Nostalgia is a sickness, but home is a medicine.

    In the 1980s and 1990s, non-Shenzhen residents had to pay to get a temporary residence permit to walk freely in the special economic area; otherwise, the police could take you to a re-education center. That time and those experiences still haunt him today. “At that time, a person’s dignity was not important at all, and the only thing that mattered was the permit,” Guo remembered.

    In the early years of his stay in Shenzhen, Guo had to change jobs frequently since he lacked any professional skills, and he would go back home when he didn’t have any income. “Sometimes, I would write a few poems to hide from my rough life, to find comfort and peace,” said Guo.

    When asked why he returned to Shenzhen from his hometown again and again, he hesitated for a while, then attributed his persistence to a group of friends who gave him a lot of support and courage and discussed literature with him.

    Now, Guo works in a rented apartment management center and lives with his wife and two children in Longhua New Area. “After paying off the rent, school fees and food, there isn’t much money left. In spite of this, I am happy to see the city progress.

    “It is a happy thing to talk with my friends without worrying someone will drag me off to a dangerous place,” said Guo. Now, he is writing a novel based on his most difficult years. “Poems are the exit for one’s soul,” said Guo.

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