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Iron Moon: An Anthology of Chinese Worker Poetry

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“Iron Moon is a monumental achievement. It redraws the boundaries of working-class poetry for the new millennium by incorporating at its center issues like migration, globalization, and rank-and-file resistance. We hear in these poems what Zheng Xiaoqiong calls “a language of callouses.”  This isn’t a book about the lost industrial past; it’s a fervent testimony to the hor “Iron Moon is a monumental achievement. It redraws the boundaries of working-class poetry for the new millennium by incorporating at its center issues like migration, globalization, and rank-and-file resistance. We hear in these poems what Zheng Xiaoqiong calls “a language of callouses.”  This isn’t a book about the lost industrial past; it’s a fervent testimony to the horrific, hidden histories of the 21st century’s working-class and a clarion call for a more cooperative and humane future.”—Mark Nowak, author of Coal Mountain Elementary Eleanor Goodman is a writer and translator. Her translation of work by Wang Xiaoni, Something Crosses My Mind, won the Lucien Stryk Translation Prize. Her first poetry collection is Nine Dragon Island.


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“Iron Moon is a monumental achievement. It redraws the boundaries of working-class poetry for the new millennium by incorporating at its center issues like migration, globalization, and rank-and-file resistance. We hear in these poems what Zheng Xiaoqiong calls “a language of callouses.”  This isn’t a book about the lost industrial past; it’s a fervent testimony to the hor “Iron Moon is a monumental achievement. It redraws the boundaries of working-class poetry for the new millennium by incorporating at its center issues like migration, globalization, and rank-and-file resistance. We hear in these poems what Zheng Xiaoqiong calls “a language of callouses.”  This isn’t a book about the lost industrial past; it’s a fervent testimony to the horrific, hidden histories of the 21st century’s working-class and a clarion call for a more cooperative and humane future.”—Mark Nowak, author of Coal Mountain Elementary Eleanor Goodman is a writer and translator. Her translation of work by Wang Xiaoni, Something Crosses My Mind, won the Lucien Stryk Translation Prize. Her first poetry collection is Nine Dragon Island.

30 review for Iron Moon: An Anthology of Chinese Worker Poetry

  1. 5 out of 5

    Beatrice Cesana

    Raw, hopeless, critical poetry about western capitalism in China. It gives voice to the unheard, those sacrificing their lives and dreams to assemble stuff in factories: the tragedy of wasted youths. Victims of a system that deprives them of their human rights, they are alienated by society, they become numb to their own existence. Writing is then escapism, it's those wounded bodies and thinking minds saving themselves, it's a quiet rebellion against the greedy, heartless industrial world. 'Iron Raw, hopeless, critical poetry about western capitalism in China. It gives voice to the unheard, those sacrificing their lives and dreams to assemble stuff in factories: the tragedy of wasted youths. Victims of a system that deprives them of their human rights, they are alienated by society, they become numb to their own existence. Writing is then escapism, it's those wounded bodies and thinking minds saving themselves, it's a quiet rebellion against the greedy, heartless industrial world. 'Iron Moon' is a provocative, intriguing, deep read <3

  2. 4 out of 5

    C.J. Shane

    China has had an influential contribution to the world literature of poetry. Every Chinese epoch and dynasty has produced great poets. The Chinese tradition of writing poetry to express the depths and heights of human experience continues to the present day with this important collection of poems written by contemporary Chinese migrant workers. We’re all aware of the factory-sweatshops in China that produce goods to sell on the global market. And we may be vaguely aware of lives spent at construc China has had an influential contribution to the world literature of poetry. Every Chinese epoch and dynasty has produced great poets. The Chinese tradition of writing poetry to express the depths and heights of human experience continues to the present day with this important collection of poems written by contemporary Chinese migrant workers. We’re all aware of the factory-sweatshops in China that produce goods to sell on the global market. And we may be vaguely aware of lives spent at construction sites and in mines. But what is it like to live that life? What is it like to live far from home and loved ones, alone, day after day, doing the same thing for hours on end, often in dangerous conditions, until life transforms into a state lacking in hope and instead, becomes full of despair? These poems are what the editor, Qin Xiaoyu, calls a literature of trauma which addresses two themes: an alienated work life, and the misery of leaving loved ones and home for extended periods, sometimes forever. Iron Moon is a significant contribution to the literature of China. Admiration and praise goes to the editor Qin Xiaoyu, to the translator Eleanor Goodman, and most especially, to the poets.

  3. 5 out of 5

    Kate Hanson Foster

    Iron Moon, An Anthology of Chinese Migrant Worker Poetry originates from the documentary of the same name directed by Qin Xiaoyu and Feiyue Wu. This collection gives voice to the voiceless – unknown names penning a “sharp-edged oiled language of cast iron … language of tightened screws.” (Alu, “Language”). To be a migrant worker in the 21st century is a calloused portrayal of rural residents voyaging into the city for the first time, abandoning their autonomy and transforming into human machines Iron Moon, An Anthology of Chinese Migrant Worker Poetry originates from the documentary of the same name directed by Qin Xiaoyu and Feiyue Wu. This collection gives voice to the voiceless – unknown names penning a “sharp-edged oiled language of cast iron … language of tightened screws.” (Alu, “Language”). To be a migrant worker in the 21st century is a calloused portrayal of rural residents voyaging into the city for the first time, abandoning their autonomy and transforming into human machines: Iron Moon: An Anthology of Chinese Migrant Worker Poetry Edited by Qin Xiaoyu Translated by Eleanor Goodman White Pine Press 2016 “The name blank is easy to fill, each time there’s no need to think about it. I can write in the color of mud that my parents use for a name.” (Ni Wen, “Filling Out Job Applications”) This new reality, the shift from self-sustaining individual to a substratal interchangeable number, renders an uncertainty and spiritual yearning that is exhaustive. “How can trash become holy and pure?” writes, Bing Ma in Cleaning a Wedding Gown. Chen Nianxi writes in Demolitions Mark, “I don’t often dare look at my life/ it’s hard and metallic black.” To shift from thought to action for extensive amounts of time can bring about a grave personal crisis. The anthology does not bridle the dark confessions of self-destruction, and some poems hit with the brute force of a plain spoken secret: “You will never understand what I have suffered,” writes Li Zuofu in Like a Horse at Full Gallop. “After work, the handwriting gets fuzzier/why not just turn to ash?” writes Hubei Quingwa in Moon’s Position in the Factory. The “iron” in Iron Moon is an image that fuses itself coldly and frequently. It is the ear splitting sounds of cutting gears and kinetic friction. Other times, iron is a metal deeply unheard, “Covered by twilight the huge cooling chunk of iron/gives off a darkening silence.” (Alu, “An Elegy for C”) Iron is an all-consuming crude symbol of broken dreams; the ethos of metal and machinery that is a heavy hit on one’s intelligence and artistry. The term “Iron Moon” comes from Xu Lizhi, who was born in 1990 and was an assembly line worker making Apple products up until his suicide in 2014. To Lizhi, suicide was the only inevitable exit to what felt like a vagrant life stuck indefinitely in an assembly line. To end one’s life is the ultimate heartsick sacrifice to modern industry. The anguish of “iron” is perhaps best described best Xu Lizhi in I Swallowed an Iron Moon: I swallowed an iron moon They called it a screw I swallowed industrial wastewater and unemployment forms bent over machines, our youth died young I swallowed labor, I swallowed poverty swallowed pedestrian bridges, swallowed this rusted-out life I can’t swallow any more everything I have swallowed roils up in my throat I spread across my country a poem of shame The translations by Eleanor Goodman are an impeccable achievement of negotiating two linguistic landscapes. Multiple layers of artistry are at play here, integrating the raw spirit of the original poems while also strategically fitting language into larger aesthetic dimensions. This collection reminds us of the many human complexities of industrial life, and the exceptional literary value in working class poetry. This book should be a staple in every poet’s respected collection.

  4. 5 out of 5

    Floris Meertens

    Ik heb een heel semester lang een vak gevolgd over deze bundel (en alle achtergrond), en ik ben er nog steeds niet klaar mee. Elke bespreking van deze dichters heeft dezelfde inleiding: een beschrijving van het fenomeen 'Chinese migrant-arbeiders'. Ik zal het zo ook doen, maar eerst wil ik het hebben over de gedichten: De thema's in de bundel komen veel overeen, en zelfs bepaalde poëtische beelden kom je vaak tegen. Talloze scènes vol koud ijzer, talloze schaduwen die vallen op machines, talloze v Ik heb een heel semester lang een vak gevolgd over deze bundel (en alle achtergrond), en ik ben er nog steeds niet klaar mee. Elke bespreking van deze dichters heeft dezelfde inleiding: een beschrijving van het fenomeen 'Chinese migrant-arbeiders'. Ik zal het zo ook doen, maar eerst wil ik het hebben over de gedichten: De thema's in de bundel komen veel overeen, en zelfs bepaalde poëtische beelden kom je vaak tegen. Talloze scènes vol koud ijzer, talloze schaduwen die vallen op machines, talloze verloren ledematen en vergeten collega's, talloze contrasten tussen de luister van het maanlicht en de kille fluorescerende fabriekslampen, talloze mensen die verminderd worden tot een getal, terwijl ze nog steeds geen ID-kaart hebben. Maar toch is dit een enorm diverse verzameling, zowel in vorm als in inhoud. Stoïcijnse opsommingen, lange dramatische gedichten vol leed, en liefdevolle odes aan Shenzhen wisselen elkaar af. De stijl is soms simpel en zonder enige pretentie, dan weer bloemrijk, innovatief en vol literaire verwijzingen. Een mooi experiment is Obituary for a Peanut, waarbij Xu Lizhi simpel de productinformatie van een pot pindakaas overgeschreven heeft. Het is moeilijk te zeggen wat de overhand heeft: de hoop of de hopeloosheid. Elk gedicht weer lijkt het leven uitzichtloos, maar bij bijna elke dichter is er een vorm van hoop die doorschijnt. Het dichten zelf is het hopen gehoord te worden, te kunnen dienen als getuige van het onrecht. Oké, ik heb het woord onrecht genoemd, dus nu moet ik de sociaal-politieke context wel geven, vrees ik. Dit is poëzie geschreven door 'dagongren'. Dat zijn arbeiders die van het platteland naar de stad zijn gemigreerd op zoek naar werk. Zij hebben overweldigend vaak geen officiële huisvesting, werken onder mensonterende omstandigheden, en leiden een leven vol onzekerheid. Toch dient deze migratie ook als kans om je omhoog te werken en zo een betere toekomst te garanderen voor je kinderen. Deze groep is gigantisch groot (laten we zeggen, een bevolking van tweeënhalf keer het Duitse taalgebied), en logischerwijs zitten er dus wat dichters onder. Het is een klein percentage, maar het is sowieso al gigantisch indrukwekkend dat iemand na veertien uur onafgebroken werk aan de lopende band nog energie heeft om iets op papier te zetten. De poëzie van deze dagongren heeft gaandeweg zowel nationaal als internationaal wat aandacht gekregen, met name Zheng Xiaoqiong, die afgelopen jaar op Poetry International stond. Los van de vraag wie de veroorzaker is van hun leed, de Chinese overheid of het mondiaal kapitalisme, los van mensenrechtenkwesties, los van de vraag of hun migratie nu een grote kans tot welvaart is of enkel een lijdensweg, is er de artistieke uiting. In dichtvorm. En dat verdient gehoord en gelezen te worden. Het is lang niet allemaal briljant in deze bundel, maar het was ongetwijfeld een aangrijpende leeservaring. Lees de gedichten. Kijk naar wat je raakt. Luister naar wat deze mensen te vertellen hebben. Daarna kunnen we praten over politiek en al het andere gedoe.

  5. 5 out of 5

    Liz

    This is a book you don't read in one sitting. You need to read it one poem at a time and then come back to after you've found time to digest what the poet had to say. It's poetry written on cellphones by the people who build your phones and other gadgets, working 10 - 12 hour days and living in such horrible conditions yet finding time to find beauty through poetry. This book makes you think - or rather, it makes ME think about the price other people pay for the things I'm addicted to like my iP This is a book you don't read in one sitting. You need to read it one poem at a time and then come back to after you've found time to digest what the poet had to say. It's poetry written on cellphones by the people who build your phones and other gadgets, working 10 - 12 hour days and living in such horrible conditions yet finding time to find beauty through poetry. This book makes you think - or rather, it makes ME think about the price other people pay for the things I'm addicted to like my iPhone and iPad. It's the bane of the modern industrial revolution, I guess. A must-have for any lover of modern poetry.

  6. 5 out of 5

    Sarah

    Wonderful poetry, but hard to read, as the theme is so bleak and harsh, and the truth is embedded in every line that the West has things only because it has put the Chinese worker through many hardships that the West experienced only until it off-shored it all to the East.

  7. 5 out of 5

    Jerry Peace

    Wonderful collection of worker poetry, with all the doubt and boredom, dissatisfaction and joy, yearning and acceptance that all workers feel. The expression is Chinese, but the emotions are universal and exposed sometimes flamboyantly and often with subtlety, with startling imagery.

  8. 4 out of 5

    Astrida

    A very powerful emotional journey through the hearts of people working for Chinese/global industry.

  9. 5 out of 5

    Alex

    I suppose I dove into this anthology with two big questions: what is it like to be a worker? and, what is it like to be a poet? I've never made steel, or iPods, or poems. But I use them all of the time. I read the volume. I have lots more little questions now, in addition to the big questions I still have. I should watch the companion documentary and maybe I'll get some answers there. Every poet's voice comes through as their own: rough, voluble, sentimental, caustic. How should I use these poems? I suppose I dove into this anthology with two big questions: what is it like to be a worker? and, what is it like to be a poet? I've never made steel, or iPods, or poems. But I use them all of the time. I read the volume. I have lots more little questions now, in addition to the big questions I still have. I should watch the companion documentary and maybe I'll get some answers there. Every poet's voice comes through as their own: rough, voluble, sentimental, caustic. How should I use these poems?

  10. 5 out of 5

    Chris Edwards

  11. 4 out of 5

    Alessandro Parini

  12. 4 out of 5

    Pasi Halonen

  13. 4 out of 5

    Alex Guo

  14. 4 out of 5

    John

  15. 4 out of 5

    Benji

  16. 4 out of 5

    Laura Joakimson

  17. 5 out of 5

    maya surya

  18. 4 out of 5

    2900

  19. 4 out of 5

    Vanda

  20. 4 out of 5

    Jule

  21. 5 out of 5

    Ilinca

  22. 5 out of 5

    CBSD Library

  23. 5 out of 5

    Lucas

  24. 4 out of 5

    Chris Holdaway

  25. 4 out of 5

    glo

  26. 5 out of 5

    Lavinia

  27. 4 out of 5

    Belinda Cole

  28. 5 out of 5

    K

  29. 4 out of 5

    madalena

  30. 4 out of 5

    Roos

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