The Completion of a Poem

Letters to Young Poets

The Completion of a Poem is the first book-length translation of Yang Mu’s poetics. In eighteen letters addressed to young poets, Yang Mu discusses essential questions regarding the definition of poetry, a poet’s growth, the importance of nature and friendship, the choice of subject, the process of creation and publication, and relationships between poet and society, identity and history, and poetry and truth.

Using a comparative approach, Yang Mu draws on literary resources from Chinese and Western traditions to expound his views, and this helps to nurture in young poets a vision of world poetry that connects different but equally inspiring expressions of humanity. In style and in theme, this book is a companion piece to Rilke’s Letters to a Young Poet and Goethe’s Dichtung und Wahrheit.

"Yang Mu is not only one of the greatest living poets and essayists in the Chinese language, he is also an erudite scholar, deeply versed in both Chinese and Western poetic traditions from antiquity to our modern age. In his eighteen letters to young poets, which serve as his Ars Poetica, he emphasizes that the creation of true poetry requires that insight and knowledge are paired with personal integrity and high moral standing. Yang Mu’s letters are often illuminated by exquisite landscape essays of great lyrical intensity which show his facility to allow manifestations of the outer world to reveal inner states of mind.

This excellent translation by Lisa Wong deserves to be read by all who consider that poetry matters."
Göran Malmqvist, Swedish Academy

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Biographical Note
Yang Mu, winner of the Newman Prize for Chinese Literature in 2013 and the Cikada Prize in 2016, started writing poetry in his teens. He has published over sixty volumes of work including poetry, creative prose essays, literary criticism, and translation.

Lisa Lai-ming Wong (Ph.D. 1999) is Associate Professor of Humanities at the Hong Kong University of Science and Technology. She has published extensively on modern poetry, including Rays of the Searching Sun: The Transcultural Poetics of Yang Mu (2009) and its Chinese translation (2015).
Table of contents
Translator’s Introduction

1 Aspirations
2 Nature
3 Memory
4 Living Conditions
5 The Grand Tour
6 Historical Sense
7 The Classics
8 Modern Literature
9 Foreign Literature
10 Social Engagement
11 Leisure
12 Form and Content
13 Musicality
14 Revision
15 Publication
16 Friends
17 Reputation
18 Poetry and Truth

Translator’s Notes
For all who appreciate and practice the art of poetry, and anyone interested in modern Chinese poetry, Chinese literary studies, comparative literature, world poetry, poetics, Taiwan studies, and translation studies.
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