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Yang Lian - Biography

Yang Lian (b. 1955 in Bern, Switzerland) is a Professor of Poetry at the European Graduate School EGS and an influential contemporary poet. He is known as a former member of the Misty Poets, an underground group of Chinese poets surrounding the literary magazine Jintian (Today).

Yang Lian's literary career began in the 1970s in China. He had moved to Beijing as a child and attended primary school there. During the Cultural Revolution, Yang Lian was sent to the countryside outside of Beijing to labor as part of the so-called 're-education'. While he was living in the Chinese countryside, he began writing poetry in the classical Chinese style as a means of coping with his spiritual exile from the new society. Yang Lian's early poetry changed when he came into contact with the informal group of poets known as the Misty Poets in 1979. The group included Yang Lian, Bei Dao, Duo Duo, Gu Cheng, Jiang He, Shu Ting, Mang Ke, and several others. Their work was strongly resistant to the prescriptive regulations of the Communist government during the Cultural Revolution by adopting an obscure, modernist style. The poetry of Yang Lian, along with the other Misty Poets, was presented in the journal they collectively published, Jintian, from 1978–80.

Yang Lian returned to Beijing after the death of Mao Zedong to work in broadcasting. He had already come in conflict with the government for his literary activity in 1983 when his poem 'Norlang' was targeted for its spiritual themes and its associations with Tibet. When Yang Lian was traveling in New Zealand in the spring of 1989, the Tiananmen Square incident occurred in Beijing. Yang Lian joined in the international protest against the violent reaction of the Chinese government, which resulted in his poetry being blacklisted in June, 1989, and his citizenship was revoked without the possibility for appeal. As a result of his presence in New Zealand at the time, he was given refugee status and eventually New Zealand citizenship. Yang Lian's experience in New Zealand and Australia was presented in English translation as a selection of poetry and prose entitled Unreal City: A Chinese Poet in Auckland (2006).

Yang Lian has published seven volumes of selected poetry and two books of prose selections. He was nominated for the Nobel Prize in Literature, and in 1999 he was awarded the Flaiano International Prize for Poetry. He currently lives in London and, since 2005, has served as Artistic Director of Unique Mother Tongue, an international poetry festival held in London. Yang Lian is co-editor of the Anthology of Contemporary Chinese Poetry along with W. N. Herbert.

Yang Lian has taught as a writer-in-residence at numerous colleges and universities, including the University of Sydney, the University of Auckland, Amherst College, MEET (France), Bard College (New York), DAAD (Berlin), and Cove Park (UK). He teaches an Intensive Summer Workshop at the European Graduate School EGS in Saas-Fee.

Yang Lian is a Professor of Poetry at the European Graduate School in Saas-Fee, Switzerland, where he conducts an Intensive Summer Workshop.