Making it News in Contemporary Poetry
This essay identifies a shared response to news media in poetry written over the past three decades by writers working in Chinese, Russian, and English. These poets often directly incorporate texts and images from news media into their work. Some scholars have argued that this tendency towards the collaging of texts derived from news and social media reflects a shift in poetic subjectivity. However, when seen from a comparative perspective, these and other cut-ups of news and social media are better understood as, on the one hand, an extension of a much longer tradition of literary and artistic responses to the news and, on the other, a renewal of that tradition in response to the intensification of the intertwined pressures of new media and globalization since the end of the Cold War and the rise of the Internet. The article identifies this shared response to media and globalization among a variety of examples in Chinese, Russian, and English, including Kirill Medvedev’s «Текст, посвященный трагическим событиям 11 сентября в Нью-Йорке» (“Text Devoted to the Tragic Events of September 11 in New York”); Stanislav Lvovsky’s «Чужими сдовами» (“In Other Words”); Dmitri Prigov’s «По материалам прессы» (“Based on Material from the Press”) and “ru.sofob (50 x 50)”; Lin Yaode’s 林燿德 “Er erba” 《二二八》(“February 28”), Hsia Yü 夏宇 and her collaborators’ group project “Huadiao huadiao huadiao”《劃掉劃掉劃掉》 (“Cross It Out, Cross It Out, Cross It Out”), Yan Jun’s 顏峻 2003 multi-media video performance “Fan dui yiqie you zuzhi de qipian” 《反对一切有组织的欺骗》 (“Against All Organized Deception”); online video poetry produced in response to the 2008 Sichuan earthquake; and Brian Kim Stefans’s mashup of “New York Times” articles with texts from the Situationist International. On the one hand, these texts operate between various media and art forms: between poetry and contemporary art, music, journalism, and social media, between the print newspaper and digital file, between the webpage and live performance, and between image and text. But on the other hand, and inextricably, they also operate within global information networks. They are better understood as addressing not the transformation of the poetic subject but the undoing of the boundaries of poetry and of the concept of a nationally defined literature.