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Vernon Frazer Came to Introduce Post-Beat Poetry to China: His Poetry Readings in Nanjing and Beijing in 2004


A Post-Beat poet, Vernon Frazer (1945- ) came to give poetry readings in Nanjing and Beijing after he attended "Beat Meets East: an International, Interdisciplinary Conference on the Age of Spontaneity" co-sponsored by Sichuan University and the University of Wisconsin at Stevens Point in Chengdu, Sichuan Province, on June 1-6,2004. Before he came to Nanjing, Chu Chen (1969- ), a poet and publisher, had prepared a red cover booklet in Chinese traditional thread bound edition. It selected poems by Vernon and Nanjing poets Zhu Wen (1967- ), Han Dong (1961- ), Yu Xiao-wei (1961- ) and Chu Chen. The poetry reading was held in the Avant-garde Bookshop in the evening of June 16. Accompanied by the background music played by two young Chinese musicians with a dulcimer and flute, Vernon read his poems in his trembling voice with various tones and dramatic gestures. He aroused great interest from his audience when he read his poem “Rock N’Roll Will Never Die!”: 


Rockin' Rob

                                                               in the DJ's booth

                                                               screams at the pane


                                                                               of memories

                                                                               of lost love

                                                                               & cars




                                                               at the audience,

                                                               his voice as leather

                                                          as his face




                                                               as pocked

                                                            as his cheeks, chin

                                                               & past




                                                               his perpetual protest dreams

                                                            his perpetual protest




                                                           straight from his teenage heart








                                                               from the convertible of his past

                                                               through the dice-decked glass

                                                               of his present




                                                             to the rocker 


His reading came to a climax when he emphatically repeated “screams” in parallelism. A news report “Are Nanjing Poets Shy?” came out in Nanjing Morning Newspaper on June 18, which had a high opinion of his reading, “The poet’s beautiful voice immediately touched several hundreds of the audience. Intoxicated by his rhythm and melody, they laughed and warmly applauded though most of them knew little English….”A journalist came to Nanjing from Shanghai to report the news of the poetry reading entitled “This Evening Becomes Beautiful Because of the Poetry Reading”, which appeared in Wen Xue Bao (Literature Newspaper) in Shanghai a couple of days later.

Inspired by Vernon’s expressive reading, Nanjing poets tried their best to read their poems better than ever before. What they learned from him was not only his skilful reading art but the Post-Beat poetry Vernon introduced here for the first time, so said Huang Fan, an influential  local poet, editor of Nanjing Review, an influential on-line literary journal.

    The day after the poetry reading, Chu Chen and the present author accompanied Vernon and his wife, Elaine, around Nanjing for sightseeing. They appeared very happy admiring the new highway, new and old Yangtze River bridges, beautiful surroundings that were almost similar to the US.

Vernon was then invited to Beijing by Professor Wang Gui-ming, a poet and translator, to give another poetry reading, a great success, too. College students, along with a number of established poets, attended the reading. Some of his audience in Beijing wrote the present author for more copies of the red booklet a couple of days later after his reading. As a Post-Beat poet, he was warmly welcome in the Beijing poets’ circles.

The Selected Poems of Post-Beat Poets he edited came out first in China after his poetry reading in China four years later.[1] In the preface to the anthology, Vernon introduces a kind of new poetry to the field of Chinese poetry:


A number of Post-Beat writers came of age in the 1960's. Part was the "rucksack revolution" Kerouac described in The Dharma Bums. Some were social contemporaries of the original Beats. Others encountered them peripherally. Many only read Beat literature, but drew life-changing inspiration from…The terms "Post-Beat" and "Neo-Beat" emerged in the early 1980s, when a number of writers reaching maturity realized that their work continued the spiritual questing, expression of personal experience, exploring new lifestyles, protesting social injustice, and exploring the possibilities of language and mixed-media art that originated with the Beats. Poet Steve Dalachinsky used the term "Post-Beat" in the early 1980's in his poem "We Are the Post-Beat Poets." I have used the term in correspondence and conversation to describe the roots of my own poetry and fiction. Other writers of the time used "Neo-Beat". The terms refer to the same group of writers currently working in the United States and––to a lesser extent––in other parts of the world….


The anthology has received warm response from Chinese poets as it is regarded as “a kind of new poetry, which is a continuation and development of Beat poetry after the death of Allen Ginsberg,” says Lan Lan, a famous poet in Beijing when she reads it.

To my delight, Hu Xian (1966-), a well-established young Chinese poet, had a good comment on the anthology after his close reading of it:


Post-Beat poetry is a heritage from Beat Poetry to some extent, but has its own characteristics. Post-Beat poets are not wild in drug, excessive drinking, homosexuality or bisexuality as Beat poets. Jack Foley respects Ginsberg as his “courage teacher” while he still “was afraid that people would notice” something obscene happened between Ginsberg and him when he encountered the senior poet (“Ginsberg At The Mall”). Vernon Frazer has a vivid description of “Little Miss Rich Bitch”, “Her nectarine nipples /tease me, her buns swing the breeze/that sucks up my buck// on her wake/of chestnut hair. She needs my fantasies/the way I feed her lost/wealth---what I can afford to give/But she still lives bitter….” (“The Sex Queen of The Berlin Turnpike”) The word “bitter” makes us feel the persona’s hot feelings become cold suddenly. What he concerns about is not sex itself but her fate and the social issues in connection with prostitution. In her poem “Those Men Between My Thighs Like Love”, Cheryl A. Townsend says, “…Every one taking/to my depletion/Sharing something/something like love/ something that is all”, after she says, “I have tasted /the sweat and cum/and yielding/My own surrender/almost tempting/but always again/there would be nothing/And maybe there/is nothing more than this.” What an irony! Anne Waldman’s “Writing” is a wonderful poem in which she combines the sex urge with her writing desire. Very smart and clever! What most of the Post-Beat poets are concerned about seems to be social reality such as “Bulbs” by Enid Dame and “September 11, 2001” by Mikhail Horowitz among others. It is my first impression on Selected Poems of Post-Beat Poets when I read it. I really like it.[2]


Wen Mang (1977-), a young radical avant-garde poet, sent the present author a short review of the anthology from Guangzhou in 2008, in which he points out,


Generally speaking, Post-Beat poets are not sweepingly wild, soul-stirring, and momentous as Beat poets. Ginsberg fired at all dark sides, expanding and penetrating into all corners of society. Having inherited Beat poets’ critical standpoint and rebellious spirit, Post-Beat poets try to deconstruct what they think is not right in the new social context. Among others, I appreciate “Those Men Between My Thighs Like Love” by Cheryl A. Townsend, “Fast Speaking Woman” by Anne Waldman, “We Are Credo #2” by Steve Dalachinsky, “A Slick Set of Wheels” by Vernon Frazer, “A Winter Note to the Big Old No One” by Kirpal Gordon, “Zombieville” by Schuyler Hoffman, “Levitating in Levittown” by Bob Holman, “Please Look Both Ways before Crossing” by Janine Pommy Vega, “Angels Sleep in Peace” by Michael Rothenberg, and “Trying Desperately” by Kit Knight, all of which represent the artistic standard of contemporary American avant-garde poetry. [3]


Professor Wang Gui-ming intends to organize those poets who love Beat and Post-Beat poetry as a school of Chinese Post-Beat Poetry, so said he to me with confidence when I met him on June 19, 2009 when I attended The Conference on Chinese American Literature in Beijing. If it comes true, Wen Mang might be a qualified member of Chinese Post-Beat Poetry School. “My Head Swops Places with My Cock” is the title of one poem from his anthology,[4] in which he satirizes man’s weakness without sense of justice and courage in a reverse way of thinking. Its last stanza goes like this: “Man is soft in his dick/ in most of his life time/ hard occasionally/ but the time is very short/ hardness is but a kind of his posture.” Wen Mang is a rare kind of revolutionary poet who dares to say and write. He is known for his essay “ Anti-Literature, Anti-Poetry, Anti-Theory and Anti-Text: a New Theory across Culture”. Wen Mang, his pen name, is an irony itself, as it means “illiteracy” in Chinese. Vernon would like Wen Mang if he could read the latter’s works in Chinese. And Vernon would be more popular in China if the young avant-garde Chinese poets can read his Improvisation, a kind of anthology of language poetry.[5] A number of young Chinese language poets such as Huang Fan, Zhou Ya-ping, Che Qian-zi, Zhu Jun, et al. would love it as they are the favorite poets of James Sherry and Hank Lazer, both of them came to give poetry readings in Chengdu, Nanjing, Suzhou and Beijing,1993. Improvisation is a fat anthology of 697 pages which would be, it seems to me, very difficult to be translated into Chinese at the present time at least.




February 11-July 6, 2009-June 12, 2010



[This excerpt is from a much longer work, A Dialogue between Chinese and American Poets in the New Century: Their Poetry Readings, Writing and Translation in Collaboration,” by Zhang Ziqing. This essay came out in Comparative Literature: East & West, Autumn/Winter 2011 No.2 Vol.15, a journal edited by Professor Wang Xiaolu, published by Sichuan University Press, China. NHS gratefully acknowledges having received permission to reprint Section 2 from the author.]



[1] Vernon Frazer, ed. Selected Poems of Post-Beat Poets (Shanghai: People’s Publishing House, Horizon Media Co., Ltd., 2008).

[2] See Hu Xian’s e-mail to the present author on Nov.10, 2008.

[3] Wen Mang, “Explosion in the Inner Constriction: On Selected Poems of Post-Beat Poets” (November 4, 2008).

[4] Wen Mang, In the Depth of Universe, I Hear My Voice Come Far from the Remote Earth (Hong Kong: Science Education Press, 2009).

[5] Vernon Frazer, Improvisations (FL, Delray Beach, Beneath the Underground, 2005).


[Originally published in NHS 2012, http://www.poetspath.com/napalm/nhs12/.]