【Poetry Comes to Museum XL】Meet the Poetry of Guan Guan
【Poetry Comes to Museum XL】Guan Guan: Spring comes sitting on that sedan
Shanghai Minsheng Art Museum (referred to Minsheng): Your life can almost reflect a modern history. Why is your poetry full of fun?
Guan Guan: My hometown is Longfeng Village, Jiaonan County in Shandong Province, where I was born in a campfire. My mother was 32 years old when she gave my birth. At that time my dad was an accountant outside our county. So Mom and I depended on each other. I continued to drink breast milk to the age of nine, which made the women of the whole village my mothers because I need to beg others after 3 years old. I wasn’t a grown-up before the age of 18, when I worked as a farmer in the daytime, and came back as a child at night. In the Dragon Boat Festival in 1949, when I was forced to join the army and taken away from my mother, I came to Taiwan.
My hometown has four distinct seasons. There are cherry blossoms, plum blossoms, azaleas and green maples in the mountains. There are green maples, plum blossoms, and cherry blossoms at the entrance of my house. The scenery of my hometown was deeply imprinted in my mind. Spring and the rural countryside gave me a lot of ‘nourishment’. Prunus armeniaca, butterflies, flowing water and stone bridges always appear in my poems. My life is a history of ridicule in modern times. No one loves to see crying, so (I need to) laugh. I eat those crying as they are tonic!
Many Taiwan high school students can recite one of my poems, He(Lotus), ‘There was once a lake, a lake of mud; you mean a place, a place of lotus; but now it is a room, a room of swamp. Do you mean these pool, are pools of buildings? No, they are houses, houses of lotus.’ The teachers always tell the students this is a sigh from a whole change. But if you know what is called 1949, and if you know what happened on that Dragon Boat Festival, you will probably guess that there is a very deep and painful thing in that ‘lotus’. - See Long Yingtai’s Don’t Cry, Guan Guan
Minsheng: You are not only a poet, but also painter, performance artist and playwriter. How do you see the relationship between poetry writing and life?
Guan Guan: I like reading, books, newspapers, my father’s hand-written ancient texts, thousands of poems and various martial arts novels. I also wrote Zhu Shan Jian Xia Zhuan. When I was young, I saw a lot of troupes’ dramas. I like to draw ink paintings and abstract paintings; just have something in mind and draw; sometimes imitate Badashanren, Shi Tao, Jin Nong and Zheng Banqiao, sometimes graffiti on paper. I also have painting exhibitions and poet painting meetings. I like watching dramas and movies; I once starve to watch Bergman’s movie and went to other cities; I can stay at an international film festival from day to night.
When the painter Zheng Zaidong studied the movie, he asked me to shoot his ‘Zhu Lin Qi Xian’ but failed. Then he introduced me to The Legend of the Six Dynasty created by Wang Jujin. The play consists of three stages. I played with Hu Yinmeng and Jin Shijie each and I acted as an old monk in the third paragraph ‘Child in the Mirror’. And this very first acting experience helped to win the Best Director and Best Original Score in Drama of the 17th Golden Horse Awards. What a miracle! Wang Wenxing, one of the judges, said to me that Guan Guan nearly won the Best Actor. He said that someone mentioned although I played well but only a small cut. Others also talked about my being a poet. I think they are fantastic.
From then on, those guys looking for me just ask to play but no writing. I have acted in Lai Shengchuan’s stage play Secret Love for the Peach Blossom Spring, the movie The Red Lotus Society, Wan Ren’s Super Citizen, Wang Tong’s Run Away, Tsui Hark’s The Lovers and other movies. I also participated in the documentary One Tree Three Lives starring Nie Hualing, Mo Yan and others. In the TV series ‘Applause’, I acted as a bad husband who just eats, drinks, gambles and beats his wife; and I was once busted by a lady when taking a bus. I explained that was just drama. But she said I was a bad guy. So I had to get off the bus quickly. Till now I have participated in thirty-three plays. Those other identities, ‘-ers’ are resulted from my playing. Life is like smoke! I’m not acting but act like writing poems. I make it as the poetry, and want to live as poetry, then I feel I am poetry.
Minsheng: The poet Luo Fu once commented that Guan Guan, you are kind of wacko among the Chinese poets. What do you think of your ‘old Chinese cowboy’ image?
Guan Guan: I am really someone who plays and enjoys the art. I participate in those others do not want to do. It’s fun! I am not polite, or should very rude, born to be a bit silly, but innocent. I like the cowboy but I do not over respect the foreign things. I like the cowboy clothing and the colorful ones. Ding Xiongquan has sent me several colorful suits. I’ll wear it this time. You are free to laugh at me.
Minsheng:Most of old-time poems contain rhythm; however, the contemporary poems are always read. You have some poems re-written as songs; is there a boundary between poems and songs?
Guan Guan: Poems and songs are like cousins. A poem should be written to make people understand. It should be easy for your mouth then it can be delicious. In the 1970s, a Folk Song Movement rose in Taiwan, and the folk singer Yang Xian rewrote nine songs from Yu Guangzhong’s Bai Yu Ku Gua poem selection. Li Taixiang had also composed music for Xu Zhimo, Yu Guangzhong, Zheng Chouyu, Xi Murong and others. However, until he went away he never composed mine, leaving me no poems to sing. Therefore, I sing it myself! In my poem selection ‘Nao Dai Kai Hua’, there is a poem ‘Chun Tian De Bi Zi’ that adults and children sing in their own ways!
Minsheng: Who are your favorite poets and artists?
Guan Guan: I must solemnly declare that the poems I like do not refer to their quality. There have been good poets in all ages, and I prefer Zen poetry. Nowadays I enjoy Bian Zhilin, Zhou Mengdie, Shang Qin, Luo Fu, Ya Xian, and Xia Yu. The artists include Shi Tao, Badashanren, Qi Baishi, Fu Baoshi, Joan Miró, Paul Klee, Alberto Giacometti, Zao Wou-Ki, Wu Guanzhong, and Ding Xiongquan. There are also many amazing young artists.
Guan Guan, Guan Yunlong, a poet, painter, performance artist, has participated in more than 30 films, television dramas, stage plays. Born in 1929 in Longfeng Village, Jiaonan County, Qingdao City, Shandong Province, he now lives in Taipei. He is the inviting writer of University of Iowa International Writers Work Program (1982). He was the director of The Epoch Poetry Quarterly, editor of the Good Times Publishing House, editor-in-chief of The Commons Daily Publishing Department, and director of the Radio and TV Arts Bridge Program. His poem won the award in Hong Kong Modern Literature and Art Association and the first prize of ‘Chinese Contemporary Poetry’. He has participated in Struga Poetry Evenings, Yangzhou International Poetry Festival, Hainan Island Poetry Festival, Shanghai International Poetry Festival and other poetry festivals at home and abroad; participated in Taipei International Poetry Festival, International Chinese Poets Meeting and World Congresses of Poets for several times. He has also been invited to participate in many exhibitions: ‘The Poet Painting Meetings’, ‘Visual Poetry & Painting Exhibition’, ‘Artists Co-exhibition’, and ‘Spring Breeze Allegro Exhibition’, ‘Young Fairy Eating Rainbow Solo Show’.
Poem Collections: Huang Wu Zhi Lian, Guan Guan Poems Selection, Guan Guan Poems Selection This Century, Cha Chan Shi Hua, Nao Dai Kai Hua, Guan Guan’s Lazy Poems.
Proses: ‘Please, moon, please sit down’, ‘Spring comes sitting on that sedan’, ‘Guan Guan Proses Selection’, ‘Good morning birds’, and ‘Pipe & Xiao Duet’.