SOAS University of London

Department of History, School of History, Religions & Philosophies

Poetry after June Fourth - an evening with Liao Yiwu

Liao Yiwu (Berlin) and Michael Martin Day (National University, San Diego)

Date: 6 June 2019Time: 5:00 PM

Finishes: 6 June 2019Time: 7:00 PM

Venue: Brunei Gallery Room: BG01

Type of Event: Seminar

Poems are powerful. Poems are dangerous. Writing a long poem about the massacre of June the Fourth 1989 landed Liao Yiwu with a four-year prison sentence. After his release in 1994 his unflagging attempts to chronicle his experiences and stand up against a regime that stifles the free dissemination of information and expression of opinion earned him the constant attention of China's surveillance state. He was outspoken about the malpractices that exacerbated the impact of the Sichuan earthquake in 2008, and as a close friend of Liu Xiaobo he was a signatory of Charter 08. Being refused permission to travel abroad he eventually made an adventurous escape via China's southwestern border and arrived in in Germany in 2011. Liao now lives in exile in Berlin. 

Liao is probably best known for his prison poems as well as his accounts of life at the grassroots of China's society based on interviews. He is a recipient of the Human Rights Watch Hellman-Hammett Grant for writers who have been victims of political persecution (2003), and the prestigious German literature awards Geschwister Scholl Preis (2011) and the Friedenspreis des Deutschen Buchhandels (2012). 

The evening will start with a performance of Liao's poetry in Chinese and English together with his friend and translator Michael Martin Day. This will be followed by a short interview and an opportunity to ask questions. The event will be bilingual in Chinese and English. 

Michael Martin Day is an associate professor of Chinese and World Literature and History at the National University in San Diego, CA. He has been a friend of Liao since 1987 and is a translator of his poetry. His book on China’s Second World of Poetry: The Sichuan Avant-Garde, 1982-1992, is available at

Organiser: Andrea Janku

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