18 Marzo

The ethereal woman with a cattail fan and the “measure of everything”. A Viewpoint on the Poetry of Yin Xiaoyuan


The ethereal woman with a cattail fan and the “measure of everything”.

A Viewpoint on the Poetry of Yin Xiaoyuan (in italian, v. blog.versanteripido.itBased on what I know of her, 殷晓媛 (Yin Xiaoyuan) is one of the most up-to-date contemporary poets, not only from China, but at the same time she is somewhat in tune with the older ones.

It seems little to me to describe her poetry as rather different from tradition, not only from Chinese tradition but also from our own, and in this sense, it is a new way of making poetry. The differences are obvious, radical. And yet, this poetry also and continuously looks to tradition, and not only to Chinese tradition.

New, and ancient, “poetry”, which is always being reborn: and in this case, it is nourished by strong theoretical and programmatic acquisitions. I mean the so-called “hermaphroditic” [1] and “encyclopedic” poetics.

“Hermaphrodism”, as is well known, is generally understood from antiquity to mean the non-difference of the sexes, or rather their coexistence in the same individual versus the female-male distinction in different individuals. In Yin Xiaoyuan’s case, it is a divergent reading of biology and cultures, as well as Jungian work from the first half of the 20th century on the psychological difference between the sexes with the concepts there of Anima and Animus: the concept of hermaphoditism

             (…) advocates anti-opposition, anti-specificity, inclusiveness, inclusion (…)[2]

From this point of view, one considers what concerns poetry, art, literature. Cultures generally choose and sometimes impose sexual gender distinctions in roles, work, attitudes. The author asks (and answers):

Is gender labelling of literature a marketing feature or a self-imposed restriction? (…) Is it necessary for women writers to indulge in gender self-suggestion, to give up the architectural design of clusters that require rational modelling and rigorous calculation, and to surrender the power to plan adrenaline-filled, blood-curdling chapters? … why should we adapt to categorising the existence of a text by the innate physical characteristics of its creator, rather than by the text’s own qualities and charms?

In the same article, the author advocates the “encyclopaedic” approach in poetry, with important consequences:

… In contrast to traditional epics, which are known for their religious, mythological, and fantastical elements, and whose linear narratives, genetic patterns, and decoding systems are very constant and declining, the «Encyclopedic Poetry School» has become the first advocate of a number of pioneering elements: hard sci-fi modelling, film editing techniques, the inclusion of fashion elements, irrational episodes, and the incorporation of the latest results of interdisciplinary work, visual and performance art creations, and multimedia interface features[3].

Poetry, literature and the arts, the civilisations of men have to do with all this. Now,

The newest achievements of cross-disciplines, visual and performance art creations, and multimedia interfaces are implanted into the epic’s hallowed structure, thus making its textual clusters present a pattern of (…) a multitude of images, all of which are bizarre and strange.

The example mentioned here by the author refers to a series of her collections such as the title of the matrix of 16 long poems, “Wind Rose”, of which we read that

The sixteen stories interact and resonate multidimensionally, creating a wonderful phantasmagoric explosion that move the boundaries of the epic to a place where they’ve never been before.

Boundaries and design of the epic are thus displaced and yet otherwise present: why else call this poem “epic”?

There is enough for something new; one has to see how this point of view is realised. I have wondered whether Yin Xiaoyuan has also worked out a specific technique, in addition to that already operating in general as fantasy, to achieve the images we encounter in her verses – and it seems to me that one only has to look at e. g. 13 items on the start menu, as one will, in “Cloud Seeding Agent”[4]; this is but one example – there are, in her book and elsewhere, very different ones.

The analogy can arise from something else and proceed in very different ways and by systematic invention as well as by impromptu illumination: here, in 13 items of the start menu, a list of PC functions is transmuted, through connections and similarities, into as many evident features of our life which, since the starting point is provocative, are surprising in the way they are proposed; in this specific case, the author has worked on those images, from time to time found in the encyclopaedia of sciences, technologies, cultures, and on the suggestions they bring. The poet explicitly excludes the use of already known techniques of verse-making and writing, which are present in the history of literature and poetry.

The “encyclopedic” approach obviously seems to me to recall not so much the unfeasible idea of “knowing everything” (πολυμαϑία , polymathism), already blamed by the Greeks, as the idea of a diversified, organic knowledge, managed by the singular point of view of the mind of the thinker and writer, who can search for images and make her syntheses drawing from every field. The way of obtaining figures and connections is precisely a matter of the poet’s imagination – a concept I use here as a synonym for “fantasy” – through modalities found from time to time, ad hoc: Yin Xiaoyuan’s more than remarkable erudition is combined with her great enthusiasm for, and ability to integrating knowledge structures.

The idea that the texts show is that any aspect of our technological, scientific, spiritual culture can become a motif for “epic” poetry in the new way. But the topicality of the “spirit”, which is made now, is also history and can also look back to the past.

This path of poetry seems to me, if one looks at the results already achieved previously and not only in this last book[5] "Cloud Seeding Agent", a field that is enlightened according to what it is about; it is susceptible to becoming very precise - you understand, in the way poetry can be: that is, in the sense of a punctually unusual use of poetic places, irony included - poetry, like philosophy or art in general, is not science, even if, in the case, it can move “through” that domain of science, it can consider it. Just as philosophy is the domain of the thinkable as such, so poetry, freed from the bonds of any scientific method, uses the imaginable and the most daring connections in images, according to word, without having to seem out of place: poetry has its own rigour.

What is analogy? It is to bring an image to “ex-plain” another image, in the manner of images: “by similarities” of great, perhaps flashing evidence, excluding differences, which are there. But this “explanation” in poetry is not the same as the explanation of any science, be it “exact” or “natural” or “human” science. The explanation in the image of poetry is a word, a reference to, recalling and alluding to something else, but such a recall, however much it may strike the reader and listener, is like a resonance, an echo, which can go, hypothetically, on a precise object, as much as it can flow on many different objects or in the void of resonant streets full of strange “things” ready to light up with meaning. This is precisely the case with Yin Xiaoyuan’s poetry, as one often finds when reading. It raises the question of the role of images, in fact mentioned in the clarification on the encyclopedic poetry school where we found that the approach of that school is realised as “a multitude of images, all of which are bizarre and strange” .

A very ancient and noble role of poetry, from before philosophy or the sciences, is maintained but completely transformed, when you read that here

The newest achievements of cross-disciplines, visual and performance art creations, and multimedia interfaces are implanted into the epic’s hallowed structure[6].

In general, and with exceptions, there has been a shift from strong images of warlike and theological, legendary and mythological derivation, to figures of an entirely different kind, which nevertheless remain in mind, because they mark our time.

Coming across, which sometimes resembles an abrupt impact, different kinds of images, proposed by virtue of daring expertise, can induce the reader to a kind of brain storming, to find the meaning of the continuous and disparate references; but it is precisely in function of something that images are bearers of – images always give some kind of suggestive knowledge, of emotional knowing, to the extent that we can have it, as it happens in poetry.

In this epic of our time by Yin Xiaoyuan, instead of ancient mythologies, the new image-myths of biology and quantum physics, mathematics and optics, psychoanalysis and ethology.

Obviously, the epic here is different from the way Homeric poetry is said to be “epic”, which by the way comes to us well metrically specified, or the Indo-Iranic or Scandinavian or other known ones: they show, even the most remote ones, at least some kind of vague versification criteria, besides the presence of heroes and gods. In the Han yu version, on the other hand, which I have courtesy of the author, long free verse is used, without any other apparent concerns, almost like prose, except that sometimes the line breaks off before the end of the space-rhyme; it is certainly the same as in the English version (also by Yin Xiaoyuan, a multilingual poet). Therefore, in addition to respecting this form in my Italian translation of some of the passages here, I present the splendid images and unprecedented, often very effective, strong juxtapositions.

I would say that these images used by Yin Xiaoyuan, in general (in my hypothesis) with the epics we know, often have to do with the multi-verse of symbols, or, to put it otherwise, of “great images” that open to multiple senses; hence those of art and religion, symbols par excellence. But today there is more. The current images that travel the planet at the speed of light can “make” new mythologies. They are just as strong as those of myth and ancient epic .

See in this regard the poem “Mystery Play of Elche”[7] . In Yin Xiaoyuan’s introduction e. g. one finds

The waning sun is about to give way to the pealing of the shadows as from the urns of Mediterranean foam, from the time of the Visigoths, the incessant rhythm of untamed waves converges here, at

Elche – History is immense and horrible like the Leviathan of the Book of Job

This is followed by a text dense with quotations drawn, in this case, from the mythological and religious context of the West and beyond, between past and recent times:

Explain: why the caduceus of Hermes is a symbol of mercury and how it became the «flower of the peaks»

The Dame of Elche replied with a silent movie smile

or, in the following parts (everything is so suggestive that only something is chosen, merely as an indication),

Since 14 August, the Virgin Mary has been approaching immortality, while Hapi watches the Nile turn into floodgates in Sudan

A vector is defined by its optimal direction, believers must cast their nets for fortuitous apparitions

The profile of the Basilica of St. Mary (in Elche, ed.) is that of History itself: Mosque – Gothic & Renaissance-Baroque

The 17th century wall reliefs, the Andalusian flamenco dress and “las cosechas del pensar tranquilo” (as in Miguel de Unamuno’s poem) in Salamanca were coeval (...) everything here is as flexible as a legend and as hard as a sort of hard bread[8]

Yin Xiaoyuan’s interest in the Spanish medieval drama shows her curiosity as a viator of time and space – unlike the traveller in the Borgesian library, the author always finds meaning, and more is added, in an uninterrupted, captivating fabric of quotations that tend to take the source-text to the infinite drifts of meaning.

See, among other numerous works, some poems from the “Ornithological Atlas”. , at least those available on the web, in which there is also a translation of Hexagram 15 of the famous Book of Changes or I Ching.

In the latter cases (excluding Mystery Play of Elche, dedicated to the cultures of the West), starting with images of ornithology and animal biology, in the presence of Latin names of plant or animal species, in any case from the history of culture, most of the references in the valuable critical apparatus of the author’s notes are to Chinese antiquity, without excluding Japanese antiquity, and again to current events in the West, with quotations from Seagal and Rilke... While elsewhere the focus is on cultural elements from pre-Columbian America or ancient Greece.

Below I describe some recurring features as they appear in the last book of poetry, the aforementioned “Cloud Seeding Agent”. Here too, as in the previous works, at least two connotations seem to be co-present.

  1. In the present-future, the encyclopedia of the sciences, their history; technologies. Thus, in the opening, the memorable and much-translated composition Ode to prime numbers[9]: here, physical, biological and mathematical knowledge is played out, suggesting the analogy of prime numbers with human condition.

Your name is «le seul.» (…)

Just as what Alphonse de Polignac once said: There is a mirror image of you in the fathomless universe, forever 2 degrees apart from where you are located. You almost felt her sometimes (…)

The streets that have supplied you with all colors and sounds of life are in a parallel system to theirs. When you saunter down to the seaside, hands in pockets, local people approaching you with buckets of olives and sardines can not actually meet you, as if you were walking past this place at different times of day (…)

(… our lifetime plays, n. ed.) rising from feebleness to robustness, soaring marvelously, and then plunging, increasingly close to zero. Just as what the frequency of prime numbers reveals, they end up in decay as you end up in solitude. You are destined to be the last celestial body over seven thousand miles of graveyards.

The poem is about humanity and so is the entire book: it opens with these verses.

The second poem in the book after the Ode, also significant of Yin Xiaoyuan’s poetic manner and thought, very powerfully presents a series of images on the analogy of the digital techniques of colour and photography, a privileged reference in the author's vision, which will come to dominate again towards the end of the book. It is 32-bit colour depth: here we are asked to imagine – what if we were in a world in which everything is colour, so that the distinction between things, reduced to figure-background differences, then dissolved into “shades, shadows and transparencies”? The world “would be” digital.  

This is followed by serial compositions, analogies of computer processes: I propose some of them, in my opinion illustrative – starting with the above-mentioned one of 13 items in the start menu, where the PC-relevant images, peculiar to our era, undoubtedly still say something about us. It is accompanied by variable “packages” of irony:

Common Applications:

B.Single-timeline memory.

When a parameter changes, mass begins accumulating in an alternative space-time, as its inverse function.

“Add-up” mode for skills and “overwrite” for emotions.


Customizable Software Packages:
D. Human nature.

Its beta version is formally released at age 18, an infamous bug-ridden OS, extremely susceptible to Trojan and viruses.
The only APP with one-key recovery function.

(It is said “By laying down weapons one restores Buddhist sedateness.”)

  1. Intelligence. Usually categorized as a news or social APP,

but actually an image-and-video editing APP, processing megabytes of complicated data in a twinkling.

Unaffected by races, genders or religions, which influence only the user-interfaces.

  1. Temperament.

In contrast to its low priority, its memory usage is bewildering, which sometimes leads to motherboard damage.
There are several set menus, on which George Gurdjieff and Jung &Myers-Briggs kept arguing on over a century.

  1. Gender. One’s physical gender is like anti-virus software, starts automatically and unable to be terminated;

while psychological gender is like windows, it keeps updating itself.

12 Random APPs:
H. Fortune.

When used in the sense of “destiny” it is a read-only document,

can be opened only by an exclusive reader (pay-on-demand)named FortuneTeller;

when used in the sense of “wealth” it is a kind of office software, with pop-up ads including stock and lottery information,

which are clicked by mistake by novices from time to time.

  1. Love. An APP like Mafia Mystery – a game involving conspiracies, suspensions and judgments,
    in which there are roles including killers, doctors, cops and civilians.

Every player regards himself breaker of conventions but eventually ends up with preset outcome.

  1. Lifespan.

A Russian-roulettish APP.

Nutritionists, alchemists, phrenologists and geomancers claims it to be a calculator APP,
for which they can get a better result from the same base number, when the fact is:
contingencies contribute more to it than predictable factors do.

It definitely has a maximum value – yet unknown and a minimumvalue – 0, so nobody has ever been in the red (…)

I have quoted a long part of it, I find this way of proposing poetry not only different but definitely interesting and even amusing.

A day among unacquainted firewalls and Views are in the guise of a disenchanted list, or classification... a man, however complex, can be described as in a database! Or, quite similarly, Quantum walk , where the point of view adopted, in describing man, assumes the language of a biological programmer – while Remote assistance exercises due sarcasm, this time on the subject of super-heroes. The exercise of irony on the social concerns, among other things, the relationship between the sexes, or whatever relationship between humans. By means of analogies drawn from physics, later compositions in the book thematise the lack of relationship between two personalities, who are lonely humans, with problems in ex pressing their personal traits – Alternating Current, either Turbulent or Serene :

There was a repeat of the scene, in which she refused to allow you

To touch her rain-drenched violin. «Keep your distance, am I clear?

Only one of the strings is the zero line, you just can’t tell which!» She smiled weirdly

And ran upstairs. The string which snapped during the performance

Dragged along behind her, was as thick as a towrope. Confused, standing still there,

(…) All water-level data (…)

And your masculinity, will be turned inside out like a coat

On the other side of the globe.

The use of language here is rather reminiscent of the language of Raymond Carver, or even scenes and titles from Quentin Tarantino; or see the juxtaposition of images from biology and the theory of evolution, in Family Feud or Coevolution :

Every legend off in the wind is but about you and the «her» Like what the blacksmith shouted: «Sharpen the canine teeth!

Tear apart thy foe, or thy owned sanity!» (...)

You and she, will vanish simultaneously into multi-dimensional coordinate-spaces … And before that

There are highly similar speed and coincidental paths, which the researcher, apathetic and detached as he always was

will never comprehend

verses I would explain with a passage from Communication Behaviors :

A telegraph keeps clicking, while nobody is sitting around

It seems that sometimes in the human relationship something is dead, yet we persist! But perhaps this is a problem of the entire universe...

As mentioned, the vast majority of the compositions in the book, due to the author's evident inclination, propose images from the techniques of colour and photography, such as 32-bit colour depth. Thus A Post-Producer and Hawthorn-Addict :

(C11, M54, Y89, K0): the daintily-mellowed tints of a glorious sunset

Glides along his vernier of Color Depths (…)

(How the spicily fragrant colors have absorbed the essence of the world round him! (...)

All begins with the color of a Jericho rose

And ends somewhere dim and undiscovered

or the final series, starting with Coastal erosion , in which it is difficult to distinguish between the world of the human senses and that of information technology and photography; Radial photography, human centred [10]:

You never exerted gravity, the way neutron stars do, so why all celestial objects attracted to you

Here as elsewhere, before understanding in what ways analogy can be created through the image, one must at least know what it is: what are “macro-photography” and “bulb photography”? Or “Rembrandt lighting” and “butterfly lighting” in photography? It’s about Stuck in Moments, Macro Photography [11]; Bulb Photography (Seven Capricious Hours) [12] – , Rembrandt Lighting or Butterfly Lighting [13]; Forced perspective [14]… : photography is declared as art, which is very common in the average educated way of feeling, but here it is presented in an unusual way, which we would say eccentric: Armchairs? Crinoline dresses? This is Called Art Photography [15]

This Agreement is being signed by and between the Photographer (who proclains himself an oil painter),

hereinafter referred to as “the PHOTOGRAPHER” and the client (his model as well), hereinafter referred to as “the CLIENT.”

The CLIENT and the PHOTOGRAPHER agree that (…)

This agreement is made in ONE original that should be held by the PHOTOGRAPHER.

It shall be valid and remain in force for the rest of livel of both parties from the Date of Effectiveness.

The PHOTOGRAPHER shall not be responsible for Classicist Sequela of the CLIENT.

Disclosure of any part of the agreement to a fourth party is strictly forbidden (the 3rd party=the CREATOR).

The last poem of the book is A Surrealistic Page is There, Concealed in Everyone’s Mind [16], in a context dense with references between wakefulness and dreams:

This phantom Laputa, haunts every corner of the block, like an ancient warship sneaking up

Her strongholds, diurnal or nocturnal, were all pushed to the world’s end

Below her feet, cave-riddled escarpment and shoaly valleys

Camouflage the entrance to Inferno

A hundred thousand ways to awaken herself (…)

out there is nothing but a broad, mirror-like street

Illusional houses, virtual riverbanks – all are but photomontage works


«Post process is supposed to be done tonight, our customer wants is tomorrow».

Having reorganized her files, she is ready to leave.

Elevator car, indoor waterfalls, perfumed washbasin

«See you!» she waved to Paul,

Never mentioned his being ram-horned, human-headed, and horse-bodied

Paul knows it all – he was the one that had taken over the floating island,

And saved her from endless entanglement.

The themes of loneliness and the common destiny of men are often in the field, a shadow, perhaps, and yet very much present, as if to warn against creating illusions, a background that becomes a figure: one lives between essential despair and hope, unfailing by definition.

A guy walked by but no footsteps were heard. It could be on any dusk

(…) Yesterday, the black-and-white photo

of a violinist who used to frequent here

appeared for the last time in the newspaper – among obituary notices.

(…) You caught a glimpse of the construction crew,

busy repairing the bridge guardrails (…)

“On duty today?” You talked to him when you passed by

He turned around and looked right into your eyes, strattled and somewhat upset

Under the V-neck of his baseball jacket, a silver chain

dangled across. The fact was: He seldom communicated,

or trusted ... He just walked away, with his brothers, all in different directions,

like a hardcore band, splitting up.

The feeling of closeness comes from an understanding of loneliness, from the difficulty of communicating despite physical proximity. This seems to be an important message from the poet, present in several poems[18].

The glory of appearance, life and real images also make up a masquerade, almost like samsara: it is the theme in Wave-Particle Duality for Existence [19],


As camouflage. Desert roses, caudex vase shaped, carmine flowers dipped

Into the sun, were fused into

Grand yet capricious clouds (…)

Moments of seclusion

Flash across the eyes of seabirds (…)


and not only... However one considers the human condition, the result will be the same – see Carbon-14, the Unyielding Drifters[20]: – by the image of carbon 14 and the sure suggestion, is back the proximity of existences lived in different times:

«Oh là là. Nice pearly aura today! » «I can see that! Why are you still alight,

old chap? How long has it been? Eighty years? We were, you know, just like fluorescent yellyfish

carried by ocean currents.»

Over the night-shrouded wasteland echo the rustling voices...

(…) On sunny days centuries later,

pottery jars unearthed will swirl on the rocks, like revived albatrosses do,

spreading their wings, thin and covered

by volcanic ash. Curves of the earth run in all directions

but all finally into the infinity of darkness (…)

Sometimes one is caught in the theatre of existence. Circatidal Rhythmus [21] presents the rhythm of life, rendered in the image of the “shishi-odoshi”:

sunlight will climb along a shishi-odoshi

named «the Scale of Everything ».

To suggest perhaps, finally, the quasi-parity between light of existence and eternal night in Brooding over the Dwindling Figure of a Kenai Peninsula Wolf [22], from evolutionary biology and the extinction of a certain species of wolf:

(…) In the capricious world, a belle is now Bodhisattva, now asura.

The wind of evolution never stops (…)

you saved the diamond while losing your precious wolf

Just as long ago, you saved the sun but lost your eternal night.

The reader will see the two final lines, a conclusion that refers back to the oldest wisdom of mankind.

The poems move on the plane of the contemporary, of sciences, of technologies, of cultures, as for Generation-Skipping Traits [23]. But the antiquity is continually present in this evocative contemporary poet, as is shown in the flashing figures on inheritance:

Somewhere upstream, there must be marks

left by a ferryman. Fragments of words – “azure eyed,” “aloof,” “magnanimous,” “hallucinatory,”

even “superphysical”... they roll out of a shattered bottle,

And got lost in the crowds. In the past five hundred years

They have returned to your family like doves that never stray. Last missing piece

lies in your hands now (…).


The accuracy of the reference is extreme, as I said, not only in the context of the contemporary but also when it concerns quotations from China’s spiritual heritage, with an echo that goes out to the entire planet. Exemplary to me, from this point of view, are also the three footnotes in Monascus Red, Rosa Laevigata Michaux Brown[24], for the reverent attention to the past, which plans to return:

The ethereal woman with a cattail fan in her hand,

owns a room in the background – it is shadowy, almost invisible to Time. Pink oval yeast

is perfect icing sugar for this world – like fallen cherry petals. Gradually they will get tinted by the warmth and voices

of passer-by. Alas! Light and colors started to

drift west now: dress up, cleanse your hands, burs incense and sing a canticle, as the beginning of a worship ritual:

Red: the Three-Legged Crow, lightning flames, and exotic flowers on a thousand-year-old-tree;

Brown: soy source, tombs, and earthenware

They plan to return to the future with them. They also carry

The fire bloodlines farm implements sets of bronze teeth.

Analogies of culture, somewhat reminiscent of certain verses by Seamus Heaney, motivated by biology or other sciences [25].

But some similarities, I believe, are due to universal movements of the spirit: when looking back, perhaps the accent cannot be different, or this might be a possible way.

The poet, wrote J. Krenz[26], represents the new China (as I also thought) but I would add that the attention to the new time, to the leap that brought this great country to the forefront in the world, coexists in the poems with reverence, the presence of traces of the remote.

One thinks of the significance of the visits to the Sacred Mountains, visits she always includes in her biographical notes, which resemble our pilgrimages. Or, however comparisons may hold, the visits to places of antiquity, the constant publication of photos from Chinese museums. This seems to me to be the case: we in Europe have the Pilgrim’s Way to Santiago or Lourdes and visits to exhibitions and museums, and so in China one climbs the Tai Shan and visit the legendary monastery, Shaolin, like the Great Wall or, in Xi’an, the site of the Bingmayong (terracotta warriors and horses). Our past can be as illustrious and terrible as theirs (and, of course, differently). Parts of the world are so diverse, few are so immense and remarkable.

Yet there is no shortage of similarities. By the tens of thousands a day, with different thicknesses of approach to things, as with any people, the Chinese visit their glorious memories. Their festivals are as ancient as ours, and as different, as in China the year is dated like ours out of pragmatic necessity, but for the Chinese, by tradition and to the effects of festivities and the scanning of collective life during the year, also in another way: it is the lunar year, the Chinese New Year, the spring festival. Thus the poet. This attitude of Yin Xiaoyuan, looking forward to the future, present to the present but looking back to the past, examining and showing the heritage of people from all cultures of all times, inviting everyone to share everything, because the whole world, as we have been saying for a long time, is village; especially through poetry, painting and theatre, film and photography – the attitude is great and sincere.

It would really be out of place to say that it is only the celebration of photographic techniques (however, done in that way, it would not be little). It is not only the confirmation of a global-virtual and technological-scientific world, or of several worlds, mirroring this world as it appears to us; but also, at the same time, it is a look and an attitude towards the past of one's own land, one's ancestors and res gestae, what the Latins called pietas, religious reverence towards the patri gods, and especially those of the motherland, but not only.

Another consequence must therefore be mentioned.

   B- If in our era we witness the triumph of science and technology, in the profane lies the “hidden” return of the sacred. What is the relationship, in poetry, of this attitude that considers the images of contemporary science and technology together, almost equally, with the extreme copious attention to the antiquity of one’s own country, while at the same time respecting and taking an active interest in the spirit and cultures of the West and the world?

As M. Eliade states, “the consciousness of a real and meaningful world is intimately linked to the discovery of the sacred. Through the experience of the sacred, the human spirit has grasped the difference between what turns out to be real, powerful, and meaningful, and what is devoid of these qualities: the chaotic and dangerous flow of things, their fortuitous appearances and disappearances (...)”[27]. The sacred can dwell in the profane, the profane become sacred. This can happen in the archaic layers of cultures as in the arts, so close to religion.

I believe that within the statements on encyclopedism in poetry one can see this.

In poetry and poetics, in Yin Xiaoyuan’s attitude, towards the ancient as well as towards the very significant, captivating images of the contemporary, one finds the subtle and suggestive trace of the sacred, which still makes its way, so as to suggest a return or a being-always-present. The poet's references to the thought of C. G. Jung perhaps also point this way. The stronghold of contemporary sciences and technologies is undermined and taken precisely from this impervious side, from which one would not expect the hidden, perhaps the removed; but this can always happen, because the sacred is a qualifying aspect of the human, a structure of consciousness, in every time since men separated from the gods, their elder brothers.

Poetry that updates the ancient mercurial spirit, hermetic poetry in this sense: the hidden makes its way and tends to return in the epiphanies of the profane.A sense of which is symbolised by the Greek god Hermes “to the man, fellow” (“Iliad” XXIV 334 ff.) Eliade states, mentioning Homer. [28]

But this is not immediately what Yin Xiaoyuan intends to imprint on her verses and communicate, at least as far as it seems and is said. It is probably, in the author’s intentions, an attempt at a decisive change of the ancient in which, writes Joanna Krenz [29]:

poetic language enters into symbiosis with nonlingual systems in order to break free of the limitations of certain cultural paradigms that shape human thought, imagination, and ways of expression.

It seems to me in any case important, in order to gain awareness of current poetry, to get to know and possibly study this poet. Extraordinarily cultured, often brilliant, her poetry appears mature and of great depth and probable, even greater future prospects.


[1]《泛性别主义》:拒绝默许造物越俎代庖…》. This is the title of a short essay by Yin Xiaoyuan dated 2016, published in the magazine “Mountain Flowers” (“Shan Hua”,《山花》), Guizhou Province, Guizhou Writers’ Association. Also J. Krenz (Joanna Krenz, “In Search of Singularity. Poetry in Poland and China since 1989”, Ed. Brill, Leiden/Boston, 2022, Chapter 7 esp. pp. (489) 502-514). in her very useful chapter about Yin Xiaoyuan poetry, tells us something very useful about this: in English, the title may be "Hermaphroditism: Rejecting Creator’s Poking the Nose into Our Business” – with the explanatory addition “-- A Brief Outline of the Concept of Encyclopedic Poetry”.

[2][2] Ibid.

[3] Yin Xiaoyuan, cit., my translation; so translated in J. Krenz. cit, p. 503: “Unlike traditional epic poetry, which builds on religion, myth, fantastic stories, linear narrative, and genetic mode, and is characterized by an overtly constant and therefore declining decoding system, the Encyclopedic School pioneered in introducing a range of avant-garde elements to the canonical structure of epic: hard sci-fi construction, film editing techniques, fashion trends, irrational episodes, the newest developments in science, works of visual and performative arts, multimedia interfaces”.

[4] 13 items from the start menu, in “Cloud seeding Agent”, English-language Pinyon Publishing, Montrose, Colorado, 2020, pp. 10-12 (page numbers given are those of the American edition); Han yu edition 2017, 《播云剂, publisher 北岳文艺出版社).

[5] The last book but not the last work of poetry. In more recent times, for example, we have collections such as “The Ornithological Atlas: 108 poems”.

[6] Finally, to call “epic” this poetry is a very precise poetic choice, which moreover presupposes knowledge of all epic poetry. It is remarkable, as Krenz notes, that the “epic” genre does not find much resemblance in the history of Han Chinese poetry, which does not seem inclined to this kind of poetry. If, however, a current mode of epic is proposed in the case, this too is somehow intended to bring back a part of the oldest of poems.

[7] Elx is the name, in English, of Elche – Valencian, a dialect of the Catalan language (co-official language, with Castilian, of Spanish) of the Spanish town of Elche, where a powerful medieval lyrical drama – possibly from the 13th century – is performed annually on 14 and 15 August, based on texts from the Apocryphal Gospels, consisting of 259 verses, written in Valencian with the exception of a psalm and some verses that are in Latin. The musical accompaniment offers particular points of interest with melodies from different historical periods. Yin Xiaoyuan’s poem on the “Mysteries of Elx” (this English translation you to read I took by the web: are there both the Italian translation of the poem – Italian translation by Toti O'Brien for Argonline, 2021 – and Han yu version – is also present the original of the sacred poem).

[8] A kind of hard bread which is not easy to chew, but like bread the architectures turn to ashes in history.

[9] “Cloud Seeding Agent”, cit., pp. 1- 2. Two prime numbers – the definition of a prime number is well known - are said to be twins when they differ by two, e.g. 5 and 7; the theorem or conjecture of twin primes, probably already seen by Euclid, was later formulated by Alphonse de Polignac (19th century).

The fragments chosen here from Ode to Prime Numbers have been translated into Italian by Pina Piccolo for issue no. 14 of www.lamacchinasognante.com - Poetry, Dossier on the “Encyclopedic School of Poetry” edited by Lucia Cupertino, 31 March 2019. The Italian translation from English of the excerpts of other poems reported here, in general, is mine.

[10] Ivi, p. 85.

[11] Ivi, p. 86.

[12] Ivi, p. 87.

[13] Ivi, p. 88.

[14] Ivi, p. 90.

[15] Ivi, pp. 92-3. Capital letters in the text.

[16] Ivi, pp. 94-5.

[17] Ivi, pp. 70-1.

[18] Thus in the images of Alleles: Divinity and the ID (p. 64) or Conjugated Effect (p. 68) or Allotropes (p. 78).

[19] Ivi, p. 34-5.

[20] Ivi, p. 72.

[21] Ivi, p. 42.

[22] Ivi, pp. 52-3.

[23] Ivi, p. 45.

[24] Ivi, pp. 46-7.

[25] Cfr. Schwann cells (p. 51), Brooding over the Dwingling figure of a keinai Peninsula Wolf (cit.); Family feud, Type A-B (pp. 48-9).

[26] J. Krenz, op. cit., p. 505.

[27] M. Eliade, “A History of Religious Ideas” Chicago 1978, it. tr. “Storia delle idee e delle credenze religiose”, Sansoni, Florence 1990, v. I, p. 7.

[28] Ivi, p. 300.

[29] Joanna Krenz, cit, p. 514.



Yin Xiaoyuan( “殷晓媛” in Chinese) is an avant-garde, crossover epic poet as well as a multi-genre & multilingual writer, founder of Encyclopedic Poetry School (est. 2007), initiator of Hermaphroditic Writing Movement and numerous crossover projects with international poets/musicians/artists.

She graduated from Beijing International Studies University. She is member of Writers’Association of China, Translators’ Association of China and Poetry Institute of China. She has published 11 books including 5 poetry collections: Ephemeral Memories, Beyond the Tzolk’in, Avant-garde Trilogy, Agent d’ensemencement des nuages and Cloud Seeding Agent (Pinyon Publishing, USA)

Her works have been translated into50+ languages and published in magazines and included in anthologies. She was invited to poetic festivals including “Poetry Vicenza” (Italy, 2020+2022),“Bitola Literary Circle” and “AcoKaramanov” poetry festivals (North Macedonia). She co-edited “POESÍA SIN FRONTERAS VII--Antología de poesía chino-española” with Jaime B. Rosa (Olelibros, 2021) and “Sotto Voce” with Prof. Glen Phillips (International Centre for Landscape and Language Press, Edith Cowan University, 2023).

She is a mountaineering enthusiast who travelled across China 3 times between 2018 and 2023 with remarkable experiences with great mountains.


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