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Zhai Yongming was born in Chengdu, China, in 1955. Alongside Shu Ting and Wang Xiao Ni, she is one of the greatest contemporary women poets in China.

In Chengdu she runs the café "White Nights", the name of which she understands as a gesture of respect to Russian literature and to St. Petersburg. In her café she exhibits fine artists and presents video works and performances. Yongming caused a sensation in China's literary circles with her first volume of poetry "Women" (1986). The difficult cycle of poetry was accompanied by a poetological statement entitled "Nighttime Awareness", which brought her a reputation as a feminist. Repeatedly, the experiences of her periods of time spent abroad – from 1990 to 1992 she lived in New York, in 2000 in Berlin – are the subject of her poems, along with politics, social pressures, the horrors of the Cultural Revolution and the end of Communism. (One poem begins: "Sun, I doubt..."). Some critics note a breach between the early, very condensed, painful, highly dramatic cycles of poems and the later work, some of which was written in the West. This they see as more concrete, relating to "real" situations, some with laconic, comprehensible dialogues and a narrative parlando.

Zhai Yongming is among the most productive, top-quality but also quietest of China’s young female poets. The style of her poems is often described as black, but this does not mean it can be equated with defeatism. On the contrary, Zhai Yongming often uses the example of woman to investigate – in a critical and highly aesthetic way – mankind’s (self-) endangerment and the fundamental problems of human existence.

Publications in German translation
Jahrbuch der Lyrik 1990/1991. Luchterhand, Munich 1991
Kaffeehauslieder. Translated from the Chinese and with an epilogue by Wolfgang Kubin. Weidle Verlag, Bonn 2004
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