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Bei Dao

Date: October 22, 2004 Location: Council Chamber, Templeton Campus Center

Council Chamber, Templeton Campus Center

Zhao Zhenkai was born in 1949 in Beijing. His pseudonym Bei Dao, literally, “North Island,” was suggested by a friend as a reference to his provenance from Northern China and his typical solitude. As one of the foremost poets of the “misty school” his early poems were a source of inspiration during the April Fifth Democracy Movement of 1976, a peaceful demonstration in Tiananmen Square. He has been in exile from his native China since the Tiananmen Square massacre of 1989.

His books of poetry include Unlock (2000); At the Sky’s Edge: Poems 1991-1996 (1996), for which David Hinton won the Harold Morton Landon Translation Award from The Academy of American Poets; Landscape Over Zero (1995); Forms of Distance (1994); Old Snow (1991); and The August Sleepwalker (1990). He is also the author of short stories and essays. In 1978 he and colleague Mang Ke founded the underground literary magazine Jintian (Today), which ceased publication under police order. In 1990 the magazine was revived, and Bei Dao serves as the Editor-in-Chief.

His awards and honors include the Aragana Poetry Prize from the International Festival of Poetry in Casablanca, Morocco, and a Guggenheim Fellowship. He has been a candidate several times for the Nobel Prize in Literature, and was elected an honorary member of The American Academy of Arts and Letters. At the request of Palestinian poet Mahoud Darwish, he traveled to Palestine as part of a delegation for the International Parliament of Writers.

Bei Dao was a Stanford Presidential lecturer and has taught at the University of California at Davis. He is currently the Mackey Poet in Residence at Beloit College, where he also served as the Lois Wilson Mackey ‘45 Distinguished Professor of Creative Writing.

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