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Disabled peasant poet honored after online hit

2015-01-30 16:50 Xinhua Web Editor: Gu Liping
File photo of Yu Xiuhua.

File photo of Yu Xiuhua.

A poverty-stricken disabled poet has been given a top position in a local writers association, signaling mainstream recognition for a woman who became an Internet hit in a period when modern Chinese poetry has generally lost favor.

Yu Xiuhua, 39, was elected vice president of the writers association of her hometown, Zhongxiang City, Hubei Province, on Wednesday.

Known as China's Emily Dickinson, Yu has written more than 2,000 poems despite never having been to college. She has cerebral palsy, caused by a lack of oxygen during her delivery.

"Her verses portray real rural life. They're sincere and touching. She has also done well in short stories and prose," Zhou Hua, executive vice president of the association, said.

Although Zhou said the association had been aware of Yu for 14 years, the honor only came after her poem "Cross half of China to accost you" went viral on social media, a rare example of enthusiasm for modern poetry among the public.

In the poem, she imagines a love that she has never experienced:

In half of the big China, everything could happen,

Drained rivers, volcano eruption;

The ignored prisoners and refugees on the run,

The elks and red-crowned cranes under the gun;

Through the storm of shots and shells,

I am coming to accost you.

Many appreciated the insights into a life of hardship in Yu's work, though others have shrugged off the poems' artistic value, believing that she shot to fame simply because of her physical condition.

Despite the divided opinion, Yu will see two collections of her poems published in February.

"I haven't seen such poems for many years," said Chen Xinwen, deputy director of Hunan Literature and Art Publishing House, which will publish one of Yu's collections.

Chen said Chinese publishing houses are "cautious" about poems given their poor sales in recent years. Hunan Literature and Art Publishing House has only previously published the work of one modern poet.

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