“Made Things”: Serial Form in
Modern Poetry from Taiwan

By Silvia Marijnissen

Modern Chinese Literature and Culture, vol. 13, no. 2, pp.172-206

In reading modern poetry from Taiwan (after 1949) one regularly comes across so-called serial forms, (zushi), poetic works that are presented as a whole and that, at first glance, distinguish themselves by their layout: typically, a main title covering several seemingly independant parts headed by numbers or subheadings. In some of these the constituent parts form an integrated whole and gain meaning in their movement as a whole, in contrast to the more independent status one is usually inclined to ascribe to the separate parts of sequences, as for example in classical Chinese poetry. The paper examines various aspects of three specific serial forms written by Yang Mu, Luo Qing, and Xia Yu, focusing on the principles underlying these works, i.e. formal features, thematic relations, and narrative or other structural continuity. Related to this discussion is the question of definition: what degree of autonomy can or should the constituent parts have in order to regard the whole set as a sequence instead of, for example, a long poem? The three examples prove to be tightly organised, showing a strong degree of cohesiveness, and moreover, each of them explicitly draws attention to its constructed, artificial nature; they highlight the fact that they are constructed, which is however quite contradictory to the more natural look, that, at least in theory, was a guiding principle of the poetry at the time.