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Chinese Themes in Recent American Poetry

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posted on 2023-08-03, 15:55 authored by William Robert North

We are indeed now beginning to assume toward the Oriental an attitude which the former poet assigned to the most remote future, for there is taking place a rapprochement freighted with tremendous possibilities for universal peace or world-wide conflict. At such a juncture it is vital that the West advance in thinking beyond the belief in the impossibility of interracial understanding expressed by Kipling, and the self-complacency and lack of interest in the Oriental revealed by Bret Harte.To say that international relationships are occupying the attention of more of the best minds of the world and to a greater degree than ever before, is to risk the charge of uttering a truism. As a natural consequence of this absorption in world affairs, there is discernible a marked interest in comparative literature. And it is significant that the interest of this country in the art and literature of the Far East has never been so great as it is today. It would seem hardly necessary to add that of this attention, China, the source of most of what has been termed the "Pacific Asian" cultural le receiving a very large share. Growing out of this interest is a body of American literature concerned with the interpretation of Chinese civilization and expressive of international attitudes directly associated with the two lands. A moment's reflection, moreover, will suggest to us the potentialities bound up in such a literature, and their tremendous importance in influencing the future course of events affecting these countries, which are, as the Chinese minister to Washington, Dr. Sao-ke Alfred Sze, recently remarked, linked by the Pacific Ocean. If, therefore, we are still to believe the famous dictum that "the pen is mightier than the sword", a study of contemporary literature on Chinese themes is essential to the formation of a correct estimate of the present attitude of America toward China, and an intelligent opinion of what that attitude augurs for the future.







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