I swallowed an iron moon
they called it a screw
I swallowed industrial wastewater and unemployment forms
bent over machines, our youth died young
I swallowed labor, I swallowed poverty
swallowed pedestrian bridges, swallowed this rusted-out life
I can't swallow any more
everything I've swallowed roils up in my throat
I spread across my country
a poem of shame
An assembly line worker in an Apple factory who commits suicide at the young age of 24, leaving behind 200 poems of despair — " I swallowed an iron moon… " ; a guileless lathe operator who is rebuffed at every turn, living in the world of his poetry; a female clothing factory worker who lives in poverty but writes poetry rich in dignity and love; a coalminer who works deep in the earth year round, trying to contact and make peace with the spirits of his dead coworkers through his poetry; and a goldmine demolitions worker who blasts rocks several kilometers into mountainsides to support his family, while writing poetry to carry the weight of his fury and affections — " My body carries three tons of dynamite…." They could be any of the 350 million workers in China, and yet these five are also poets. Using poetry as a tool to chip away at the ice of silence, they express the hidden life stories and experiences of people living at the bottom of the society. This is one story behind the sudden rise of China, and a mournful song of global capitalism.
Garment Factory Worker
Unemployed Forklift Driver
WorkGarment Factory Worker
Bio The garment factory worker Dawn is a "pearl surviving at the bottom." She loves sundresses, and she keeps many cheap, beat-up sundresses in her wardrobe. Even though her life is difficult, she keeps up her spirits and love of beauty, writing poems that explore the strength of the human spirit.
The packing area is flooded with light
the iron I'm holding
collects all my hand's warmth
I want to press the straps flat
so they won't dig into your shoulders
and then press up from the waist
a lovely waist
where someone can lay a fine hand
and on the tree-shaded lane
caress a quiet kind of love
finally I'll smooth the dress out
to iron the pleats to equal widths
so you can sit by a lake or on a grassy lawn
and wait for a breeze
Soon when I get off work
I'll wash my sweaty uniform
and the sundress will be packed and shipped
to a fashionable boutique
where it will wait just for you
I love you
Bio The day before the National Day, 24-year-old Xu Lizhi jumped out of a building. He was working on Foxconn assembly line, the world’s largest Apple manufacturing factory. He left behind a volume of painful poems of the highest quality.
A Laborer Entering the City
Many years ago
with a bag on his back
he walked into
this bustling city
high-spirited and daring
Many years later
he carried his own ashes in his hands
standing at the city's
looking around hopelessly
WorkUnemployed Forklift Driver
Bio In Blackbird’s hometown hospital, he cuts the umbilical cord of his second child, whose birth is illegal under the one-child policy. Just a month before, he won an important poetry award for his unique style, and he feels doubly blessed. When he loses his job and must go back to the city to find a new one, however, everything begins to fall apart.
Rhapsody on the Advance of Heavy Snow
In a snow factory in the sky
mechanical assembly line angels
stand night and day in the noise and lights
numbly producing snowflakes.
The workload makes them spit white froth
and ooze out snowflakes
that crash down around them.
Suddenly my country becomes a swath of white,
and suddenly the smile s of thirty provinces are crushed into tears.
The army endlessly repairs the smashed borders.
Only the workers' white heads
are left exposed in the snow.
The threatened earth slowly slowly slowly
leans toward that snow-burdened edge.
Bio The taciturn worker-poet Old Coalminer perches In an 800-meter-deep coalmine. His poetry takes shape in this difficult, dark environment. His poems speak with the center of the earth, speak with the coal beds. After a fatal mine disaster, his poetry can also speak with the dead.
Mining Disaster Site
Forgive me, brothers
that I can't pass beyond the barrier
to hold your warm ashes in my hands
and begin a long conversation
now I can only write this poem
dozens of harvesters of the earth's organs
became victims of the earth's revenge
its angry flames burnt them to ash
leaving behind their fears, love, hatred
and a few years later
a man shoveling coal into a furnace
will stare dumbly
at a pile of white bones
take your suffering souls
those flashes of black lightening
and lay them on my shoulders
take all of your memories, grief, and desires
and pile them up in my body
I will be a living coffin
a moving grave
carrying your broken dreams
up to the surface where the sun is brutal
I'll release it all
and dry your pain in the sun
then let it float off
on the lingering wisps of smoke from grave-sweeping day
Bio His daily routine is used to blow up rocks and dig mines for miners. By lonely, deep mountains, he writes poetry filled with a fighting spirit. Learning that his mother is ill with terminal cancer, he chooses to stay in the mountains and continue doing this dangerous work rather than returning home. He uses his own life’s energy to help continue hers.
I use up my midlife five kilometers in
I explode rocks layer by layer
to put my life back together
My humble relatives are far away by Mt. Shang
they're sick, bodies covered in dust
however much my midlife is shortened
their old age is lengthened
My body carries three tons of dynamite
and they are the fuse
I exploded like the rocks
"Iron Moon" officially begins filming. This is the first documentary film ever to focus on worker-poets in China.
A crowdfunding effort is launched, and is successfully supported by 1,300 people, becoming an example for the film industry.
A public poetry reading "The Verse of Us——Workers' Poetry Recital" was launched with live streaming. This pioneering event was reported on widely in the media.
21 different organizations joined together in an online poetry-reading event that received nearly 10 million online clicks.
"Iron Moon" premiered at the Shanghai International Film Festival and won the "Golden Goblet Award" for best documentary film. The Shanghai International Film Festival is Chinese only FIAPF A-category film festival, and the award brought "Iron Moon" to international attention.
An anthology of poetry related to the film was published, and "Iron Moon" has already became a lasting cultural influence in China.
"Iron Moon" is nominated for two awards, "Best Documentary" and "Best Film Editing" at the 52nd Taipei Golden Horse Film Festival. TGHFF is considered the "Oscars of Chinese Movies" and Chinese-speakers around the world become aware of "Iron Moon". The film has a shot at the most important documentary film award in China.
"Iron Moon" was invited to the Amsterdam International Documentary Festival, the biggest documentary festival in the world, and the film begins to be known in Europe.
The 'countrywide crowdfunded screenings' begins, and over the next year "Iron Moon" will have 642 crowdfunded screenings in 130 cities and 30 provinces, a new record in Chinese film.
"Iron Moon" will screen in American cinemas and more than ten universities. An English-language version of the anthology will be published in the United States, and a Spanish version is currently being translated.
Nov 7, 10:00, Brandeis University
Nov 7, 16:00, Yale University
Nov 9, 18:30,Purchase College, State University of New York (East Asian Studies/ China House/401 6th Ave)
Nov 9, 19:00, New York University
Nov 10, 19:00, Columbia University
Nov 11, 18:00, The City University of New York
Nov 12, Virginia Military Institute (Time TBA)
Nov 17, 16:00, University of Southern California
The fate of six worker-poets are interwoven into a moving story about the charms of poetry, the power of the workers, and the challenges of this moment in history.
The older brother of Foxconn worker and poet Xu Lizhi interprets Xu's last poems, and his family and friends vividly recreate Xu’s life and emotional world, exploring the social and personal reasons behind Xu's death.
A demolitions worker who works deep in the mountains suddenly becomes a guest on the "King of Poetry" reality show. Illusions mix with fierce conflicts on screen, as well as in real life.
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