Rountable on the Poetry of Xu Lizhi

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When Xu Lizhi committed suicide on September 30, 2014, he left a substantial body of work for his brief 24 years.
In his poetry, he displayed an awareness that haunted him and now haunts us. He was a factory worker for the infamous Foxconn who produces most of the world’s iPhones.

The bleak reality and gray landscape that Xu Lizhi inhabited in his work feels other-worldly and rare. But he is not an anomaly. The sad truth is that his poems could have been written by many different workers spread out over many nations.

As well as setting his social media to post of “A New Day” after his passing, he leaves us with these final thoughts:

I want to take another look at the ocean, behold the vastness of tears from half a lifetime
I want to climb another mountain, try to call back the soul that I’ve lost
I want to touch the sky, feel that blueness so light
But I can’t do any of this, so I’m leaving this world

We have entered a time of global awareness and it is coming through in our art. The movement, once again towards Social Realism, is art’s way of having us pay attention to something entering our collective consciousness.
In a virtual roundtable, myself, Mark Nowak, Shengqing Wu, and Rodrigo Toscano come together to discuss Xu Lizhi’s poetry, craft, and the life he drew from. We also talk about the state of labor poetry and from where the next surge of poets may be emerging.


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