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Feature: Chinese migrant workers pour out dreams in poems

Pub Date: 15-12-25 09:04 Source: Xinhua

HANGZHOU, Dec. 24 (Xinhua) -- "I am a dandelion, floating in the sky; Carrying my dreams, I fly away from home." So writes Guo Xiangqin, a 52-year-old bus driver in Hangzhou, capital of east China's Zhejiang Province.

One of China's 200 million surplus rural workers who have moved to cities in search of jobs, Guo spends his spare time reading and writing.

In one of his earlier poems, he wrote, "In daylight, I take up my tools, and work for my boss; When night falls, I take up my pen, and toil for my soul."

A native of Anhui Province, Guo finished secondary school and has worked as a farmer, a soldier and a truck driver. He moved to Hangzhou in 2005, rented a home in the outlying Binjiang District, and found a temporary job as a bus driver. Guo's wife stays in Anhui and only visits him occasionally.

"She said it's better to make some easy money at home. She often complains about my spending too much time writing. 'You don't get paid for writing poems,' she'll say," Guo told Xinhua Thursday.

But Guo loves Hangzhou. "I often dreamed of the city and the West Lake when I was a child. Nowadays I get inspiration from the lake."

Hangzhou is best-known for the lake, a placid and much-painted tourist attraction.

One of Guo's poems, Love of the West Lake, won this summer's poem-writing contest for migrants in Hangzhou, and has been collected into an anthology entitled "Hangzhou: My Home, My Dream".

The anthology, published in Hangzhou Wednesday, includes 65 award-winning poems in the contest sponsored by Hangzhou trade union federation. The writers are all construction workers, cleaners, hairdressers, delivery drivers, security guards and programmers.

Nearly 1,000 writers aged from 18 to 70 entered the contest, pouring out their love for Hangzhou and dreams for the future, the city's federation of trade unions said on its website.

Zhou Yuniu, 36, is a stylish, well-known hairdresser in downtown Hangzhou. A native of central China's Hunan Province, he killed time playing mah-jongg, until he met some friends from the literary circle.

"They opened a door to a new world, and I found writing poems is similar to cutting hair: in both cases you need to consider the structure, techniques and perspectives," he said.

Today Zhou enjoys writing when he feels lonely or empty.

His poem entitled "Broken Bridge", which is an ode to a famous bridge on the West Lake, was also among the award-winning pieces.

"It's been years since I cried," said Sun Changjian, vice president of Hangzhou writers' association. "But many poems from these new writers moved me to tears."

Sun, one of the judges of the contest, was particularly moved by a poem by factory girl Fu Shuqing, telling of tedious days at the production line.

"Sitting here at the production line, I hear the roaring machines; I hear the elapse of time, the laughter of the boss, whose clothing company is now listed at the stock exchange; I hear the laments of my fellow workers, who sigh, our youth has been sold, for 10 cents a minute."

Fu, 22, finished only middle school and began working at production lines at 16. She often has to work 16 hours a day, seven days a week, suffocated by the endless, tiring and boring job, the noisy workshop and the apathy of her fellow workers.

"Fortunately, my love for literature helps me out of despair, and I'm able to pour out my sadness in verse," she said.

Fu was grieved by the death of her friend Xu Lizhi, a gifted writer and factory worker who threw himself off a high-rise in Shenzhen last year. His anthology, entitled "A New Day", was published in March, with funds donated by his friends and readers.

"If I had a chance, I'd have told him that to live is the only way to find hope and fulfill our dreams," she said. "Life can be tough, so we have to be optimistic and have dreams."

Unlike their parents and grandparents who were willing to toil in a submissive and numb manner, the young generation of migrants are better educated and more sensitive to their surroundings, said Chen Mandong, deputy secretary-general of Hangzhou writers' association.

"Their lives in cities are often bittersweet. Luckily, many of them have learned to ease their depression by reading and writing," said Chen, another judge of the contest. "Their poems have aroused memories of my own youth, and stirred in me a mixed feeling of happiness, sorrow and sympathy."

Editor: Will

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