Dessa Reed

Speaker * Author * Columnist




MY CHINA TRIP / The Desert Woman, January 2006

By Dessa Reed

Have you ever had an experience that was so BIG that it took you a while afterwards to figure out what in the world happened?  I just spent nearly three weeks in China and am still in awe of the adventure.  I was invited to be a delegate at the United Poets Laureate International 19th World Congress held in Tai'an, a city sacred to poets. We were hosted and "officially approved" by the Ministry of Cultures, People's Republic of China, and China International Culture of Publicity Center.  It was the first such exchange ever held in China. 

One extraordinary day we took a tram (just like Palm Springs) and then climbed the steps of holy Mt. Tai to hold a poetry reading from 4,000 feet.  Our pictures appeared in the newspapers (surrounded by Chinese characters so I have no idea what it said).

Aside from sightseeing and entertainment on a grand scale, along with 25 course banquets, we had an afternoon of learning about Asian sonnets.  We were also introduced to a new poetic form called Hsinku that integrates poetry with oil painting.  The UPLI president, Dr. Kenneth Fan, who made all the arrangements for our visit, founded this new school of poetry.  In his words: "Hsinku poems are a liberation of more than 1,000 years of Chinese poetry traditional restrictions."

Dr. Fan's Mother, a poet known as "Model Mother," is 100 years old and attended many of the events.  She would sit stoically at the head table, listening to long speeches (and their translation) and then when asked to read one of her poems, she would stand ~ to be transformed into a powerful presence.  I love to watch when poetry makes that happen!

Poetry has a rich heritage and is highly appreciated in China.  We were treated like celebrities ~ even asked for our autographs!  I guess because I am tall and blonde (and a poet from America) I was constantly surrounded by enthusiastic Chinese who wanted my card plus a picture taken with me.  (It was hard to come home to, "Dessa who?")

Although there was Chinese media coverage about the forum, as far as I know, there was none elsewhere.  Not that I expected to be on CNN but it would have been nice for the world to know that this so-called closed society is opening its cultural doors to the message of poets, writers, and artists from around the world.

I have dear local friends who lived in China some years ago so they gave me several delightful contacts in both Beijing and Shanghai.  After the Congress, I went back to Beijing for some touring and gave a lecture on poetry at a foreign language university.  There were over 100 English-major Chinese students who were probably the most attentive audience I have ever had.  I also spoke to two high schools in Shanghai and found the same thing ~ eagerness to learn and rapt attention.  They bombarded me with questions afterwards.

Alan, a senior at Jin Cai High School in Shanghai, slipped the following poem to me after my talk.  Although I do not know its source, it touched my heart.

I will give you whatever
I will miss you whenever
I will be with you wherever
I'm not the best however
I love you forever

That is the way I feel about the whole trip and everyone I met of every nationality.  I will love them forever.

Dessa can be reached at
Dessa@DessaReed.com for information and fee schedule.


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