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Bob Holman & Margery Snyder

Tibetan Poet Imprisoned in Her Beijing Home: Tsering Woeser

By March 7, 2012

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Tsering Woeser was born in Lhasa, Tibet, but grew up in Sichuan province and was educated in Chinese—she speaks Tibetan but never learned to read and write in her native language. She was an apolitical poet of the “art for art’s sake” school before she returned to Tibet as a young woman and found her personal connection to Tibetan identity and culture. Her early explorations of Tibetanness in poems did not generate much fuss, but when she wrote about Tibetan life under Chinese rule in more direct and literal prose stories and essays, her books were banned and she lost her job as editor of a Chinese-language journal of Tibetan literature. Now she is married to dissident Chinese writer Wang Lixiong and lives in Beijing, where she has devoted her blog to documenting the Tibetan experience. She has received several international awards for this work, but has never been allowed to travel outside of China to receive them. The most recent award, sponsored by the Netherlands foreign ministry, was to have been given at the Dutch embassy in Beijing in 2012, but she was not allowed to attend the ceremony and has been placed under house arrest.

from The Guardian (UK):
China stops Tibetan blogger receiving Prince Claus award,” by Mary Hennock
“Woeser gained international attention as a blogger for her posts after ethnic violence erupted in Tibet in March 2008. ‘Since then the blog has been swallowing up my time and energy. Yet Tibetans are taking such great risks that I cannot permit myself to stop blogging,’ she said in an interview with Radio Netherlands last December.”

from The Prince Claus Fund for Culture and Development (Netherlands):
Blogger Tsering Woeser Not Allowed to Accept Prince Claus Award”:
“Tsering Woeser is a courageous Tibetan writer whose work offers unique perspectives on the complexity of present-day Tibet. According to Christa Meindersma, director of the Prince Claus Fund: ‘the fact that Tsering Woeser is not free to leave her home and freely express herself, demonstrates once again the importance of her voice.’”

Though Woeser has not been allowed to travel outside China, her poems have been translated and published across the world, and we think you should read them. Tibet’s True Heart, a volume of selected poems translated by A.E. Clark, was published in 2008 by Ragged Banner Press and is still available on their Web site, where you can also find a table of contents with sample poems, a brief biography and photograph of Woeser, and even a few audio recordings of poems read by the translator. English translations of many of her blog posts and some more recent poems are also posted at High Peaks Pure Earth.

Previous Postings on Poets in Prison:
Another Poet Imprisoned for His Poem (Zhu Yufu, January 2012)
Prisoner of the State, Prisoner of Love (Liu Xiaobo, November 2011)
Liu Xiaobo—The Nobel Peace Prize Winner is a Poet in Prison (Liu Xiaobo, October 2011)
Prison Poets (R. Dwayne Betts, August 2009)
Hidden Meaning Encoded in a Poem Sends the Poet to Jail (Saw Wai, January 2008)
Prison Poets at Guantanamo (June 2007)


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