Poet Bai Chiu (白萩) passed away in Kaohsiung City on Jan. 11 at the age of 86. Culture Minister Lee Yung-te (李永得) expressed his condolences upon hearing the news. Lee stated that the Ministry of Culture will issue a citation in recognition of the effort Bai has put into poetry, and how he has brought an innovative spirit to Taiwan's poetry circles.
Born Ho Chin-jong (何錦榮) in Taichung in 1937, Bai graduated from a provincial vocational high school (now National Taichung University of Science and Technology). The multi-talented Bai has worked for the Provincial Department of Education, the Taichung Agricultural Institute, and then companies of furniture, advertising, interior design, and publishing.
Bai started writing poems in 1952. In 1955, he won the Chinese Literature and Art Association's prestigious annual poetry prize with his poem "The Compass (羅盤)," and has been winning many other awards ever since. As a prolific poet, Bai has published collections of poems, including "The Death of the Moth (蛾之死)," "Symbolic of the Sky (天空象徵)," "Chansons (香頌)," and more. Bai was always challenging the status quo in terms of form, technique, and theme, which made him pre-eminent in the poetry scene.
Bai threw himself into poetry at a time when Taiwan's modern poetry was flourishing. He was involved with most of the representative post-war poetry groups including Blue Star Poetry Society (藍星詩社), Contemporary Poetry Society (現代派), The Epoch Poetry Quarterly (創世紀詩社), and later founded Li Poetry Society (笠詩社) with Lin Heng-tai (林亨泰) and fellow poets in 1964.
Bai was born during the Japanese occupation of Taiwan. He grew up during a time when Taiwan's culture, politics, economy, and society were experiencing rapid changes. Moreover, the language people use in daily life has shifted from Taiwanese to Japanese, and then Mandarin. Yet, Bai was able to master the languages and transcend the established order. His poems are vivid in imagery and contain social criticism, therefore revered in poetry societies.