In October 2019, the 3rd US-China Poetry Dialogue sponsored by the Institute for US-China Issues at the University of Oklahoma, the Mark Allen Everett Poetry Series, and China’s China’s Poetry Institute, brought five famous Chinese poets, including Chen Zhongyi, Shu Ting, Zang Di, Mu Ting and Sun Xiaoya to read and hold public readings with over 30 American poets across three states culminating in a ceremony that connected historic cities: Eureka Springs, Arkansas, a town renowned for its arts and letters and the millennium-old city of Lanxi in Zhejiang, the hometown of Li Yu, a famous poet and dramatist in Qing dynasty. The cities were named the first “Poetry Cities of Friendship” in a ceremony that included a signing ceremony with public officials. Jonathan Stalling, the Harold J & Ruth Newman Chair of US-China Issues at the University of Oklahoma says that, “The goal of the US-China Poetry Dialogue is to promote cross-cultural understanding at a time when US-China relations have become more strained. We must work harder to ensure that our nations are bound by more than transactional political and economic ties—we need a deeper, more sincere bridge that binds us together in our shared humanity. Covid-19 is one such moment, when we are facing a common foe, and can encourage one another and learn from each other’s experiences.”
Earlier this Spring when the students at Clear Spring School in Eureka Springs heard about the difficult time Children in Lanxi City were having as they were held up in their home for months due to Covid 19, they decided to write poems and notes of encouragement. A week after their tender letters of support reached their destination in China, they found out that their own classes were to be canceled for the foreseeable future for the same reason. When their works reached China, they were published widely across China by China’s Poetry Society, and was even featured by the national newspaper: People’s Daily. A few days later, the children in the Shiyan kindergarten and Jiaogong kindergarten of Lanxi City, Zhejiang Province, wrote their own poems and painted posters to encourage their new friends across the globe and relay things they had learned from their months of quarantine experience. Below are images from the exchange:
Some elementary students at the Clean Spring School in Eureka springs, Arkansas, greet children in Lanxi city, Zhejiang province, China. Back from left to right: Frank, Bonus, Daniel, Atticus, Marco, Ravel, Violeta, Sola, Chase, Amelia, River, Katie, Willow, Sam, Sophia, Samuel, Shane, Weston, Shady, Connor, and Uriah.
Works from Eureka Springs, Arkansas, USA to children in Lanxi, Zhejiang province, China:
Ravel (12 years old)
I hope you are ok/ I hope you are tine/ I’m sorry what happened/ and I hope you will forever stay strong.
Unnamed (8 years old)
Hello, my brothers and sisters/ stay strong/ and we love you.
Unnamed (12 years old)
What happened to you is unimaginable/
and I can’t even begin to try and understand/
what you’re going through/ stay strong!
Marco (13 years old)
Hi my name is Marco. I hope you fine and get you stuff sort out/ we all care and will stay here and fight/ I am 13 and love soccer
Unnamed (9 years old)
Stay hopeful china/ stay determined china.
Unnamed (10 years old)
I hope that you stay strong/ and hope that you keep going.
Bonus (10 years old)
Hello China, I’am your friend/ I will be with you until the end/
don’t forget the power of friends. I’m thinking of you/ Its not over yet. Stay strong China.
Zoe (12 years old)
Life is a momentous journey/ life is a unscrupulous melody/ life is horrendous and joyous/ for life is all of these things/ but if the string rope of the desolate memories tugs you know that you must have hope/ the lingering pit of terror may be vivid bottomless/ despite this it shall fade into a memory in an old newspaper stack soon/ no terror dare last forever for good-ever present-shall-stand by.
Atticus (11 years old)
Hello there sir/ I am your friend/
through hardships and tragedies/
we are there for you/
on the other side of the world.
The followings are works sent from the children of Lanxi, Zhejiang province, China to the kids in Eureka Springs, Arkansas:
Bao Yixuan from Lanxi Experimental Kindergarten (6 years old)
Hang in there, the United States! We are all in this together!
Gong Zixin from Lanxi Experimental Kindergarten (6 years old)
Fight the virus, stay strong, we love you! We will go through this with love and warmth.
Chen Yuyu from Lanxi Experimental Kindergarten (6 years old)
American friends, we will always be with you! Stay strong!
He Yichen from Lanxi Jiaogong Kindergarten (4 years old)
Hi, I am He Yichen from Lanxi Jiaogong Kindergarten. I am 4 years old. I am not scared of any virus or germs. Follow me, and let’s wash our hands frequently together! American friends, stay strong!
Wu Xinlan from Lanxi Jiaogong Kindergarten (4 years old)
American friends, stay safe and wash your hands regularly!
Guo Meiyou (5 years old)
Work together to fight the epidemic. American kids, we must have confidence. Until the spring, we can embrace nature. Come on, China! Come on, America!
Zhou Haochen (5 years old)
Fighting the epidemic,
We are of one mind,
America, come on!