Poetry and the art of general mechanics

By Liu Xiangrui ( China Daily ) Updated: 2017-05-06 07:14:10

It all comes down to how books deal with the tight, dark confines of a school bag: Can an anthology of poetry live amicably with a manual on general mechanics?

For Chen Geng the answer is yes, which is why she will no doubt soon be reciting the laws of mechanics with as much ease as she now recites Chinese poetry.

Chen, 25, is a PhD student at Peking University specializing in general mechanics who has become renowned nationwide for her poetry prowess.

That fame is the fruit of her having twice taken part in the China Central Television program Rendezvous With Chinese Poetry, in February this year and in its premiere season in March last year.

Her celebrity was cemented when she reached the finals of the competition.

By the time the second season of the competition aired, Chen appeared to have gained in confidence and she stood out from her peers. What seemed to endear her to many viewers, apart from the sheer depth of her knowledge of poetry and that she was studying engineering, was her elegant bearing and style of dress that seemed to hearken back to an earlier age.

She would eventually miss out on winning the competition as the result of giving a wrong answer during the final, but Chen says she has no regrets.

"Of course I wish all my answers had been correct and that I hadn't seemed so brusque at times, but I really don't care much about the final results. I am just a poetry lover and saw the competition as an interesting game."

The program gave her the chance to learn things, she says, because it often drew on the expertise of consultants who gave expansive explanations of some of the poems.

"I saw it all as a chance to exchange ideas, where I could say what I thought and hear what others thought."

Chen says she developed an interest in literature and classic poetry when she was very young, thanks to a book collection her grandfather had. She used to spend hours reading in bookshops, too, she says.

However, studies kept her away from poetry for a few years, and it was only when she was studying for her master's degree that she resumed reading poetry extensively.

Classic poems, which are usually condensed and simple, fit her personality, she says.

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