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The Poet Who Died For Your Phone

from TIME

The Poet Who Died For Your Phone

By Emily Rauhala / Shenzhen and Jieyang

Hundreds of thousands of people travel from China’s countryside to its cities to work in factories, building devices for international consumers and trying to assemble better lives for themselves. Xu Lizhi left behind a haunting record of that life.

He dreamed about it, wrote about it. He rolled it around in the palm of his hand. Working through the “dark night of overtime” in January 2014, the 23-year-old Xu Lizhi imagined himself like a misplaced screw, “plunging vertically, lightly clinking,” lost to the factory floor. “It won’t attract anyone’s attention,” he wrote. “Just like the last time/ On a night like this/ When someone plunged to the ground.”

A village boy with clothes-hanger shoulders and a high school education, Xu moved to the southern Chinese city of Shenzhen in 2011. He was looking for a way out of rural life; he hoped to find a way to use his mind. Like hundreds of thousands before him, he settled, to start, for a spot on the assembly line at Foxconn Technology Group, the Taiwan manufacturing giant linked to just about every other name in electronics, from Apple to Acer and Microsoft. To make sense of what he saw there, he started to write, his evocative work earning him a modest following in the city’s small community of dagong shiren, or migrant poets.

In his 3½ years in Shenzhen, Xu captured life there in brutal, beautiful detail. In the city, the country kid found a voice that roared, publishing poems in company newspaper Foxconn People and sharing his work online. Factory workers are often treated as interchangeable, anonymous. To readers, his words were a reminder that every laborer has a mind and heart; for him, writing was a way out. “Writing poems gives me another way of life,” he told a Chinese journalist in an unpublished interview that TIME has seen. “When you’re writing poems, you’re not confined to the real world.” For the first time, Xu’s brother and close friends shared his story with the foreign press.

[ click to continue reading at TIME ]

Posted on June 6, 2015 by Editor

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