Wang Ping

Born: 1957

Wang Ping is a Chinese American poet, educator, and multimedia artist born in Shanghai during the Cultural Revolution. Her family moved to the countryside when she was 14 to become farmers. Though she described those years of manual labor as back-breakingly difficult, she cherishes the experience for developing her deep respect for nature and water, a notion represented in her work through themes of industrialization and the environment. Mostly self-taught during this period, she would eventually earn a bachelor’s degree in English literature from Beijing University before leaving for the U.S. in 1985 to earn a master’s degree in English literature from Long Island University and a PhD in comparative literature from New York University. It wasn’t until her education in the U.S. that she would begin to write poetry, though she was always a fan. Poetry in Chinese culture, according to Wang, is so highly regarded and sacred that it almost seemed disrespectful to write it. It was fate, then, when she accidentally entered a creative writing class at LIU taught by Lewis Warsh, who would become a mentor and the first person to encourage her to write. Informed by her experiences as a Chinese woman in the U.S., her art frequently addresses the often opposing and even violent intersection that exists between cultures, but also emphasizes the beauty that can exist there. Her writing seeks to help influence other speakers of English as a second language to take advantage of purported shortcomings and to validate what has historically been seen as grammatically “incorrect” uses of English. Wang has been highly awarded for her dozen-plus collections of poetry, novels, and academic works of nonfiction. She is also the founder of the Kinship of Rivers project, whose goal is to use the sharing of art and literature to build a sense of community among people who live beside rivers.  She describes poets as courageous warriors of truth.