In the Roar of the Machine

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This selection collects some of the most influential and moving work of the poet Zheng Xiaoqiong, who spent nearly a decade at the beginning of the century working in the newly created factories and warehouses in what has become one of the largest manufacturing centers in the world, southern China.

Her poetry is full of the dramatic details of days and nights spent in physical labor, the din of the workshops, the acute dangers associated with working with heavy machinery, and the exploitation, abuse, and indignity workers are subject to given the pressures of global capitalism and a lack of oversight and protection. But the poems also speak of pleasure and of love, memories of the ancestors, the natural environment of southern China and her native Huangma Mountains in central Sichuan.

Zheng writes moving portraits of her fellow workers, voices the rarely addressed issues facing women workers in particular, and paints a vivid picture of the vast population of migrant labourers, displaced from their homes and desperately seeking ways to express their experiences. She is a poet of this century, speaking to a community which consumes the products of this labour: from iPhones to Christmas decorations to the components of machinery used across the world.