Chairman Mao – The dictator as poet

The personality cults of the  communist leaders are now viewed as (and always were) rather embarrassing moments from socialist history; except perhaps from the point of view of Hugo Chavez, president and crooner-in-chief, who does a great job of being his own greatest fan.

Stalin fancied himself as an amateur Marxist linguist, whereas Chairman Mao  in-between sex with the nation’s village girls, eventually settled for the genteel occupation of ‘philosopher-poet’.

Throughout much of his life he composed verse, in a traditional Chinese style—many recounting, or written in honour of the struggles during the long, hard years before the People’s Republic was declared. Some twelve years had elapsed and it was only at that declaration that Mao seemed to find either the time or inclination, or more likely the boredom, to  start writing poetry again, with a poem marking the victory of the People’s Army in Nanking.

Many of the later poems are reflective in nature, and it’s interesting that after 1965 his poet’s pen seemed to run somewhat dry; a year later the Cultural Revolution began.

Mao’s poetry is still interesting and very readable – it’s hard to imagine the author of these verses having a hard heart:

Summer 1954

A rainstorm sweeps down on this northern land,
White breakers leap to the sky.
No fishing boats off Chinwangtao
Are seen on the boundless ocean.
Where are they gone?
Nearly two thousand years ago
Wielding his whip, the Emperor Wu of Wei
Rode eastward to Chiehshih; his poem survives.
Today the autumn wind still sighs,
But the world has changed!

Download: Mao Zedong: Poems


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