Renowned Taiwanese poet, essayist and critic Yang Mu (楊牧) died on Friday in a Taipei hospital at the age of 79, said Shiu Wen-wei (須文蔚), a professor of Sinophone literature at National Dong Hwa University.
Yang, the pen name of Wang Ching-hsien (王靖獻), had suffered respiratory and heart ailments in the past few years, and was admitted to Cathay General Hospital’s intensive care unit last week after his health deteriorated, said Shiu, a longtime friend of Yang’s.
He had been in a coma since being admitted and never regained consciousness, Shiu said, adding: “He passed away peacefully.”
There will be no public funeral, but Yang’s family would arrange a memorial service with readings and music after the COVID-19 outbreak in Taiwan ends, he said.
Yang Mu was born on Sept. 6, 1940, in Hualien County. After graduating from Tunghai University’s foreign languages and literature department, he went to the US for graduate studies. He earned a master of fine arts in creative writing from the University of Iowa in 1966, and a doctorate in comparative literature in 1971 from the University of California, Berkeley.
After teaching in the US for 30 years, Yang returned home in 1995.
He helped found Dong Hwa’s College of Humanities and Social Sciences and created a resident writer program for the university that was unprecedented in Taiwan at the time.
Yang wrote more than two dozen collections of poetry and prose and is considered one of Taiwan’s most iconic literary figures, inspiring generations of Chinese-language poets.
Nils Goran David Malmqvist, a former member of the Swedish Academy’s selection committee for the Nobel Prize in Literature, reportedly thought that Yang should have been contender for the prize.
Yang was awarded the National Culture and Arts Award in 2000 and the Hua Zong Literature Award in Malaysia in 2007. In 2013, he was awarded the Newman Prize for Chinese Literature, the first poet and the first Taiwanese to do so, and in 2016, the Cikada Prize from the Swedish Institute.
Hsu Yu-fang (許又方), who organizes the Yang Mu Literature Lecture at Dong Hwa, once said that the poet left a “clear and unique path of creation that embraces innovation and changes” after 60 years of writing.
Yang donated his personal library to Dong Hwa to create the Yang Mu Study.
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