Rural migrant workers on an assembly line in Xiamen, Fujian province. Liu Tao
What does the world look like through the eyes of a 27-year-old woman? It may be a vision of a happy marriage and adorable children, or an aspiring career. For Zheng Xiaoqiong, a rural migrant worker and poet, life feels just like a piece of iron.
The image of iron is prominent in Zheng's poetry and prose. In her recollections of her home village in Sichuan province, she refers to the cold, black metal gate of a country clinic. It is a symbol of illness that hangs over the village.
Zheng also reflects on her seven-years as a migrant worker in Guangdong province. In a hardware factory she wrestled with all kinds of iron machines and products, whose sharp teeth left permanent physical and mental scars on Zheng and her co-workers.
Iron is what Zheng lives on, meeting both her material and spiritual needs. This can be seen in her blog, in which, along with the iron-themed compositions, she lists the metal products she sells.
The hardship of being a migrant worker gives Zheng Xiaoqiong the inspiration for writing poetry. File photo
"I always want to impart the quality of iron in my poetry, that is, a sense of shrillness and toughness," she writes in Iron/Plastics Factory, a piece which won her a prize last year from the country's top literary magazine, People's Literature. In addition to her several trophies since then, she was included in Women of China Magazine's list of the top 10 Chinese women of 2007.