Salutations; a Festschrift for Burton Watson

Edited by Jesse Glass and Philip Williams, this collection of essays, articles, and poems about Chinese and Japanese literature and culture celebrates the illustrious scholarly career of Burton Watson, whose range of excellent literary translations into English from Japanese and classical Chinese is second to none. Over half of the book’s seventeen chapters are articles about Chinese or Japanese literature and culture with full scholarly apparatus; the remainder are tributes to Watson in the form of poetry or informal essays.

Topics include analysis of Watson’s skills as a translator and practical critic; a cultural history of Chinese literati; masterpieces of the Ming essayist Zhang Dai; revisiting David Hawkes’ interpretations of Du Fu’s poetry; China’s earliest science fiction from the late Qing; reflections on cultural change by the early Yuan Confucianist Hao Jing; the multi-dimensional symbolism in Hagiwara Sakutarô’s poetry; the fictional portrayal of a self-sacrificing female Chinese Buddhist saint; key patterns of arboreal imagery in the 300 Tang Poems anthology; and Japanese linked verse across the centuries.

Featuring contributions by Victor Mair, Robert Hegel, Hiroaki Sato, William Nienhauser, Jonathan Chaves, Lucas Klein, Hoyt Tillman, Yenna Wu, Yoko Danno, Hua Li, Duncan Campbell, Stephen Addiss, Robert Epp, Timothy Clifford, Philip Rowland, Sam Hamill, and Gary Snyder.

Click on the image for ordering information.

Criticized Berserk Chinese Poet Official

Xiong Aichun 熊艾春, Communist Party branch secretary and chairman for the Leiyang Federation of Literacy and Art Circles, wrote a poem that was criticized online. Quartz reports:

Apparently he’s rather sensitive about his work. After the poem was criticized in a local online forum, he stormed into its physical office and smashed a computer monitor.

After venting his rage, Xiong decided to write about that, too, in a note he left at the scene.

Read more by following the link above.

Chinese Poetry in New England Review

NER36-2frontcoverThe current issue of the New England Review features poetry translations of Ya Shi 哑石 by Nick Admussen, Xiao Kaiyu 开愚 by Chris Lupke, and Yin Lichuan 尹丽川 by Fiona Sze-Lorrain–as well as prose translations of Wei An 苇岸 by Tom Moran.

Unfortunately, the NER has made none of these available online, but click on the image for ordering information, along with the full table of contents.

 

 

Göran Malmqvist on Translation & SOAS

For the centenary of SOAS Göran Malmqvist talks about translation and SOAS:

When asked what his views are on the art of translating he responds: “World literature is translation and translation is world literature – without translation there is no world literature, and that is true.”

He explains: “As far as Chinese literature is concerned there are too few translators and there are too many who are not really qualified as translators. And there are translators who refuse to accept the very important double responsibility of a translator: the responsibility towards the original author… and then his responsibility towards his own readers.

“He must be honest – he mustn’t add anything and he mustn’t detract anything and he mustn’t normalise – normalisation is a deadly sin of a translator. American publishers will simply say they refuse to accept this ending – it’s not good enough, it’s not positive enough – and the translator will happily change it or cut it out and that makes me very angry.

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Admussen on Translation

Either during the translation or as a result of the translation, something happens between the artist and their translator, and for a moment there seems to be a very simple, bilateral relationship, one that feels far distant from the shared stage of the final piece of art. The translator is trying to understand the poet, and also to please them; to learn something from them, and then to make something out of what they’ve learned. The poet is trying to provoke feelings and ideas in the translator (and in all readers), and is checking their poem’s effect against their intent. This is a relationship; it’s a conversation. It is hidden from the final English text, but it’s necessary for it.

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Zheng Min Looks Back in the WSJ

Under the title, “A Poet From China’s Avant-Garde Looks Back,” the Wall Street Journal has published a brief interview with Nine Leaves 九葉 poet Zheng Min 鄭敏, who “stopped writing along with the other poets in the 1950s after she returned from a sojourn in the U.S. to study literature at Brown University and voice at Juilliard,” but “picked the pen back up in 1979, a period she calls her ‘second childhood,’ when she began to explore poetry as well as philosophy and translation.” She says:

I started to study philosophy to have a better understanding of literature, because I don’t think you can really understand literature without a background of philosophy. I loved both of them. I think philosophy without literature is too hard. Literature without philosophy has no depth. So you have to combine both.

Also, I think I’m influenced by Rilke, because I had that philosophy background. So I’m tied to German poetry more than contemporary American poetry.

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Klein’s Mi Jialu in PoetrySky

The new PoetrySky is out, with two poems by Mi Jialu 米家路 in translations he & I did together. Here are a few lines:

An Empire autumn
Tin-can wastage
People still thirsty
Towering black smoke
Rolling up a GDP-grey sky

帝国的秋日
易拉罐废弃
人民依然焦渴
高耸入云的黑烟
卷GDP
沉灰的天空

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On the Mountain: Two versions of Wang Wei

The online mag. I recently came across an old page on Hilobrow, starting with this:

The Taiyi summit     nears the seat of heaven
linked mountains     stretch to brink of sea

and

The Taiyi summit nears the seat of heaven;
linked mountains stretch to brink of sea.

Two versions of the opening couplet of a Wang Wei 王維 poem by Hilobrow cofounder Matthew Battles, the second in the style of David Hinton. “We’re always struggling with the apparent multivalence of classical Chinese poetry,” Battles writes, “the way the openness of the language seems to permit so many readings, combined with the difficulty of translocating the tonal, lexical, and ideographic effects of the originals into alphabetically-styled verse without either losing much of the force or going all specious with talk about picture-writing and orientalist exoticism”—and he mentions books by Eliot Weinberger and Yunte Huang to shore up his point. But in the end, after a weekend on Maine’s Mount Katahdin,

In the Wang Wei I found echoes of the work the mountain did on me: the braided vistas merging, the gulfs and abysses seducing, the zones of forest succession merging and disappearing into one another as one moves up and down slope.

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