Complete Review on Weinberger’s 19 Ways of Looking at Wang Wei

I missed this when it was published.

M.A. Orthofer at the Complete Review has reviewed the re-release of Eliot Weinberger’s 19 Ways of Looking at Wang Wei. Here’s an excerpt:

These more than two-dozen variations on the text — and Weinberger’s brief observations of what they get particularly wrong (and also what they seem to get right) — also serve, in sum, as an excellent gloss on the poem. Of course, part of the exercise is to demonstrate the obvious, that there can be no ‘perfect’ 1:1 mapping of the poem — a useful lesson for those who all too readily rely on single translations of their favorite foreign poems and poets … — but beyond that the different perspectives — which is how the translation-attempts can also be seen –, from the most literal attempts to Kenneth Rexroth’s (“perhaps more ‘imitation’ than translation”), also reveal a great deal more about the original to those for whom the Chinese itself remains inaccessible.
Helpfully, Weinberger does not shy away from judging (harshly, where need be) — while giving his reasons for what went right (or oh so wrong) — a reminder, too, of how the often unknowing reader is at the mercy of what is available at the local bookstore or library, or what happens to fall into their hands.


The addition of ‘more ways’ to the original collection is also of interest, as it is not just more of the same: as Weinberger notes: “most or all of the English-language translators were aware of the book”, and presumably were influenced in their own takes at least in part by that, writing (or rather translating) in response to Weinberger as well.

Follow the link for the review in full.

24PearlStreet Interview with Chloe Garcia Roberts

Chloe Garcia RobertsThe blog of 24PearlStreet has published an interview with poet and translator Chloe Garcia-Roberts about the creativity of translation and writing outside genres. Here’s how it begins:

MAIREAD HADLEY: In what ways is translation a creative process? Would you describe it as such?

CHLOE GARCIA-ROBERTS: It is completely a creative process. In the same way that drawing from life is a creative process. My subject is there, independent and complete, but my job is to recreate that subject in a different language. To so effectively draws on everything that I have to the same depths as any of my own writing, albeit in a completely different way.

For me, translation is a complementary creative process to creative writing. I was discussing it with a colleague just this week and articulated the relationship between the two as a form of crop rotation. If I am in poetry writing mode all the time, I get depleted, and if I am in translation mode all the time, I also get depleted. But if I alternate the two in my life, they feed each other, they make the yields stronger for either effort, and they enrich me more.

Click the image for the full interview.

NYU Shanghai Conversation on the State of the Art of Chinese Poetry Translation

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Panel Discussion

Chinese Poetry in Translation: A Conversation on the State of the Art

Join a panel of leading translators, scholars of contemporary Chinese poetry, and translation theorists for a conversation about the state of the art in 2018. Discussion will highlight Chinese poets whose work challenges conceptions of a literary “mainstream,” in particular with respect to gender, class, and economic inequality.

Panelists Huiyi Bao 包慧怡 (Fudan), Eleanor Goodman (Harvard Fairbank Center for Chinese Studies), Lucas Klein (University of Hong Kong) and Kyoo Lee (City University of New York) will share and discuss their work in translation and in critical scholarship, ranging from the work of a pioneer of contemporary Chinese poetry like Mang Ke 芒克, co-founder of the legendary journal Jintian 今天 (1978-1980); to the workers poetry written and shared by migrant laborers across China today; to the vital writing by women in a cultural field often dominated by male poets and critics.

  • Room 101, 1555 Century Avenue
  • Wednesday, March 14, 2018 16:3018:00

Click the image above for registration & more information.

Edmond on Being Censored in Chinese

At his blog, Jacob Edmond writes about being censored in a Chinese publication. Edmond reviewed Maghiel van Crevel’s Chinese Poetry in Times of Mind, Mayhem and Money (2008) for The China Quarterly in 2011, and agreed for it to be translated into Chinese for the Journal of Modern Chinese Studies (现代中文学刊). But,

the Chinese version [of van Crevel’s book] lacks the chapter on “Exile,” which includes discussion of poems written by Bei Dao 北岛, Wang Jiaxin 王家新, and Yang Lian 杨炼 after the Chinese government’s violent 4 June 1989 suppression of dissent.

And as a result, Edmond’s review had to be censored as well.

In approving the translation of my review, I faced the same dilemma that Van Crevel and these publishers and editors face in deciding whether to allow their work to be censored: refuse to change anything and so lose the possibility of addressing a Chinese audience, or make the changes and hope that one’s translated words and the mute marks of censored omissions might communicate better than the total silence of refusal. Van Crevel’s is an excellent book on contemporary Chinese poetry: I stand by my review’s description of it as the “definitive sourcebook.” It therefore deserves a wide audience in China, where its insights are most relevant. Cutting one chapter was the price of that audience.

But, as he continues, “The pressures and choices are not, of course, the same in every situation.” He concludes with lessons that are, “like censorship itself, eminently—and frighteningly—translatable.”

Click the image above for his full blog entry.

Poetry Anthology in Commemoration of Liu Xiaobo Press Release on February 1st, 2018, by Independent Chinese PEN Center (ICPC)

As a literary tribute to Liu Xiaobo from worldwide Chinese poets and writers, a public release of A Poetry Anthology in Commemoration of Liu Xiaobo was launched on February 1st in Taiwan and Hong Kong.

Right before the opening of the 2018 Taipei International Book Exhibition on February 6, a new book entitled The Contemporary: A Poetry Anthology in Commemoration of Liu Xiaobo is publicly released in both Hong Kong and Taiwan by Waves Culture Media, an independent press in Hong Kong. The anthology has been triggered by an incident occurring in the summer of 2017 when Langzi (Wu Mingliang), a Guangzhou poet and member of ICPC, was arrested for his participation in an effort to comply a collection of poems to commemorate Liu Xiaobo, capturing the international attention to the human rights infringement in China.

On June 26, 2017, news came that Liu Xiaobo, the 2010 Nobel Peace Prize laureate and former president of ICPC who had been detained for nearly nine years, was found in a critical condition for his late stage of liver cancer and was placed on medical parole in a hospital in Shenyang, China. The news extremely shocked the Chinese literature and poetry circles. A large number of poets, writers and public intellectuals wrote poems in the modern new poetic genres regarding what happened to Liu Xiaobo and his fate. Furthermore, writers and poets as well as the civil society were seized with astonishment at the incidents to follow after Liu Xiaobo was “deceased” and “sea buried” in less than twenty days. Heart-pounding poems in memory of Liu Xiaobo and mourning poems on July 13th, the night of Liu Xiaobo’s death, broke out like a tsunami to circulate wide and far on the internet, WeChat Friend Groups, WeChat Public Accounts and other internet spaces. Whereas many works were either deleted or blocked by the Chinese cyber censorship inside China shortly afterwards, the corresponding writing momentum was generated in Taiwan, Hong Kong, Macao, USA and Canada as well as Britain, France, Germany, Australia and other areas.

This Commemoration Poetry Anthology demonstrates a grand landscape of a literary action in the spirit of free writing, which is extremely unusual in the history of the contemporary literature as well as the history of civil movement both in China and abroad.  Poet Meng Lang, the Editor-in-Chief for the compilation of the Anthology, is one of the founders of Independent Chinese Pen Center. Almost 200 authors were included in its selection, among whom 20 are ICPC members.  The 424-paged anthology is a book of selection bearing sufficient weight to face the reality and the history, and stands out, more significantly, as a literary tribute to Liu Xiaobo contributed by the poets and writers representing the Chinese-speaking world, including both the senior and new ICPC members.

This anthology bears a unique significance since 70% of the authors are current residents in mainland China, with the rest of the authors residing in Taiwan, Hong Kong, Macao, Southeast Asia, North America, Europe, Australia and New Zealand, etc. Among the authors in mainland China, it is rare and precious to find Liu Xiaobo’s former classmates and alumni during his university years, the students that Liu Xiaobo taught during his teaching tenure, Liu Xiaobo’s colleagues and members during his tenure as the president of ICPC as well as those public intellectuals and dissidents who had fought their way for democracy in China along with Liu Xiaobo for the last three decades. Many authors are contemporary Chinese poets, well-known to the readers from Mainland China, Hong Kong, Macao and Taiwan, who rose to fame along with Liu Xiaobo as his peers of the same generation. Authors also include poets of younger generations who were born in 1980s and 1990s.

Click the image above for the full press release.

Sixth Tone on an Inter-generational Spat in Contemporary Chinese Poetry

Image result for Two Poets’ War of Words Shows China’s Yawning Generation GapIn an article titled “Two Poets’ War of Words Shows China’s Yawning Generation Gap,” Sixth Tone reports on a bit of bickering between elder statesman of Chinese poetry Shi Zhi 食指 (Guo Lusheng 郭路生) and relatively recent arrivée Yu Xiuhua 余秀华:

“I watched a video in which Yu Xiuhua said her ideal afternoon would involve drinking a coffee, reading a book, chatting a bit, and having a screw,” Guo said. “How can a poet not spend a moment considering the fate of humanity, or thinking about the future of her nation? How can a poet from the countryside not speak of the miseries of rural life or their dreams of prosperity? How can they just forget everything?” The elder poet concluded that Yu was abandoning her obligation to history, saying, “If we do not treat history responsibly, we will find ourselves mocked by it.”

Yu soon struck back on her social media accounts. “Shizhi said I don’t mention the miseries of rural life,” she wrote, “but I’ve never felt rural life was all that miserable.” Then a few days later, she added: “My fault lies in being on the bottom rung of society and yet still insisting on holding my head up high. My other fault lies in my inability to expose those idiots who think they’re superior to me.”

Fortunately, there is still room for nuance in the arena of Chinese poets:

In the aftermath of this latest controversy, the poet Liao Weitang [廖偉棠] rallied to Yu’s defense, noting that the misery of rural life permeates every detail of her work. “Only she doesn’t weep over it or make accusations; she doesn’t talk about how tragic her own life is,” Liao said. “Rather, she is extremely stubborn, and she uses language to master her own world.”

Click on the image above for the full report.

Jao Tsung-i (1917–2018)

Jao Tsung-I.jpgPoet, calligrapher, scholar, and polymath Jao Tsung-i 饒宗頤 passed away in Hong Kong on February 6 at the age of 100.

Here is the South China Morning Post honoring him:

From oracle inscriptions to the manuscripts of Dunhuang, the Unesco-listed ancient Chinese grottos; from traditional Chinese paintings to calligraphies; musicology to literature, the breadth and depth of his knowledge in Chinese culture is probably unrivalled by anyone.

And for a collection of his classical-style poetry translated into English by Nicholas Morrow Williams, see The Residue of Dreams.

Tsang on Liu Waitong’s “Wandering Hong Kong with Spirits”

The “Writing Hong Kong” issue of Cha features Janice Tsang’s review of Wandering Hong Kong with Spirits 和幽靈一起的香港漫遊 by Liu Waitong 廖偉棠 (Zephyr Press / MCCM Creations), with translations by Enoch Yee-lok Tam, Desmond Sham, Audrey Heijins, Chan Lai-kuen and Cao Shuying.

Tsang writes:

While reading Wandering Hong Kong, I was constantly reminded of the idea of “disappearance” in Ackbar Abbas’ book Hong Kong: Culture and the Politics of Disappearance—disappearance not in the sense of vanishing and irreparable loss, but of displaced appearances. Photography is very potent in demonstrating this kind of “disappearance,” as it simultaneously captures and freezes time in a frame, while also creating the realm of the image in the form of the artist’s own unique representation. One is also always aware of selectivity and perspectives when doing photography.

Liu Waitong’s poetry is very much in tune with his observations of the world as a photographer.

Click on the image for the full review.

van Crevel’s Snapshots of the Chinese Poetry Scene December the Modern Chinese Literature & Culture Resource Center published Maghiel van Crevel’s “Walk on the Wild Side: Snapshots of the Chinese Poetry Scene,” a long take on the field of contemporary poetry in China today. He begins:

I am in the final days of ten months in mainland China. Many things that have struck me about the poetry scene are in evidence … First of all, this get-together is typical of an activism that defies anything that might resemble keeping up: with texts and platforms (books, journals, websites, blogs, Weibo, WeChat), with events, with individuals and groups, with topics, issues and trends, with projects and research centers, with histories and futures. With who is writing what and hanging out with whom and getting published where, and how it all works and what it all means and to whom. This is true for poetry but also for what I’ll call commentary, all the way from hardcore scholarship to the swarms of emoji for praise and blame that careen through the arcades of social media. Which, incidentally, has become a prime channel for publicizing and disseminating hardcore scholarship, not to mention poetry itself. The web and social media have added an entirely new dimension to the poetry scene over the last twenty years, but poetry in print is anything but out. If someone unplugged the internet tomorrow, this breathless dynamism would continue apace in the other forms and media that are available to the genre.

In all, the poetry scene exudes an almost unimaginable vitality that gives the lie to persistent lament over its “marginalization.” On that note, if we go by numbers only, which we shouldn’t, modern poetry is marginal throughout the world. And if we allow the nature of the genre in its modern incarnations to enter our line of vision, it might be only a little controversial to say that such marginality is inherent to it. This is a bigger deal in China than in many other places, because of the continuing, massive presence of classical poetry and the contrast with the roaring 1980s—but the 1980s new poetry surge 新诗潮 was really an anomaly, occasioned by a happy meeting of the public’s hunger for cultural liberalization and the poets’ activism after the Cultural Revolution, before other distractions had begun to compete. I feel like a highly motivated scratched record when I say all this at every opportunity, as an outside prisoner of what Heather Inwood calls contemporary China’s poetry paradox: a representation of poetry as all but dead and a reality of poetry being remarkably alive.

Click on the image above for the full piece.

Klein’s Ouyang Jianghe in Asymptote

The new issue of Asymptote is now live, featuring sections of my translation of “Taj Mahal Tears” 泰姬陵之泪 by Ouyang Jianghe 欧阳江河.

Tears about to fly. Do they have eagle wings
or take a Boeing 767, taking off on
an economic miracle? Three thousand km of old tears, from Beijing
to New Delhi skies
just like that. After time flies, can the double exposed
red and white of our minds’ oriental archaeologies
match the supersonic, withstand
the miracle’s
sudden turbulence? Can we borrow eagle eyes to watch the sunset
dissolve inside a jellyfish like mica?


This publication also includes my translator’s note:

The poem is, of course, about the tears that fill relationships between men and women, but it is also about the relationship between god or gods and man as well as the relationship between India and China—not to mention both countries’ relationships to their histories. Parts of the poem take place in, and take advantage of, the vocabulary of fungibility and modernity; other parts excavate an archaeology of historical lexicons, including Buddhist terminology and a broad scope of literary and cultural allusion. As a translator, I had in mind the English of a handful of poets known as practitioners of ethnopoetics, investigating the deep recesses of the self at the same time as the wide resources of the planet. As Ouyang writes, “the mirror image glances back.”

Click on the image for the full excerpt