Goodman’s Lok Fung reviewed at HKRB

Hong Kong Review of Books has published May Huang’s review of Days When I Hide My Corpse in a Cardboard Box, poems by Lok Fung 洛楓 translated by Eleanor Goodman (Zephyr Press).

Here’s a striking–and, I think, apt–line:

The pressures placed on women to appear young and stay beautiful are closely tied to systems of oppression inflicted upon the city itself.

Huang also pays attention to the translation–as all reviews of translated literature must, if they are to be worthwhile at all–and the multilingualism of the book and of life in Hong Kong:

While the visual effect of seeing English words amid a Chinese text disappears in the English translation, Goodman deftly captures the multilingual qualities of Lok’s poetics nonetheless. In “Tracks of Emotion,” Lok cites the English lyrics to Vanessa Williams’ “Save the Best for Last” in an otherwise Cantonese poem set in the train station. In Goodman’s translation, her use of the word “tracks” becomes an instance of clever wordplay, as it refers to both song tracks and train tracks. In other poems, rhymes in the English beautifully echo or complement the original Chinese: “I am low as a cello” and “I am slayed, I rot / powerless whether I love or not” are two instances. The book itself, which is printed in parallel texts, speaks to the multivalences that translation can expose—as does the Hong Kong Atlas series, the first to exclusively spotlight Hong Kong poetry in translation.

Click here for the review in full.

Red Pine Interview at Emergence

Emergence Magazine has published an interview with Bill Porter, a/k/a Red Pine, renowned travel writer and translator of classical Chinese poetry.

The interview covers his early interest in China and poetry, and his beginnings as a translator, as well as some of his understanding of translation:

Around thirteen or fourteen years ago, I was invited to a conference on Chinese poetry at a college in Boston called Simmons College. They asked me to give a talk or write a paper about translation, and I had never, ever thought about what I do. You know, you do something, and you don’t know how you do it. That’s when I thought: what am I doing? And that’s when I realized—the metaphor I came up with was this dance metaphor. I see this beautiful woman dancing on a dance floor, and her dance is just so entrancing. I want to dance with her, but I’m deaf. I don’t hear the music. I just see the results of her hearing the music. So, I go on the dance floor, and I try to dance with her. Obviously, I can’t dance across the room. That’s not very rewarding. Also, I can’t put my English feet on top of her Chinese feet to emulate her dance, which is what a lot of people think translation is. You know, it’s accurate, literal, but it kills the dance. But you have to dance close enough to pick up the energy, especially when you’re deaf and you’re not hearing where this stuff is coming from. That, to me, is what translation is about for Chinese poetry. Every day that I go up on the dance floor to dance with that same dance, I’m going to do it differently. And there’s good days and bad days. It could always be better and will always be different, every time I go up on the dance floor. But, I discovered that’s what I like to do. I like to translate.

People ask me, “Well, don’t you write poetry too?” I would never have the chutzpah to get on the dance floor by myself because I don’t hear any music. But, I’m really attracted to the feeling of dancing with somebody else. I would never dance alone. But that’s what I do—I translate. I dance with people.

I was at that conference at Simmons–it was the first time I met Bill (and many others in the Chinese poetry world). His essay on translation, “Dancing with the Dead,” has since appeared in a couple other places, but I published the version as he read it at the Simmons conference when I edited CipherJournal.

Click here read the interview in full.

“Tiananmen Thirty Years On” feature at Cha

Announcing the June/July issue of Cha: An Asian Literary Journal, the “Tiananmen Thirty Years On” feature, edited by Tammy Lai-Ming Ho and Lucas Klein, along with a special feature of poems by and in mourning of Meng Lang 孟浪.

The following CONTRIBUTORS have generously allowed us to showcase their work:

❀ REMEMBRANCES
Tammy Lai-Ming Ho, Gregory Lee, Ding Zilin (translated by Kevin Carrico), Andréa Worden, Shuyu Kong (with translations of poems by Colin Hawes), Ai Li Ke, Anna Wang, and Sara Tung

❀ POETRY
Bei Dao (translated by Eliot Weinberger), Duo Duo (translated by Lucas Klein), Liu Xiaobo (translated by Ming Di), Xi Chuan (translated by Lucas Klein), Yang Lian (translated by Brian Holton), Xi Xi (translated by Jennifer Feeley), Meng Lang (translated by Anne Henochowicz), Lin Zhao (translated by Chris Song), Liu Waitong (translated by Lucas Klein), Chan Lai Kuen (translated by Jennifer Feeley), Mei Kwan Ng (translated by the author), Yibing Huang (translated by the author), Ming Di (translated by the author), Anthony Tao, Aiden Heung, Kate Rogers, Ken Chau, Ilaria Maria Sala, Ian Heffernan, Reid Mitchell, Lorenzo Andolfatto, Joseph T. Salazar

❀ ESSAYS
Scott Savitt, Wang Dan (translated by Karl Lund), Hoi Leung, Louisa Lim, Jeff Wasserstrom, Lian-Hee Wee, Jed Lea-Henry, Jason G. Coe, and Guo Ting

❀ INTERVIEW
Han Dongfang and Lucas Klein

❀ FICTION
Boshun Chan (translated by Garfield Chow, Stephanie Leung and Felix Lo) and Christopher New

❀ PHOTOGRAPHY & ART
Daniel Garrett and Anonymous

❀ MENG LANG
Denis Mair, Meng Lang (translated by Denis Mair), Liu Waitong (translated by Lucas Klein), Jacky Yuen (translated by Nick Admussen), Tang Siu Wa (translated by Jennifer Feeley), Kwan Tin Lam (translated by Eleanor Goodman)

Click on the link above to read the issue in full.

Goodman Interviewed for Shanghai Literary Review

Brian Haman of The Shanghai Literary Review has interviewed poet and translator Eleanor Goodman “about translating Chinese literature, gender dynamics within contemporary Chinese poetry, linguistic and geographical liminality, and the meaning of home.”

The questions start out rote, but it’s not long before the conversation gets going:

BH: Do you think that there’s a cross-pollination between the translation work and your work as a poet? Is there a continuity of images, themes, or ideas? And how do you choose the works that you translate?

Goodman: … On a linguistic level, I’m very interested in the plasticity of Chinese, the way that the different grammatical elements can be put together in more configurations than can generally be done naturally in English. For a while I was very interested in this technique that some Chinese poets use where you have what seems to be an integral line of poetry and then the next line casts a different meaning on it. Ambiguous subject or ambiguous nouns, leaving out “he” or “she” or “it,” the lack of certain things like noun markers – there’s a kind of ambiguity that Chinese poets manipulate beautifully and to great effect and I sometimes try to play with that in my own work.

And, on the role of gender in the field of Chinese poetry today, she says:

In Chinese poetry there are shiren (诗人) [poet] and nü shiren (女诗人) [female poet]. Poetry is still considered a male game: men write about the important topics; they have an expansive, outward looking view; they’re philosophical; they have deep thoughts. Women, in stark contrast, write about jiating shiqing (家庭事情) [the household]: they write about domestic things such as children and making dinner. They’re inward looking rather than outward looking. And those kinds of attitudes are deeply entrenched in the Chinese poetry world, and not just among male poets but also to some degree among a minority set of women poets, who have internalized this and who do write about flowers in springtime – not that there’s anything wrong with that (after all, Wordsworth wrote about such things). But the majority of female poets that I come into contact with are infuriated by this assumed hierarchy and the limitations that they constantly come up against.

Follow the link for the interview in full.

Sydney Review of Books interview with Bonnie McDougall

The Sydney Review of Books has published an interview with Bonnie McDougall, by Jeffrey Errington, covering topics ranging from her experiences with translation and poetry and politics.

The interview spends some time on her experiences getting to know Bei Dao 北岛, and translating his work in the eighties:

Did you meet Bei Dao at the Foreign LanguagesPress?
I had published a book of poetry and essays by the 1930s writer He Qifang [何其芳] and this book, somehow, reached Harbin in North China where a young woman read it and, in response, sent a letter to me via my publisher. When I went to China we finally met. Her journalist husband asked me, ‘would you like to meet the best young poet in China?’ This was Bei Dao, and it turned out that he was also working at the FLP, in the Esperanto office. He was obliged to study Esperanto and scour literary magazines to find writers to be translated into that language. Around 1980-81 a lot of the young men and women who were sent to factories or the countryside returned to Peking and other cities at the end of the Cultural Revolution and started to work for educational and cultural institutions such as the FLP. This included Bei Dao. It was a good job: reading through magazines and recommending works to be translated and published. As we worked in the same institution we were able to meet without attracting unwelcome attention—or so we thought. After some time the FLP told my office in the English section, rather bluntly, that Bei Dao needs to stop wasting my time as I was paid a rather large salary while his was less. So they tried to put a stop to us working together.

and

So when you get the world of a Bei Dao poem and bring it into English is it a Chinese reality that we are getting or by being reconstructed using English words is it an English-language reality — or is it swinging back and forth?
I think maybe swinging is one way to put it. There was not such a wide gap between educated young men and women in China and the young foreigners who flocked around them in the late 1970s and early 1980s. The young men and women who grew up in Cultural Revolution China were able to get books by foreign authors including works about foreign writing. So to some extent they were self-educated in twentieth-century English or French or German writing. So the lack of supervision was a major factor in the life of someone like Bei Dao, who for several years was working in a factory. Not surprisingly he was not a very effective factory worker as he was no good at pouring cement. He just sat in a corner and read. So they were self-educated in a way that produced a fairly good understanding of early twentieth-century British and American poetics.

Click through to read the interview in full.

Shaw on Haizi

As part of their poetry month feature, Tristan Shaw wrote for SupChina on Haizi 海子:

Between 1984 and his death, Hai Zi is estimated to have written two million words worth of work, spanning lyrics, epics, and verse dramas. For all his output, however, Hai Zi’s poems attracted little attention from his contemporaries. There is still debate today over his mental state, and why he decided to commit suicide, but one theory might have been his lack of success. Some have pinned his suicide on an idealization of death; others believe, as his final notes indicate, that he suffered from delusions. Another factor might have been a meeting with his former student; Hai Zi was greatly upset when he learned that his old flame was married and planning to move to the United States.

At any rate, in the aftermath of Hai Zi’s suicide, his friends Luo Yihe 骆一禾 and Xi Chuan 西川 helped to spread his work. Posthumous publications of Hai Zi’s work in the 1990s earned him a cult following, with some fans considering him a martyr to poetry. Critics embraced him, scholars studied him, and foreigners translated him. In 1990, Xi Chuan prophesied that “the death of Haizi the poet will become one of the myths of our time.” For his young Chinese fans, who still follow in his path and makes pilgrimages to the places connected to him, Hai Zi has become a mystical, legendary figure.

Click through to read the article in full.

Emily Goedde on “translating the space between subjects”

Emily Goedde writes about Chinese poetry translation–in particular, translating the poetry of 1930s poet Mu Dan 穆旦–at the Asian American Writers’ Workshop:

I think about translation as a kind of listening to the echoes created as meaning moves between languages. I mark a space [ ] in the title of my translation of Chinese WWII era poet Mu Dan’s original “我” and my “I”. I ask: What knowledge is generated by putting languages in relation to one another? What can be gained through a greater attention to the process rather than the product of translation? More specifically, what can be discovered within the movement and change occurring in the act of translation between Mu Dan’s study of the individual in his poem “我” and my translation ”I”?

Click here to read the translation and her explanation of her process and product.

Introduction to Chinese Poetry in Translation in SupChina

As part of SupChina‘s feature on poetry last month, translator Dave Haysom selected five books to introduce Chinese poetry in English translation: Chinese Poetic Writing by François Cheng (translated by Donald A. Riggs & Jerome P. Seaton), The New Directions Anthology of Classical Chinese Poetry (edited by Eliot Weinberger), Jade Ladder: Contemporary Chinese Poetry (edited by W.N. Herbert & Yang Lian, with Brian Holton), Iron Moon: An Anthology of Chinese Worker Poetry (translated by Eleanor Goodman), and Nineteen Ways of Looking at Wang Wei: How a Chinese Poem is Translated by Eliot Weinberger.

Click through to see more on these titles, as well as Dave’s honorable mentions.

India-China Dialogues on Almost Island

The Monsoon 2019 issue of Almost Island is here, and with it a feature of poetry and prose from last October’s India-China dialogues in Hong Kong and Hangzhou.

Almost Island writes, announcing the feature:

This issue continues our dialogue with leading Chinese poets and novelists, ongoing since 2009. The dialogue was begun by Chinese poet Bei Dao [北岛] and Indian novelist and poet Sharmistha Mohanty. The most recent meeting between Indian and Chinese writers, curated by Almost Island and the Chinese journal Jintian [今天], took place in October 2018 in Hong Kong and Hangzhou.

Scholar Lydia H. Liu, in her essay The Gift of a Living Past, a tribute to Ashis Nandy, which we publish here, says:

“Confucius traveled from state to state—across many warring states before the unification in BCE 221—offering advice to the heads of states and attempting to counsel them, but everywhere he went, Confucius’s ideas were met with indifference and rejection. With his noble aspirations getting nowhere, Confucius gained the reputation of a homeless dog. The astonishing thing is that not only did the Master not mind being called homeless dog but he found the epithet to be a suitable description of his plight. I suspect that the story tells us something interesting about the defeat and survival of rootless intellectuals, and this story is the polar opposite of what you get from the official discourse of Confucianism in China.

Like Confucius, all rootless intellectuals are, in a sense, homeless dogs. This story lives on in our midst, like a gift to the present. As we share more of each other’s stories, the Chinese and Indian writers are essentially building a transnational literary alliance based on our melancholy knowledge of the living pasts. That our friendship can grow and form a lasting bond is owing to the fact that, in Nandy’s words, ‘India and China are both in some fundamental sense societies which negotiate the past and the future similarly despite all differences. This similarity lies in the fact that in both countries the past is as open as the future.’”

This openness of time speaks through Bei Dao’s new book length poem, from which we have excerpts here, translated by Eliot Weinberger and seen for the first time in English in this issue.

Ouyang Jianghe [欧阳江河] follows Sufis and drifters in his poems in which “A screw and a flower embrace, tightening time.” The luminous translations are by Lucas Klein.

The poems of Xi Chuan are hard, sharp and brilliant, diamond like. Once again Lucas Klein achieves this in English.

Zhai Yongming [翟永明] has, on the surface, a seemingly lighter touch, but underneath she walks the razor’s edge. Andrea Lingenfelter renders this deftly into English.

We have an excerpt from novelist Han Shaogong’s [韩少功] deeply original A Dictionary of Maqiao, written in fact in the form of dictionary entries, each entry looking closely at different aspects of the village of Maqiao during the Cultural Revolution. Translator Julia Lovell catches the extraordinary within the ordinary in Shaogong’s prose.

And Ashis Nandy’s opening talk at the last India-China Dialogues held in Hong Kong and Hangzhou, Oct. 2018, where in his inimitable way he pries open the twentieth century to find that its most lasting legacy is genocide.

Click the highlighted links to download the .pdf files and begin reading!

Matches Polished into Lights: Tiananmen Thirty Years On

Matches Polished into Lights: Tiananmen Thirty Years On
June 3, 2019, at Bleak House Books, Hong Kong

Speakers: Jennifer Anne Eagleton, Guo Ting, Louisa Lim, William Nee, Mei Kwan Ng, Kate Rogers, and Lian-Hee Wee (with two special guest readers, Jeff Wasserstrom and Andrea Lingenfelter).
Moderator: Tammy Lai-Ming Ho

For selected texts by featured speakers, click here.

For Tammy Ho’s piece, published as South China Morning Post‘s “Young Post,” see here:

No photo description available.