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?

泪水就要飞起来。是给它鹰的翅膀呢,
还是让它搭乘波音767,和经济奇迹
一道起飞?三千公里旧泪,就这么从北京
             登上了
新德里的天空。时间起飞之后,我们头脑里
红白两个东方的考古学重影,
能否跟得上超音速,能否经受得起
             神迹的
突然抖动?我们能否借鹰的目力,看着落日
以云母的样子溶解在一朵水母里?

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

Clips from International Poetry Nights in Hong Kong 2017

Matt Turner Introduces Asia’s Proletarian Lit

In a piece titled “We Are Revolution” for Bookforum, Matt Turner introduces Asia’s Proletarian Literature. He writes:

During the last election cycle, the American working class got a lot of airplay. Donald Trump’s rhetoric was a throwback to a different era of politics and a different economy. Talk of American workers often included overt and coded criticism of China, which was portrayed as a villainous and devious nation that had stolen jobs from deserving Americans. Of course, the Asian workers (many of whom are not Chinese) who were supposedly responsible for America’s declining fortunes were never mentioned.

In the past, American labor movements produced literature that was both popular and politically effective. Books like The Jungle exposed working conditions and pressed for egalitarian politics. It may feel dated today, but it raises an interesting question: What would popular working class literature look like in another context? What if The Jungle were written in an iPhone factory?

Covering poetry and fiction from China, Taiwan, Japan, Korea, Indonesia, India, and the Philippines, for Chinese poetry he highlights the anthology of workers’ poetry, Iron Moon, translated by Eleanor Goodman. He says:

Considering that these worker-poets often have very little formal education (and not a lot of time on their hands), the high quality of the work here points to one obvious conclusion: There are a lot of good poets in China. More notable, however, is that they exist outside of China’s professional system of writers, just as their jobs put them outside of the usual trajectories of professional advancement. A lot of us could learn something from these individuals about solidarity—as well as about writing.

Click on the image for his full list.

 

Asian American Writers’ Workshop recommends Asian Literature

The Asian American Writers’ Workshop has collected recommendations from noted American writers and publishers for what to read of Asian literature. And unsurprisingly, Chinese poets and poetry are well-represented.

Barbara Epler, president of New Directions publishing, recommends Li Shangyin and Bei Dao, among others. She writes:

I am torn between favorites—Qian Zhongshu’s Fortress Besieged, Tanizaki’s The Maids, Li Shangyin’s Derangement of My Contemporaries, Takashi Hiraide’s The Guest Cat, Eka Kurniawan’s Beauty is a Wound, Sei Shonagon’s The Pillow Book—but finally want to choose Bei Dao’s new memoir, City Gate, Open Up. It’s a remarkably moving autobiography of this great poet, beautifully translated by Jeffrey Yang: a testament to stubbornness and endurance, City Gate, Open Up is a love letter to the Beijing of his childhood and to his family.

And Eliot Weinberger gives an even fuller syllabus, explaining, “‘Favorite Asian book’ is as impossible as ‘favorite European book’ or ‘favorite song.’ Sorry not to play by the rules of this game–and instead rattle off a long list of personal faves–but, after all, it’s 3000 years of writing in many languages and over a hundred years of translations that one would still want to read.” His list includes:

The many translations of classical Chinese poetry and philosophy by David Hinton (especially, for me: the poems of Tu Fu, T’ao Ch’ien, and Meng Chiao); Ezra Pound’s Cathay (now in a facsimile edition from New Directions) and his much-maligned masterpiece The Confucian Odes; A.C. Graham, Poems of the Late T’ang; Kenneth Rexroth & Ling Chung’s translation of the Sung Dynasty woman poet Li Ch’ing-chao; Gary Snyder, Cold Mountain Poems (Han Shan); Michèle Métail’s anthology of reversible poems, Wild Geese Returning (tr. Jody Gladding). (For more translations by Pound, Rexroth, Snyder, W.C. Williams, and Hinton, and essays by them on Chinese poetry: my The New Directions Anthology of Classical Chinese Poetry.)

As for modern and contemporary Chinese poetry: Bei Dao (various translators); Gu Cheng (tr. Joseph Allen); Xi Chuan (tr. Lucas Klein). Lastly, David Knechtges’s three-volume translation of the Wen xuan, a 6th-century anthology of the usually neglected, often ridiculed documentary poetry fu form (also Watson’s Chinese Rhyme-Prose)

It’s a lot to read!

Click on the image above for the full list.

Goodman on “Great Romantic” of Chinese poetry, Xu Zhimo

https://i1.wp.com/supchina.com/wp-content/uploads/2017/11/Xu-Zhimo.jpg?resize=508%2C259Is Xu Zhimo 徐志摩 (1897 – 1931) unknown outside China? In advance of an event at New York’s Renwen Society at the China Institute (now passed) in honor of Xu’s 120th birthday–which was “conducted in Chinese, with no interpretation“–Eleanor Goodman considered for SupChina whether that should be the case.

She writes:

His most famous poem, “Another Farewell to Cambridge” (再别康桥 Zàibié Kāngqiáo, commonly translated as “Saying Goodbye to Cambridge Again,” though there are many translations for this title) is a paean to the River Cam in Cambridge, where he spent a year at King’s College. It begins (translation mine):

Quietly I go,
As quietly as I came;
Quietly I wave
farewell to the western clouds.

The golden willow by the banks
is the bride of the setting sun.
Reflections shimmer on the water
and ripple through my mind.

and continues,

In the poem “By Chance” (偶然 Ǒurán) he writes (my translation again):

I am a cloud in the sky,
that shadows your stirred heart by chance.
No need for you to feel surprise,
still less to be delighted,
in a flash, every trace of me will be gone.

So it seems. Xu wrote what he lived, and lived what he wrote. To be reminded by these poems of Keats or of Shelley (“I bring fresh showers for the thirsting flowers, / From the seas and the streams; / I bear light shade for the leaves when laid / In their noonday dreams”) is right on target. These Western poets were a direct influence on the Crescent Moon Society, and their Romanticism — a reliance on natural images, gestures toward the sublime, an emphasis on individual sensual experience — became the main model for this innovative group of Chinese poets, Xu primary among them.

Goodman is right, of course, about Xu’s significance to modern Chinese literary history, but I admit I’ve never grieved over his being unknown in English–until now, that is. Reading these fragments of Goodman’s translations, I’m almost ready to change my mind.

Click on the image above to read the piece in full.

International Poetry Nights in Hong Kong 2017: 22-26 November

Click the schedule to link to more information.

Nogues on Hong Kong poet Liu Waitong

In a piece titled “‘The protests became a poem‘: Liu Waitong’s ‘Wandering Hong Kong with Spirits,'” new on Jacket2, Collier Nogues reviews Wandering Hong Kong with Spirits 和幽靈一起的香港漫遊, by Liu Waitong 廖偉棠, with translations by Enoch Yee-lok Tam, Desmond Sham, Audrey Heijns, Chan Lai-kuen, and Cao Shuying 曹疏影 (Zephyr Press & MCCM Creations). To my knowledge, this is the first time Jacket2 has paid any attention to poetry translated from Chinese.

Nogues asks, “What is it to be a Hong Kong poet writing now?” She answers:

For Liu Waitong, it means to be accompanied always by ghosts. But it means also to seek them out and keep them company in turn — to haunt with them. Working through questions of displacement, citizenship, and competing visions of Hong Kong’s and China’s future, Liu’s poems insist that a careful attention and receptivity can be revolutionary. For Liu, that attention is what we owe our pasts and each other.

She continues:

Christopher Mattison, the director of the Atlas series of translations of Hong Kong Chinese literature into English, points out in his introduction that it would be a mistake to brand Liu primarily as a political poet. Rather, Mattison says, Liu is a careful observer of Hong Kong, and many things in Hong Kong are inherently political. Perhaps it’s just a matter of emphasis, but I’m not certain that I agree with Mattison here; while it’s true that Liu is indeed a “poet of longing,” as Mattison suggests, “of past eras, former loves, lost neighborhoods, and poetic mentors” (xvi), nothing on that list is separable from politics in the poems or in Hong Kong more generally. When Liu elegizes the demolished Central Star Ferry Pier, for example, he is not only lamenting the loss of a familiar landmark, but also pointedly indicting Hong Kong’s real estate market, which incentivizes the replacement of historic sites with new, more profitable development. In Liu’s poem, the pier shakes its head and sings into the cold rain: “It all will finally disappear to become a postcard sold / for ten dollars. This Hong Kong will disappear and become real property / with an unspecified mortgage” (93).

Click on the image above for the full review.

Ancient Enmity–International Poetry Nights in Hong Kong

No automatic alt text available.Ancient Enmity 古老的敵意, the multilingual collection of volumes for the 2017 International Poetry Nights in Hong Kong, is now available from Chinese University Press.
Edited by Bei Dao 北島, Chris Song 宋子江, and Lucas Klein, Ancient Enmity comprises an anthology plus twenty-four individual booklets:

Maram Al-Masri, from Barefoot Souls; Gabeba Baderoon, Poetry For Beginners
Javier Bello, I Decided to Dissolve
Charles Bernstein, Pinky’s Rule
John Burnside, An Essay on Mourning
Chan Chi Tak 陳滅, Hong Kong Lights 香港韶光
Chen Dongdong 陳東東, The Emperor of Poetry Translated from Conquered Nations 譯自亡國的詩歌皇帝
Chen Xianfa 陳先發 The Question of Raising Cranes 養鶴問題
Lorna Crozier, Angel of Tigers
Julia Fiedorczuk, Orion’s Shoulder
Jérôme Game, Hong Kong is Hong Kong
Hirata Toshiko 平田俊子, The Man Without Arms
Major Jackson, Heritage
Nuno Júdice, Variation on Roses
Agnes S.L. Lam 林舜玲, Poppies by the Motorway 公路旁的紅罌粟
Semezdin Mehmedinović, Functions of the Heart
Moon Chung-Hee, A Letter from the Airport
George Szirtes, Like a Black Bird
Mark Tredinnick, Egret in a Ploughed Field
Anja Utler, Counter Position
Dmitry Vedenyapin, The Faith of a Mushroom
Haris Vlavianos, Pascal’s Will
Cui Jian 崔健, Never Turning Back 死不回頭
Chow Yiu Fai 周耀輝, Androgyny 雌雄同體.

To order click the image above.

For more information on International Poetry Nights in Hong Kong, including the schedule of readings and events, go to http://www.ipnhk.com/

ALTA’s Statement on Feeley’s Stryk Prize

The American Literary Translators Association (ALTA) has published the judges’ statement for their selection of Jennifer Feeley’s translation of Not Written Words 不是文字 by Xi Xi 西西 for the 2017 Lucien Stryk Asian Translation Prize.

The judges were Eleanor Goodman, Kendall Heitzman, and Aditi Machado. They write:

Jennifer Feeley’s superb translation captures all of the creativity, intellect, and playfulness in the verse of premier Hong Kong poet Xi Xi. In these skillfully wrought and daring poems, Feeley employs all the tools of the English language, including unforced end and internal rhyme, alliteration, wordplay, and references that run the gamut from nursery rhymes and fairy tales to fine art to contemporary politicsThis translation is essential reading, providing a window into the rich literature of Hong Kong and the larger Sinophone world.

Click the image above for the full text.