Duo Duo’s Words as Grain Nominated for PEN Award for Poetry in Translation

Last month PEN announced the longlists for its 2021 awards–and Words as Grain: New and Selected Poems of Duo Duo 多多 (Yale University Press) is in the running for the PEN Award for Poetry in Translation! Click here to see all the longlisted nominees.

Caro Carter, Michael Favala Goldman, Parisa Saranj are the other judges. Among the excellent books of poetry in translation also on the longlist, in Chinese poetry in translation there is also I Name Him Me: Selected Poems of Ma Yan, translated by Stephen Nashef (Ugly Duckling Presse).

John Bradley on Duo Duo’s Words as Grain

The current print issue of Rain Taxi features John Bradley’s review of my translation Words as Grain: New and Selected Poems of Duo Duo 多多 (Yale University Press).

Bradley writes:

Klein does a superb job of keeping the English translations as clear as possible, and when compared to others who have attempted the rigorous challenges of Duo Duo, Klein is more succinct, concise, and poetic. Words as Grain offers Zen koan-like poems that call for rereading and contemplation.

Since it’s in the print issue, here’s a photo of the whole review:

Liang Luo on Duo Duo’s Words as Grain

Over at Cha, Liang Luo’s review of my translation Words as Grain: New and Selected Poems of Duo Duo 多多 (Yale University Press) has been published.

She explains:

Written by one of the most celebrated contemporary Chinese poets Duo Duo 多多 (1951- ) and translated and edited by the award-winning translator Lucas Klein, Words as Grain 词如谷粒 moves from Duo Duo’s most recent poems back to his earliest ones, with four sections, each forming a period of his life’s journeys and taking its title from one of his poems of that period. “The Force of Forging Words (2004-2018)” collects every single poem written upon Duo Duo’s return to China from 15 years of exile abroad. “Amsterdam’s River (1989-2004)” includes selected poems written during the period of his exile, mainly in the Netherlands. “Delusion is the Master of Reality (1982-1988)” highlights selected poems written during China’s “reform and opening up” period of the 1980s. “Instruction (1972-1976),” the last of the four sections, features some of Duo Duo’s earliest collected poems written in his twenties during the Cultural Revolution (1966-1976).

As for her reading of Duo Duo’s poetry, she elaborates:

In this context, “words as grain” emerges in vivid configurations and comes alive as a central metaphor for the forging and remaking of poetry and life, which involves planting seeds, picking weeds, and harvesting grain in the fields, among many more layers of a complex web of meanings. In his poetry over four decades, Duo Duo connects grain, weeds, and fields in his musings on life and death, lonesomeness and expression, speeches and silence, and emptiness and harvest …

Lucas Klein, in his translator’s introduction, asks to what degree contextualisation is useful in reading Duo Duo’s poetry (or any poetry), and arranges his selections and translations to move from present into the past, as he considers the recent poems less culturally situated, hence more accessible, than older poems for the non-Chinese reader …

Klein finds the questions—whether the poems are best read as tied to their contexts or as independent works of the imagination—are the same ones we must ask of translations: whether they are best approached as if tethered to the texts they are representing, or can they take on lives of their own in a new language? He hopes to answer yes to both questions in both cases (xxiii). On the one hand, Klein believes in the potential of poems in translation to take on lives of their own, on the other hand, he also demands accuracy. His goal as both translator and compiler of the poems included in this collection, according to the translator’s introduction, “is to let Duo Duo’s style come through” (xxiv).

As readers, we are fortunate to have Klein’s meticulous work and expert guidance in translating and compiling this excellent volume of Duo Duo’s poems, in close dialogue with and filling important gaps in previous translations and scholarly studies.

Thanks, Luo Liang and Cha for the great review!

Click the image above to read the review in full.

The introduction is also available for download as a .pdf file on Cha.

Drew Calvert on Duo Duo’s Words as Grain

Asymptote has published Drew Calvert’s excellent review of Words as Grain: New and Selected Poems by Duo Duo 多多 (Yale University Press).

Here’s an excerpt:

That bounty is now on full display in English, thanks to Lucas Klein, the translator of Words as Grain: The Poetry of Duo Duo, published by Yale University Press. The volume opens with new work—Duo Duo’s poems last appeared in English twenty years ago, while he was still living abroad—and moves in reverse chronology back to the Cultural Revolution years, which he spent in rural Hebei Province along with other “Misties.” Klein’s introduction helpfully sketches the politics of modern China throughout the poet’s life, but the poems themselves are more concerned with a personal cosmology of memory, desire, and stillness. Many contain explicitly Buddhist references and idioms—“sūtra rivers,” non-self, the “quietude of original dwellings rhetoric abandoned”—as if the poet is forging a new grammar of devotion from his own broken syntax, straying from classical prosody and imagery in a way that recalls—at least for some English readers—the modernists who strayed from Tennyson’s finely cadenced rhetoric into avant-garde mysticism. One might call it modernist Zen: a hunger for unmediated divinity and a deep suspicion of language, with its stale cliches, as a pathway to enlightenment. Ultimately, the impression one gets from the full arc of Duo Duo’s career is that of a poet enraptured by the metaphysics of writing itself.

Click on the image to read the piece in full.

Thanks, Drew Calvert and Asymptote for the great review!

Force of Forging Words: A Translation Conversation

An online launch for Words as Grain: New and Selected Poems by Duo Duo 多多, translated by Lucas Klein, from The Margellos World Republic of Letters by Yale University Press.

Lucas Klein in discussion with Nick Admussen, Chris Song, and Jami Proctor Xu, moderated by Tammy Lai-Ming Ho

In “The Force of Forging Words,” a poem in Words as Grain: New and Selected Poems by premier Chinese poet Duo Duo 多多 (Yale University Press, The Cecile and Theodore Margellos World Republic of Letters series), translated by Lucas Klein, Duo Duo writes: “outside force, continuing on / from enough, is insufficient hallucination // … // this is rationale’s wasteland / but the ethics of poetry.”

What are the ethics of poetry? Is poetry the wasteland of the rationale, or of the rational? Is translation a kind of hallucination, and is it sufficient? What care needs to be taken to translate such poetry? Our speakers will discuss these questions with the translator to celebrate the publication of Words as Grain.
▁▁▁▁

INFORMATION

Zoom: https://bit.ly/3wAgrXA
Meeting ID: 988 5804 6038
Date: Friday/Saturday 9/10 July 2021
Time:
▚ Arizona—Friday 9 July 2021; 6 pm
▚ HK—Saturday 10 July 2021; 9 am
Global Clock: https://bit.ly/2SDuUTR
Facebook Event Page: https://bit.ly/34zNuza

Ridgway reviews Klein’s Organization of Distance

The MCLC Resource Center has published Benjamin Ridgway’s review of my academic monograph, The Organization of Distance, Poetry, Translation, Chineseness (Brill, 2018).

He’s got lots of criticism as well as praise, but ends up saying the book is as important as the poetry of Huang Tingjian 黃庭堅 (1045-1105).

Huang’s strikingly idiosyncratic, difficult, dense, and sometimes confusing poetry is not beloved by all, but it did herald a new direction in Chinese poetics that challenged both his admirers and detractors to respond. I think that the same could be said of The Organization of Distance. There is a distinct synthetic quality to portions of the book … that is going to rub some readers the wrong way. However, the challenge of Klein’s insights will be of interest and importan[ce] to a range of audiences. His book, quite amazingly, speaks to scholars and readers of both modern and classical Chinese poetry, engaging the scholarship from both of these fields while challenging its members to think outside their disciplinary boxes. The book is suitable for in-depth graduate seminars, especially on the topics of translation and translingual practice … Klein’s book is important because his arguments are in dialogue with a larger movement to reconsider the global dimensions of the medieval world, both the way in which poetry during the Tang-Song period borrowed objects and translated ideas from broader global exchanges of the past and the way that this poetry continues to be recast and reinvented by poets of China’s present.

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

Jiang wins Words Without Borders 2020 Poems in Translation Contest

Chenxin Jiang wins Words Without Borders 2020 Poems in Translation Contest

Words Without Borders writes:

In the midst of a pandemic defined by isolation, our second Poems in Translation Contest brought together 935 poems from 448 poets and 87 countries, translated from 58 languages. We are thrilled to announce, alongside our partners at the Academy of American Poets, this year’s winners, selected by Pushcart prizewinner David Tomas Martinez. The four winning poems will be published in Poem-a-Day and in Words Without Borders every Saturday this September, which is National Translation Month, and into the first week of October. In celebrating these works, we hope to expand the readership of groundbreaking international poetry and to create, in a time of global crisis, opportunities for connection and meaning across borders, languages, and cultures.

Congratulations to Chenxin Jiang for her translation of “Trial Run” 預習 by Yau Ching 游靜!

Click here to see the entire list of winners.

Proctor Xu wins 39th Annual Northern California Book Award for Song Lin translation

Jami Proctor Xu wins NCBA for translating Song Lin’s Sunday Sparrows

Congrats to Jami Proctor Xu for winning the Northern California Book Award for her translation of Sunday Sparrows (Zephyr Press), a collection of poems by Song Lin 宋琳.

Click here for this year’s full list of NCBA nominees and winners.

Chan on Smith’s “problematic translation” of Yi Lei

Writing for 4Columns, Andrew Chan has reviewed My Name Will Grow Wide Like a Tree: Selected Poems (Graywolf) by Yi Lei 伊蕾, translated by Tracy K. Smith and Changtai Bi.

After a nice contextualization of Yi Lei and her poetry, Chan gets to the goods of what he calls the “problematic translation”:

Saturated with Smith’s voice and propelled by her unerring ear for catchy bits of diction, these translations often feel more rewarding to read as a fresh batch of Smith’s own poems than as interpretations of pieces written on the other side of the world decades ago.

He concludes:

it’s unfortunate that the always-fraught issue of translation will be distracting for any reader, like myself, who is proficient enough in both languages to recognize the glaring chasms in style, tone, and content. There exists an understandable but faulty assumption that certain languages are so distant from one another that translation requires a high degree of artistic license. But words still mean what they do. In many instances throughout the book, phrases, images, and metaphors that Smith and Bi could have brought into English with relative ease are needlessly contorted or jettisoned altogether, while elements that do not exist in the less flowery originals are allowed to proliferate like weeds … I emerged from My Name Will Grow Wide Like a Tree in a state of confusion, grateful for having been introduced to Yi Lei’s intoxicating voice and for Smith’s undeniably supple musicality, but concerned about the false conclusions that English-only readers will draw from these willfully unfaithful renditions.

Click on the image above for the review in full.