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.

Click the image to read (and listen to) more.

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.

Click the image to read more.

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.

Click the image to read more.

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


Click on the image above to read more.

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


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.

Click the image above to read more.

Nicky Harman featured in China Daily

Chinese literature's biggest barriers abroad not language itselfChina Daily Europe has a feature on literary translation from Chinese to English, focusing in particular on Nicky Harman, translator of poet Han Dong 韩东 and others.

Harman, who specializes in fiction, nonfiction and poetry, began learning Chinese in 1968 and previously taught translation at Imperial College London.

“At the start, my reasons for learning Chinese were superficial. I was fascinated with the culture and the great geographical region, as well as the people and the language,” she says. “Everything was different from the West.”

Equally challenging are Han’s novels and poetry, she says, as he uses beautiful words so they needed to be translated beautifully.

“As a translator I need to be a chameleon,” she tells Chinese students at the London workshop.

Chinese literature's biggest barriers abroad not language itself

Translators need to be paid, and because the job often requires lots of time, especially turning Chinese works into English, Harman says many have to do part-time jobs.

“They need money to buy food, to pay rent and bring up their children,” she says, explaining that few people can afford to work as translators full time.

Click either image for the full article.