US-China Poetry Dialog at University of Oklahoma

Xi Chuan and other Chinese and American poets are at the University of Oklahoma for the US-China Poetry Dialog, organized by Jonathan Stalling.

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The first public events will be on the 24th at 10:30 a.m. in OU’s Bizzell Memorial Library and 7 p.m. at Fred Jones Museum of Art. There will also be a reading on the 25th in Eureka Springs, AR, at 7 p.m. at the Writers Colony at Dairy Hollow, and on the 26th in Bentonville, AR at Crystal Bridges Museum of American Art at 6 p.m.

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Tracy Smith on Chinese poetry and China

At SupChina Anthony Tao interviews US poet laureate Tracy Smith on her recent visit to Beijing, where she traveled to translate Yi Lei 伊蕾 with Changtai Bi.

Here are some excerpts from the interview:

AT: And what is your relationship with Chinese poetry?

TKS: I know a little bit about the history, but it’s very patchy. I’ve read some poems of [ancient poets] Li Po (李白) and Du Fu (杜甫), and then leap forward to [the 1970s/1980s “Misty Poet”] Bei Dao (北岛)… and now, some of the more recent translations [of Chinese poets] that have come out in the States. So it’s a really incomplete body of knowledge so far. But it’s still growing, a growing region of my consciousness.

And

AT: You recently took part in a translation workshop as part of your trip [organized by Ming Di (明迪), along with renowned poets such as John Yau, Kevin Young, Mario Bojórquez, Xi Chuan (西川), Ouyang Jianghe (欧阳江河), etc.]. What was it like to see your poems in Chinese?

TKS: I wish I could speak the language so I could really hear what it became in this other language, which I can’t. I love the sound. I’m mystified, I’m fascinated by the characters. Even though I know what the poem said, I don’t know what they say. But I think it’s exciting to know that there’s a version of my poems now that can be touched on for readers in a different language, and I’m curious to know how the references live on the other side. I know there’s a lot of choices. Ming Di translated a poem [of mine] called “Ash,” and she said, “Okay, is it this kind of ash, is it this kind of ash?”

So just thinking about the possibilities. And then having to make that affirm certain meanings or implications also makes me have to listen to my poems differently. And some of the things that happened unconsciously, I’m urged to reflect upon them more consciously now because I have to say, “Is it that or that? Well, actually, it’s more this thing than the other, and this is why.”

For the full interview, along with a clip of Smith’s reading, click the image above.

 

Turner on Cheng and Métail from Calligrams

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Cha has published Matt Turner’s review of two French studies of Chinese poetry, Michèle Métail’s Wild Geese Returning: Chinese Reversible Poems, translated by Jody Gladding, and the re-release of François Cheng’s Chinese Poetic Writing, translated from by Donald A. Riggs with classical Chinese poems translated by Jerome P. Seaton, released as part of the Calligrams series by New York Review Books and Chinese University Press.

Turner explains:

NYRB’s Calligrams series publishes titles relating to traditional Chinese literature and Euro-American modernism, calling to mind Guillaume Apollinaire’s book of visual poetry, Calligrammes (1918), and Ernest Fenollosa’s essay on the Chinese written language, “The Chinese Written Character as a Medium for Poetry” (1919). It should also call to mind Ezra Pound, who saw in Chinese literature the tools to “make it new.”

About the books, he writes that Cheng, “a Chinese-French structuralist who trained with Roland Barthes and Jacques Lacan—offers

that the Chinese written language has an emptiness or void at its heart; its written language demonstrates the shifting relationships of person to world, expressing ontological truths … Cheng states that these relationships translate into poetic images … Subject and object become a matter of language, in which the terms serve to reflect each other—not signifying themselves, but projecting outwards as a comprehensive image … Another way of saying this is that the poet and the poem do not unite, but refract each other.

As for Michèle Métail, “French sinologist and OuLiPo member,” her study of “reversible poems,” which “can be written in grids, in which all directions yield different readings or narratives; written in circles that have no discernible starting or ending points or be poems that, although written conventionally, can be read backwards, like palindromes”—reading one poem discussed by Métail, Turner writes:

The message is clear: lust is bad. Yet one has the sense that in a similar poem one could continue the permutations and end up with something very different. Perhaps that’s because of the “void” at the heart of the Chinese written language as much as the form of huiwenshi. The fine line between the “inside” of the poem and the “outside” of the poem functions as an image that refracts the world. So the question this poses is if this theory applies to literature in English today, to Chinese-language literature today, and if the theory can be implemented as a writing method, or only read backwards?

Click on the image above for the full review.

Moore & Moore’s Chinese Literature Podcast on forthcoming Mang Ke

Chinese Literature Podcast  Rob and Lee Moore (no relation) of the Chinese Literature Podcast talked to me about my forthcoming translation of October Dedications by Mang Ke 芒克 (Zephyr).
 It was a wide-ranging conversation, but Moore & Moore managed to edit down to something listenable.
 Click the image to link to the podcast page. iTunes required for listening.

Call for abstracts: “The Moving Target: Translation and Chinese Poetry”

Call for abstracts | The Moving Target: Translation and Chinese Poetry

On 1-2 June 2018, Maghiel van Crevel and Lucas Klein will convene a workshop entitled “The Moving Target: Translation and Chinese Poetry” at Leiden University, toward the publication of an edited volume in 2019.

Participants will arrive on 31 May and depart on 3 June. Hotel accommodation and all meals will be funded by the Leiden University Institute for Area Studies (LIAS), the International Institute for Asian Studies (IIAS) and other local funding bodies.

The workshop aims to conjoin critical engagement with the notion of translation with deep linguistic, literary and cultural knowledge on poetry in Chinese: written in Chinese, translated into Chinese, or translated from Chinese into other languages.

We take translation to encompass everything from the reproduction in a target language of a text in a source language to cultural translation in its various interpretations. Examples of the latter include Chinese-foreign interactions of poetry’s texts, contexts and metatexts, but also interactions “within Chinese,” for instance between classical and modern cultural forms or between various identifications and persuasions in poetry.

In addition to the generic significance of studying translation-and-poetry, contributors will be encouraged to draw on issues that are specific to cultural China. For example: the proverbial and debatable untranslatability of classical Chinese poetry, modern Chinese poetry’s “foreign origins” and the conspicuous presence of foreign poetries in Chinese-language poetic discourse, and the power of poetry as a meme in Chinese cultural tradition, including social and political dimensions of this tradition.

We welcome proposals for broad-strokes essays as well as case studies from a variety of perspectives: textual and contextual, critical and historical, theoretical and methodological, etc. Abstracts of about 300 words should be sent to m.van.crevel @ hum.leidenuniv.nl and lklein @ hku.hk.

Deadline for abstracts: 18 December 2017. The selection of abstracts will be completed and invitations will go out early in January 2018. Full draft papers of c. 8000 words must reach the conveners by 23 April. All papers will be made available to all participants by 1 May. The workshop’s design will maximize time for discussion and feedback. Revised papers will be expected by 15 October.

Please consider submitting an abstract, forward this information to those you think might be interested and let us know if you need any additional information.

Sincerely,

Maghiel and Lucas

Anthony Madrid on the Shijing’s “Thorn Vine on the Wall” [wag finger like no-no-no]

Writing for The Paris Review, Anthony Madrid remembers misremembering a poem from the Shijing, “the oldest anthology of Chinese poetry,” he explains. “The poems date back to the Zhou dynasty, which fell apart in the year 256 B.C.E. … You’ve probably actually heard of the Shijing, just not under that name. In English, it is usually called The Book of Odes or The Book of Songs or The Confucian Odes or that sort of thing. I’m not fond of any of those Englishings; I think it should be translated literally: The Poetry Classic.”

Madrid offers “the original poem, with Pinyin Romanization, for those of you out there who know what to do with Pinyin Romanization,” but what he’s trying to recall is how Burton Watson translated the poem, “Burton Watson, never better, never more elegant”:

Thorn vine on the wall
must not be stripped:
words in the chamber
must not be told.
What could be told
would be the ugliest tale!

Thorn vine on the wall
must not be pulled down:
words in the chamber
must not be recited.
What could be recited
would be the longest tale!

Thorn vine on the wall
must not be bundled off:
words in the chamber
must not be rehearsed.
What could be rehearsed
would be a shameful tale!

But what he ended up reciting was, instead:

Thorn vine on the wall?
must not be stripped.
Words in the chamber … ?
must not be repeated.
’Cuz what could be repeated … ?
Ugkh. You don’t wanna know.

Thorn vine on the wall?
must not be taken down.
Words in the chamber … ?
Shhh. That’s—not for you.
’Cuz what happened in that chamber … ?
[wag finger like no-no-no]
Uh-uh. Uh-uh.

Thorn vine on the wall?
must not be fucked with.
Words in the chamber … uuuhhh.
’Cuz—that … ?
[waving hand in front of your nose in the Mexican manner of waving off a bad smell]
that? … ooh, ugkh.

Read the whole piece (click the image above) to find out why that might be even better.

Goodman on Wang’s New Literary History of Modern China

The new “China Channel” of the LA Review of Books has published Eleanor Goodman’s review of A New Literary History of Modern China, edited by David Der-Wei Wang 王德威. An enthusiastic review, Goodman writes:

one theme of the book is the importance of inclusivity, exchange, and communication to understanding trends not just in literature, but in global affairs. Many of the writers under discussion here spent time outside of China, particularly in Japan, Europe, and the United States, or are impressively well read in foreign literatures. These essays address works that have been translated from Chinese into other languages, or works in other languages that have been translated into Chinese. Implicit in their juxtaposition, then, is also a picture of geopolitics and global history. These lines of communication were largely severed during the years of the Cultural Revolution; the essays from this period turn inward and are necessarily more political. In contrast, the essays engaging with the outward-looking years around the turns of the twentieth and twenty-first centuries demonstrate just how fundamental literature and art are to a mutually intelligible and diverse world culture. It becomes clear reading this book that one can trace the larger history of China itself across the twentieth century by looking at its literature and its writers.

And for mentions of specific entries:

Carlos Rojas writes engagingly of the “issues of gender and gender inversion” at stake in the power dynamics displayed in a novel of the early 1800s. Amy Dooling describes the “publishing sensation that unequivocally established the commercial potential of ‘the woman writer’,” a phenomenon that is a close cousin to – if not a progenitor of – the contemporary “beautiful woman writers” who today proliferate on the shelves of Chinese bookstores with their airbrushed large-eyed portraits. Maghiel van Crevel presents a powerful examination of a “‘cult’ of poetry” that romanticizes suicide among its members, the effects of which can still be seen in more recent examples like the tragic suicide of the Foxconn factory worker and poet Xu Lizhi.

and

Enjoy science fiction? Mingwei Song’s terrific piece on a “posthuman future” and contemporary Chinese sci-fi will fascinate. You want rock and roll? Read Ao Wang’s rollicking insider’s take on the “Godfather of Chinese rock ‘n roll,” the irreverent and fascinating Cui Jian. In this meticulously edited and selected anthology, there really is something for everyone. All you have to do is look.

Click on the image above for the full review.

Foster on Qin & Goodman’s Iron Moon

Kate Hanson Foster reviews Iron Moon: An Anthology of Chinese Migrant Worker Poetry, edited by Qin Xiaoyu 秦晓宇 and translated by Eleanor Goodman, for The Somerville Times. Foster writes:

The translations by Eleanor Goodman are an impeccable achievement of negotiating two linguistic landscapes. Multiple layers of artistry are at play here, integrating the raw spirit of the original poems while also strategically fitting language into larger aesthetic dimensions. This collection reminds us of the many human complexities of industrial life, and the exceptional literary value in working class poetry. This book should be a staple in every poet’s respected collection.

Click on the image above for the full review.