C D Wright on Xi Chuan

I’ve had a hard time processing C.D. Wright’s unexpected death since January 12, when she passed away as a result of a clot on a flight home from Chile. Death of an admired figure is always hard, and though I didn’t know C.D. well, I’ve long felt a personal resonance and connection. Unlike many American poets, contemporary Chinese poetry was not a stranger to her: she accompanied Bei Dao onstage for his honorary PhD at Brown in 2011. And she blurbed the back cover of Notes on the Mosquito.

In The Poet, the Lion, Talking Pictures, El Farolito, a Wedding in St. Roch, the Big Box Store, the Warp in the Mirror, Spring, Midnights, Fire & All (Copper Canyon), a selection of snippets from her prose writings about poetry, there’s more. Though he’s not mentioned by name, pages 82 – 85 are about Xi Chuan. It’s from “Of Those Who Can Afford to be Gentle,” previously unpublished in English, but translated into Portuguese by Cláudia Roquette-Pinto for Revista Confraria: Arte e literatura (and Ron Slate writes a little about it here). She writes:

The poets who became important symbols of the June 4 events are either those who were not in the country at the time, and could not return, or those who left he country, some at risk of arrest and some not. And inside, since Tiananmen, many began to enjoy, within limits, the autonomy of international urban life. The visiting writer, the poet who stayed with his face, stayed silent, and began again, reconnecting with his language one word at a time–bird, bicycle, city, fire, peony–in a series of prose poems that commence with literal and naive elaborations on the simple nouns and turn toward skeptical, if not wryly antagonistic, investigations of naming and meaning-making. All of this, to what end, what end. “Only when a nail pierced through my hand did my hand reveal the truth; only when black smoke choked me to tears could I feel my existence. Riding sidesaddle on a white horse ten fairies tore up my heart.” Zigzag. Learn to love the enigma, learn to love the paradox. Speak again.

Lupke’s Xiao Kaiyu on Asymptote

http://file.juzimi.com/category_pictures/201401/xiaokaiyujingdianyulu29779.jpgAsymptote has published new translations of Xiao Kaiyu 蕭開愚 poetry by Christopher Lupke.

He sleeps in a swimming pool filled with ancient texts,
a renovated workshop, looking into the air,
speaking short incomprehensible sentences.
Unfathomable ideas are concealed in stiff reeds of utterance,
The soldier’s language comes from an imperceptible battlefield, but who can  understand it?

他睡在滿是舊籍的游泳池
改建的工作間,望着空氣
說着晦澀的短句子,
無法破解的意思藏匿在堅挺的語音芒刺中,
戰士的語言來自看不見的戰場,有誰懂得?

Click the image above for the full suite.

Mohabir on Bradbury’s Hsia Yu at Jacket2

Rajiv Mohabir reviews Steve Bradbury’s translation of Salsa, by Hsia Yü , for Imaginative Reading at Jacket2:

Translator Steve Bradbury says in his endnotes that this collection can be seen as a post-impressionist Proustian poème-à-clef that lends itself to “imaginative readings.” For Bradbury, the importance of the poem is in its multiple significations and readings. It’s clear Bradbury preserved the musicality of the line, which is a feature of poetry that can be impossible yet imperative to translate given social distance and dissimilarities between linguistic groups. Preserving or transposing the sonorous quality of Taiwanese Chinese into English, Bradbury realizes Yü’s extraordinary wordplay.

Click the image for the full write-up.

Wadland on Red Pine’s Finding them Gone

“Made in China”The new LARB features Justin Wadland on Finding them Gone: Visiting China’s Poets of the Past, a Chinese poetry guide through China by Red Pine, the avatar of Bill Porter. Wadland begins:

IN FINDING THEM GONE, the translator Red Pine, a.k.a. travel writer Bill Porter, calls on more than 40 ancient Chinese poets in 30 days. With three small porcelain cups and a flask of expensive bourbon, he crosses the country in search of places associated with the authors of his most beloved poems: usually their graves, but also former homes, memorial pavilions, and famous landmarks. Once located, regardless of the poet’s station in the literary afterlife, Porter pours his libations into the ground and then sips some himself.

Click the image for the full review.

Contemporary Chinese Poetry in Pangolin House

2016-02-26_1002The new issue of Pangolin House features translations of poems by Liu Wai-tong 廖偉棠 and Zhang Shuguang 张曙光, translated by Diana Shi and George O’Connell.

From Liu Wai-tong’s 讀中唐史 “Mid-Tang History”:

On the riverbank, the rebel army
passing with torches,
singing some barbaric tune.
Let them; I can’t make out a word.
Today, my white shift tattered,
I’m more like a flower.

Click the image above for the full issue.

Weinberger on Hinton’s and Minford’s versions of the I Ching

‘An Ancient Chinese Poet’; colored engraving of an original Chinese scrollEliot Weinberger writes about two new translations of the I Ching (Yijing) 易經 in the NYRB:

The two latest translations of the I Ching couldn’t be more unalike; they are a complementary yin and yang of approaches. John Minford is a scholar best known for his work on the magnificent five-volume translation of The Story of the Stone … His I Ching, obviously the result of many years of study, is over eight hundred pages long, much of it in small type, and encyclopedic … It is a tour de force of erudition, almost a microcosm of Chinese civilization, much as the I Ching itself was traditionally seen.

David Hinton is, with Arthur Waley and Burton Watson, the rare example of a literary Sinologist—that is, a classical scholar thoroughly conversant with, and connected to, contemporary literature in English … Hinton’s I Ching is equally inventive. It is quite short, with only two pages allotted to each hexagram … Rather than consulted, it is meant to be read cover to cover, like a book of modern poetry—though it should be quickly said that this is very much a translation, and not an “imitation” or a postmodern elaboration.

And here’s how it ends:

One could say that the I Ching is a mirror of one’s own concerns or expectations. But it’s like one of the bronze mirrors from the Shang dynasty, now covered in a dark blue-green patina so that it doesn’t reflect at all … In the I Ching, the same word means both “war prisoner” and “sincerity.” There is no book that has gone through as many changes as the Book of Change.

Click the image above to link to the article.