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.

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.

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.

Owen & Swartz’s Ruan Ji and Xi Kang from de Gruyters

As part of the ongoing Library of Chinese Humanities series, de Gruyter has now published the complete Poetry of Ruan Ji and Xi Kang, with translations by Stephen Owen and Wendy Swartz (edited by Ding Xiang Warner and Xiaofei Tian). It is not only available for sale, it is also available for open-access free download in .pdf format.

As the promotion materials state, the present translation of Ruan Ji 阮籍 (210–263)

not only provides a facing page critical Chinese text, it addresses two problems that have been ignored or not adequately treated in earlier works. First, it traces the history of the current text … Second, [earlier] translations have been shaped by the anachronistic assumption that Ruan Ji was loyal to the declining Wei dynasty, when actual power had been taken by the S[i]ma family, who founded the Jin dynasty after Ruan Ji’s death. The introduction shows how and when that assumption took full shape five centuries after Ruan Ji lived and why it is not tenable. This leads to a different kind of translation, closer to what a contemporary reader might have understood and far less certain than referring it to some political event.

Meanwhile, Xi Kang 嵇康 (ca. 223 – ca. 262) is presented with

a complete scholarly translation of his poetic works (including “Rhapsody on the Zither”) alongside the original texts. Many of Xi Kang’s poems are difficult and most are laden with allusions and quotations, adding another level of challenge to interpretation. Basic explanatory notes are provided.

Click the image for ordering / download information.

International Poetry Nights in Hong Kong

26 – 29 November
With readings at the HKICC Lee Shau Kee School of Creativity 香港兆基創意書院, with panel discussions at Chung Chi College 崇基學院, CUHK.

Featuring:

Agi Mishol, Anne Waldman, Chen Li 陳黎, Etienne Lalonde, Fernando Pinto do Amaral, Gemma Gorga, Ghassan Zaqtan, Gleb Shulpyakov, Jean Michel Espitallier, Kim Hyesoon, ko ko thett, Lau Yee-ching 飲江, Les Murray, Mohammed Bennis, Najwan Darwish, Nikola Madzirov, Noriko Mizuta, Peter Cole, Song Lin 宋琳, Wang Xiaoni 王小妮, and Yoko Tawada

2015-11-15_2350Click the images above for further information.

ALTA’s Something Crosses My Mind Blurb for the Stryk Shortlist

The ALTA blog is featuring the shortlisted titles for the Lucien Stryk Prize, and they’ve uploaded the blurb for Eleanor Goodman’s translation of Something Crosses My Mind 有什么在我心里一过 by Wang Xiaoni 王小妮.

“I rush down the stairs,/ pull open the door,/ dash about in the spring sunlight…” So begins this exquisite collection of translations by Eleanor Goodman of poems composed over the past several decades by Wang Xiaoni. In what follows we are taken out into the streets and on cross-country trains, into villages, cities and markets; we peep out through the windows of the poet’s home and sense the nostalgia invoked by a simple potato. Here is a poetry of the everyday, written in delicate yet deceptively simple language, and translated beautifully into its like in this first collection of Wang’s work to appear in English. Something Crosses My Mind offers up the refreshing voice of a poet forging her own path, neither shunning the political nor dwelling in the lyrical but gently and resolutely exploring her world in her writing.

Click the image to link to the page.

Ma Lan in Circumference

The newest issue of Circumference features poems by Ma Lan 马兰, translated by Charles Laughlin. Here’s from “Writing a Love Poem for a Tooth”为牙齿写首情诗:

2. As I am the freshly minted 2003 Poet Laureate of Bent-Neck Village, my dentist is a Yale PhD.
He insisted that I do a deep cleaning.
He stands on the Himalayas teaching Nepalese children to brush their teeth.
Brushing in the sunshine and smiles—modern industrial society takes smiling seriously
The snowy mountains flow downward.

 

2:作为新鲜出炉的2003年歪脖镇桂花诗人,我的牙医是耶鲁大学医学博士。
他坚持要我深度清洗牙齿.
他站在喜马拉牙山教尼泊尔的孩子学刷牙。
刷出阳光,刷出微笑。 现代工业社会讲究微笑。
雪山随流而下。

For the full set of poems, click here.

SCMP Reviews Something Crosses My Mind

Amy Russell at the South China Morning Post has reviewed Something Crosses My Mind 有什么在我心里一过, Eleanor Goodman’s translation of poems by Wang Xiaoni 王小妮. Here’s an excerpt:

The interaction between Wang’s characters and their environment is a crucial aspect of her work, vividly epitomised in Plowman, where “red … comes after punishment” and “after pain has been quietly survived”.

Wang’s gentle but weighty words are built from sharp observation, and deliver an honesty and rawness brilliantly captured in the translation by Harvard research associate Eleanor Goodman. As a northerner writing in the south, Wang has an outsider’s perspective, noticing details that locals might overlook.

Click on the image for the full review.

“Institution, Translation, Nation, Metaphor” at ACLA’s State of the Discipline Report

The American Comparative Literature Association asked me (me? I know!) to contribute to the decennial State of the Discipline Report, and my response–titled “Institution, Translation, Nation, Metaphor“–is now live. Here’s one of my more hyperopic paragraphs:

Institution, Translation, Nation, Metaphor

While translation is too often proposed as a “problem” rather than as a solution, it is indeed a problem to narrow conceptions such as that of the institutionalized nation. David Damrosch explains in his contribution here that what I referred to above as the common language assumed for national literature departments leads too easily to deeply engrained “Herderian assumptions”: “that the essence of a nation is carried by its national language, embodied in its highest form by the masterpieces of its national literature.” Yet many of the paradigmatic forms of national literatures were in fact developed out of translations: blank verse was invented for the translation of the Aeneid by Henry Howard, Earl of Surrey (c. 1516 – 1547), who also created the English sonnet by dividing the Italian into rhymed, metered quatrains (does the conceit of Elizabeth Barrett Browning’s Sonnets from the Portuguese represent the form’s residual foreignness?). The stakes I see in paying more attention to translation are not, then, limited to comparatists, but to people who think in and about and from institutions of national literature, as well.

Click the link above for the full article.

hile translation is too often proposed as a “problem” rather than as a solution, it is indeed a problem to narrow conceptions such as that of the institutionalized nation. David Damrosch explains in his contribution here that what I referred to above as the common language assumed for national literature departments leads too easily to deeply engrained “Herderian assumptions”: “that the essence of a nation is carried by its national language, embodied in its highest form by the masterpieces of its national literature.”[8] Yet many of the paradigmatic forms of national literatures were in fact developed out of translations: blank verse was invented for the translation of the Aeneid by Henry Howard, Earl of Surrey (c. 1516 – 1547), who also created the English sonnet by dividing the Italian into rhymed, metered quatrains (does the conceit of Elizabeth Barrett Browning’s Sonnets from the Portuguese represent the form’s residual foreignness?).[9] The stakes I see in paying more attention to translation are not, then, limited to comparatists, but to people who think in and about and from institutions of national literature, as well. – See more at: http://stateofthediscipline.acla.org/entry/institution-translation-nation-metaphor#sthash.RBKrdnSP.dpuf
While translation is too often proposed as a “problem” rather than as a solution, it is indeed a problem to narrow conceptions such as that of the institutionalized nation. David Damrosch explains in his contribution here that what I referred to above as the common language assumed for national literature departments leads too easily to deeply engrained “Herderian assumptions”: “that the essence of a nation is carried by its national language, embodied in its highest form by the masterpieces of its national literature.”[8] Yet many of the paradigmatic forms of national literatures were in fact developed out of translations: blank verse was invented for the translation of the Aeneid by Henry Howard, Earl of Surrey (c. 1516 – 1547), who also created the English sonnet by dividing the Italian into rhymed, metered quatrains (does the conceit of Elizabeth Barrett Browning’s Sonnets from the Portuguese represent the form’s residual foreignness?).[9] The stakes I see in paying more attention to translation are not, then, limited to comparatists, but to people who think in and about and from institutions of national literature, as well. – See more at: http://stateofthediscipline.acla.org/entry/institution-translation-nation-metaphor#sthash.RBKrdnSP.dpuf
While translation is too often proposed as a “problem” rather than as a solution, it is indeed a problem to narrow conceptions such as that of the institutionalized nation. David Damrosch explains in his contribution here that what I referred to above as the common language assumed for national literature departments leads too easily to deeply engrained “Herderian assumptions”: “that the essence of a nation is carried by its national language, embodied in its highest form by the masterpieces of its national literature.”[8] Yet many of the paradigmatic forms of national literatures were in fact developed out of translations: blank verse was invented for the translation of the Aeneid by Henry Howard, Earl of Surrey (c. 1516 – 1547), who also created the English sonnet by dividing the Italian into rhymed, metered quatrains (does the conceit of Elizabeth Barrett Browning’s Sonnets from the Portuguese represent the form’s residual foreignness?).[9] The stakes I see in paying more attention to translation are not, then, limited to comparatists, but to people who think in and about and from institutions of national literature, as well. – See more at: http://stateofthediscipline.acla.org/entry/institution-translation-nation-metaphor#sthash.RBKrdnSP.dpuf