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

Farewell to Chutzpah! Lee Yew Leong interviews Austin Woerner

Ou Ning’s 欧宁 literary journal Chutzpah! 天南 is closing, and to commemorate it, Asymptote‘s Lee Yew Leong interviews its English pullout Peregrine editor Austin Woerner. Austin sez:

What was unique about Chutzpah! was that it didn’t see itself as a journal of Chinese literature per se, but rather as part of a global literary conversation … the magazine’s Chinese editors were very plugged into international literary goings-on, and in addition to translating “hot” Western writers into Chinese—Arundhati Roy, Roberto Bolaño, Jesmyn Ward, and Junot Diaz are a few of the bigger names—we collaborated with n+1 and A Public Space, and published interviews with prominent Western intellectuals. But that’s just one facet of the magazine’s identity. A big part of Ou Ning’s mission was to promote the work of younger Chinese writers and some older ones who hadn’t gotten the attention they deserved, and to create a niche in the Sinophone literary ecosphere for more offbeat, unconventional writing. The issues were themed and carefully curated, and the style was eclectic—we published everything from traditional realism to avant-garde experimentation to scifi, fantasy, and detective fiction—and our Sinophone contributors hailed both from mainland China (including ethnic minorities like Kazakhs, Uyghurs, and Yi), and from Taiwan, Hong Kong, and throughout the Chinese diaspora, from Singapore and Malaysia to the U.S. and the U.K. … As far as the English supplement goes, the notion was to make some of these new Sinophone writers available in English so that their work might eventually find readers outside of China and the exchange might become more bidirectional.

What satisfied me most was to have had a hand in creating a community of Chinese-English literary translators, and to have given a handful of translators, particularly younger ones, a chance to hone their craft and encounter new authors. When I started as English editor, my first priority was to make sure that translating for Chutzpah! was a worthwhile experience for our translators. So even though we often operated on a breakneck schedule, I insisted on having a complete editorial process, giving translators detailed responses and line edits and building in at least a couple days for revision and back and forth. I thought of “Peregrine” as a kind of translation incubator, where Chinese-English translators could cut their teeth on new authors and forms with the benefit of editorial feedback and in a friendly environment.

For the interview in full click the image above.