Zero Distance Anthology of New Chinese Poetry

unnamedAnnouncing Zero Distance | New Poetry from China, edited and translated By Liang Yujing–newly published by Tinfish Press.

“Another anthology?” you’re probably thinking–“Just what we need! Put it on the shelf next to the other dozen or so anthologies of modern and contemporary Chinese poetry that have been published in English since 1990. But look at the names this anthology includes:

Ba Ling 八零
Xidu Heshang 西毒何殇
Song Yu 宋雨
Wang Youwei 王有尾
Li Suo 里所
Mie Ren 乜人
Zuo You 左右
Ma Fei 马非
Ai Hao 艾蒿
You Ruoxin 游若昕
Wu Yulun 吴雨伦
Li Xunyang 李勋阳
Qin Bazi 秦巴子
Dong Yue 东岳
Xi Wa 西娃
Zhu Jian 朱剑
Li Yi 李异
Ya Zi 芽子
Jiang Tao 蒋涛
Xiao Zhao 小招
Han Jingyuan 韩敬源
Tu Ya 图雅
Ouyang Yu 欧阳昱
Chun Sue 春树
Yu Youyou 余幼幼
Huang Haixi 黄海兮
Shen Haobo 沈浩波
Wei Huan 苇欢
Yi Sha 伊沙

I’ve barely seen any of these poets in an anthology before! Zero Distance, then, should be something new.

Click on the image above for ordering information.


Matt Turner on Qin & Goodman’s Iron Moon Anthology

In a piece titled “A Poem of Shame: In the Words of China’s Workers” published at Hyperallergic, Matt Turner gives his take on Iron Moon: An Anthology of Chinese Worker Poetry, edited by Qin Xiaoyu 秦晓宇 and translated by Eleanor Goodman. He explains,

In 1923, not long after returning from working as a correspondent in Moscow, becoming the Chairman of the Chinese Communist Party (CCP), and translating “The Internationale” for the first time into Chinese, Qu Qiubai wrote the poem “Iron Flower” (which I’ve translated below). It was written at an odd moment in CCP history: a literati like Qu could accomplish all he did politically and write modernist poetry, as much about the revolution as about signifying a new kind of beauty.

I’m not of a soft and smooth nature,
I’m not in the midst of glam and grace;
inside this smoke-filled factory,
forging my iron flower, fire surges.
Iron flower not receiving the warmth of sunlight,

iron flower not getting the solace of moonlight;
the unifying gale of fire in the furnace,
it cracks to burst the pistils into flame.
That place’s sound of hammers is dull,
that place’s sound of metal is staccato;
like a copper pine whipping the hard wind,
I’ve fallen in love, and can’t bear desertion.

This isn’t a fan dance, lightly circling across the floor —
but wherever you look are callouses — strong hands.
The inextinguishable flame burns in the factory,
and shines on my resolute and bold chest.

I billow labor’s rage in the iron furnace,
I envision, envision the Great Community,
and drunkenly belt out a song… the masses!
Forging my iron flower, fire surges.

… A volume of similar indictments, Iron Moon: An Anthology of Chinese Worker Poetry, edited by Qin Xiaoyu and translated by Eleanor Goodman, collects work by Xu Lizhi and 30 other worker poets. Their poetry ranges from lyrical, like the above piece, to experimental (exemplified by another of Xu’s poems, a verbatim listing of a peanut butter production slip).

Poems are in verse, prose, and combinations thereof. Some tell stories, some list facts, some offer only fragments. The formal variety is on par with what you would get from any major anthology in the US (excepting spoken-word poetry).

The authors are not members of literary coteries, either. Aside from being poets, all they have in common is that they are migrant laborers.

Click the image for the full review.

MCLC Review of Jade Ladder

200Modern Chinese Literature & Culture has published Meng Liansu’s review of Jade Ladder: Contemporary Chinese Poetry, edited by Yang Lian 杨炼 and W. N. Herbert, with Brian Holton and Qin Xiaoyu 秦晓宇. Here’s how she begins her piece:

Jade Ladder is a welcome addition to the handful of anthologies of contemporary Chinese poetry in English, and the most comprehensive one to date. Featuring fifty-three poets born in mainland China and nearly 200 poems written between the 1970s and 2010, this anthology introduces the reader to a significantly larger number of excellent poets and poems than its peers and presents a fascinating overview of contemporary Chinese poetry in the past three decades. It is an important resource for general English-language readers interested in poetry and China, as well as for students, teachers and scholars of Chinese literature and culture.

Click the image above for the full review.

‘Lights Have Entered Us’: Jeffrey Yang on Time of Grief

New Directions editor Jeffrey Yang has a piece at The Atlantic about George Oppen & Time of Grief: Mourning Poems, an assemblage of international poetry he recently edited. Here’s how Atlantic writer Joe Fassler describes the book:

The new poetry anthology Time of Grief: Mourning Poems is an unusual, inventive take on a familiar subject: It explores grief in its various shades and incarnations. Structured like a calendar over a span of 49 days—a traditional mourning period in some Buddhist and Judaic traditions—the book includes a diverse sequence of poems written in more than 20 countries. With authors ranging from an 11th-century Chinese poet to Tomas Tranströmer, the Swedish winner of the 2011 Nobel Prize for Literature, Time of Grief presents human bereavement in unprecedented scale and scope.

Xi Chuan’s poem “Twilight” 暮色 is included in the anthology. Click here or on the image above to read the piece.

DJS Translation Award for 2012

from Poetry East West 诗东西:

DJS Translation Award for 2012

News Release December 26, 2012

DJS Translation Award for 2012 will be given to the following individuals whose new translations of Chinese poetry have formed a significant part of “New Cathay: Contemporary Chinese Poetry 1990-2012” (to be published by Tupelo Press in 2013):

Nick Admussen (for translation of Ya Shi)

Christopher Lupke (for translation of Xiao Kaiyu)

Jonathan Stalling (for translation of Zheng Xiaoqiong)

Katie Farris (for co-translation of Duo Duo, Liao Yiwu, Zhang Shuguang, Feng Yan, and Hu Xudong)

Afaa Weaver (for co-translation of Sun Wenbo and Jiang Hao)

Tony Barnstone (for co-translation of Jiang Tao, Hu Xudong and Li Shumin)

Kerry Shawn Keys (for co-translation of Song Lin)

Eleanor Goodman (for co-translation of Bai Hua)

Jennifer Kronovet (for co-translation of Wang Xiaoni and Lan Lan)

Elizabeth Reitzell (for co-translation of Sun Wenbo)

Cody Reese (for co-translation of Hu Xudong)

The above translators will share the DJS Translation Award for 2012.


The 2011 DJS Translation Award recipient was Neil Aitken for his co-translations of poetry by Chinese poets Lü De’an, Sun Wenbo, Jiang Tao, Qin Xiaoyu, Yang Xiaobin, Zhang Zhihao, Liu Jiemin, Yu Xiang, Lü Yue, and Jiang Li.

DJS Translation Award was established by DJS Art Foundation, a private entity, to promote literary exchange between China and other countries and to encourage quality translation of poetry. DJS has supported several projects such as the multi-lingual journal Poetry East West. For more information, please visit the DJS pages on the website of Poetry East West:


Renditions Special Issue: Chinese Science Fiction: Late Qing and the Contemporary

The next issue of Renditions, no. 77/78 (Spring and Autumn of 2012), a special issue on late Qing and contemporary science fiction, is now available for order, guest edited by Mingwei Song 宋明煒. He writes:

As a popular genre, science fiction has energized modern Chinese literature by evoking an array of sensations ranging from the grotesque to the sublime, from the utopian to the apocalyptic, and from the human to the post-human. It mingles nationalism with fantasy, sharpens social criticism with an acute awareness of China’s potential for further reform as well as its limitations, and envelops political consciousness in scientific discourses on the power of technology or the technology of power. Science fiction today both echoes and complicates the late Qing writers’ vision of China’s future and the transformation of human society.

Juxtaposing writings from the first two decades of successive centuries has proven to be a meaningful project. Both epochs are characterized by heightened aspiration for change as well as by deep anxieties about China’s future. A comparative reading of the stories from the late Qing and the contemporary sheds light on their common themes. Yet recapitulations of the earlier age’s literary motifs also lead to self-reflexive variations that point to the latter period’s uniqueness.

The history of Chinese science fiction has never been continuous. Only three short booms can be identified: the last decade of the Qing dynasty (1902-1911); the first four years of the New Era (1978-1982); and the beginning of the twenty-first century. These booms alternated with long dormant periods. This Renditions special issue showcases representative works of Chinese science fiction from its first and latest booms, focusing on the late Qing and the contemporary. An earlier anthology Science Fiction from China (New York: Praeger, 1989), edited by Wu Dingbo and Patrick D. Murphy, introduced English readers to the second generation of Chinese science fiction writers.

The works selected have all been translated into English for the first time. This special issue is also the first English-language collection of Chinese science fiction since the publication of Wu and Murphy’s anthology in 1989. The thirteen pieces included are divided into two groups: the first four are stories and novel excerpts from the first decade of Chinese science fiction’s development; the other nine pieces are recent works by contemporary authors. I will welcome any comments and criticism.

Here’s the Table of Contents:

Preface: Mingwei Song

Part One: The Early Twentieth Century

Xu Nianci, “New Tales of Mr. Braggadocio” (Translated by Nathaniel Isaacson) 徐念慈: 新法螺先生譚

Wu Jianren, New Story of the Stone: excerpts (Translated by Sterling Swallow) 吳趼人:新石頭記(節選)

Louise Strong, “The Art of Creating Humanity” (Translated by Suozi [Lu Xun]; Re-translated by Carlos Rojas) 索子[魯迅]: 造人朮

Xu Zhuodai, “The Secret Room” (Translated by Christopher Rea) 徐卓呆: 秘密室

Part Two: The Early Twenty First Century

Liu Cixin, “The Poetry Cloud” (Translated by Chi-yin Ip and Cheuk Wong) 劉慈欣: 詩雲

Liu Cixin, “The Village Schoolteacher” (Translated by Christopher Elford and Jiang Chenxin) 劉慈欣: 鄉村教師

Han Song, “The Passengers and the Creator” (Translated by Nathaniel Isaacson) 韓松: 乘客與創造者

Wang Jinkang, “The Reincarnated Giant” (Translated by Carlos Rojas) 王晉康:轉生的巨人

La La, “The Radio Waves That Never Die” (Translated by Petula Parris-Huang) 拉拉: 永不消逝的電波

Zhao Haihong, “1923-a Fantasy” (Translated by Nicky Narman and Pang Zhaoxia) 趙海虹: 一九二三年科幻故事

Chi Hui, “The Rainforest” (Translated by Jie Li) 遲卉: 雨林

Fei Dao, “The Demon’s Head” (Translated by David Hull) 飛氘: 魔鬼的頭顱

Xia Jia, “The Demon-Enslaving Flask” (Translated by Linda Rui Feng) 夏笳: 関妖精的瓶子

300 Modern & Contemporary Chinese Poems

Collections of the “three hundred best poems” have been popular in China ever since the Three Hundred Tang Poems 唐詩三百首, compiled in 1763 by Sun Zhu 孫洙 (a/k/a Hengtang Tuishi 衡塘退士, “the Retiree from Hengtang”), and that anthology was probably riffing off the Shijing 詩經 (The Classic of Poetry), whose “three hundred poems” were supposed to have been culled by Confucius.

Now, as reported on Martin Winter’s blog some time ago, poet Zhao Siyun 赵思运 has put together his list of the best poems of the twentieth century (or, from 1917 – 2011), the Three Hundred Chinese New Poems 中国新诗 300 首. In its breadth it’s not a bad representation of the most significant modern and contemporary Chinese poets; it’s mainland-heavy, at the expense of Hongkong, Macau, and Taiwanese poets, but that’s no surprise. Still, with 236 poets by my count, it’s easy to be broadly representative, but of course it’s limited to only a few poems by each poet, leaving a lot to be desired by way of depth (as a point of comparison, I count 77 in the Three Hundred Tang Poems, with some poets having as many as thirty pieces). Here’s the entry, for instance, for Xi Chuan, who at three poems is about as broadly represented as it gets, though only with early poems:

  • 西川 (1963— )/ 在哈尔盖仰望星空 / 停电 / 虚构的家谱

For a sense of whether these poems are representative of Xi Chuan’s work, know that he and I decided to include only one, “Power Outage,” in Notes on the Mosquito.

Mark Burnhope Reviews Jade Ladder

At Magma Poetry Mark Burnhope has posted his review of Jade Ladder, the recent anthology of contemporary Chinese poetry published in the UK. Burnhope is new to Chinese poetry, and he doesn’t know whether family names come first or last in Chinese, but he raises some nice questions about translation in his enthusiastic take on Chinese poetry today. Here’s how it begins:

In his essay concluding Jade Ladder, Brian Holton discusses the trials, tribulations, negotiations and compromises involved in translating Chinese poetry into English. Some of Yang Lian and Qin Xiaoyu’s first choices were shelved, he writes, “because the joke just wasn’t funny in English”, poems “were speaking only to Chinese readers’, or they ultimately “fell flat in translation”. The translators generally avoided footnotes unless they appeared in original poems, or unless they would “transform a poem that otherwise would be closed to the reader into something more accessible and enjoyable”.

Contemporary Poetry from China: A Reading and Discussion with Xi Chuan and Zhou Zan

Poetry reading and discussion with Xi Chuan and Zhou Zan 周瓒 at the Library of Congress last October in promotion of Push Open the Window. Xi Chuan read his poems in Chinese and English in my translation; Zhou Zan read her poems in Chinese, with English translations read by Carolyn Forché. A discussion follows.