Cornell Chronicle on Admussen’s Recite and Refuse

The Cornell Chronicle has a write-up on Recite and Refuse: Contemporary Chinese Prose Poetry, by Cornell’s own Nick Admussen. “Nick Admussen began his study of Chinese prose poetry eight years ago with the expectation that the genre would be similar to its counterpart in Western literature,” the Chronicle writes:

nonconformist poems that reject the structures of most poetry. But … the Chinese poems shared a method in which they imitated some type of prose – whether it was an advertisement, a travelogue or political speech – and then altered it in some way…

“What surprised me the most when I started the process is I had read a lot of American and a lot of French prose poetry,” Admussen said. “I had read scholars from other languages, especially from France, who would argue that with prose poetry, it’s this rebelliousness – breaking the rules of poetry and breaking the lines. But a lot of Chinese prose poetry tends toward the obedient.”

Recite and Refuse is now out from University of Hawai’i Press. Click on the image above for the full write-up.

Chinese Poetry in the Lucien Stryk Shortlist

The American Literary Translators Association (ALTA) has announced the 2016 Lucien Stryk Asian Translation Prize shortlist, including two books that are translations from the Chinese, by Hai Zi 海子 and Wang Anshi 王安石:

zi_coverRipened Wheat: Selected Poems of Hai Zi
By Hai Zi
Translated from the Chinese by Ye Chun
(The Bitter Oleander Press)

Hai Zi is one of China’s most beloved poets, whose suicide at the age of 25, just months before the Tiananmen Square protests of 1989, catapulted him to a fame that is almost mythic in proportions. Although his poetic oeuvre is relatively small, his archetypal descriptions of a rural and natural world now virtually extinguished by industrialization, have a lyric intensity that is richly evocative:


Pear flowers
arise along the dirt wall
Cow bells dinging

Auntie brings my nephews over
They stand in front of me
like two charcoal sticks

Sunlight is in fact very strong
Whip and blood for all that grows!

Ye Chun is not the first translator to represent Hai Zi’s poetry in English, but her generous selection of poems and informative preface provide an excellent introduction to this marvelous poet.

The Late Poems of Wang An-Shih

By Wang An-Shih
Translated from the Chinese by David Hinton
(New Directions)


David Hinton has long been accepted as one of the premier translators of ancient Chinese texts. He has translated not only collections of the essential poets Li Po, Tu Fu, Wang Wei, Po Chü-i and others, but also given us new interpretations of the I Ching, the Analects, and the Tao Te Ching. In this new translation, Hinton brings us the less well-known Sung poet Wang An-shih, an eccentric figure and brilliant poet.

I can’t see anything of this autumn day,
its last few scraps of yellow in treetops.

Out with my goosefoot staff, I think of
serene fields, but looking find no light.

Hinton captures the Chan Buddhist background of the poet and the freely roaming nature of his later life in finely-wrought language and vivid images. This is an important collection rendered beautifully into English.

This year’s judges are Steve Bradbury, Eleanor Goodman, and Kendall Heitzman. Click either image for the full list.

Rothenberg on Pound & Yip

Jerome Rothenberg has posted his introduction to a collection of the poetry in English of Wai-lim Yip 葉維廉, forthcoming next year. Here’s an excerpt:

But what about [Ezra Pound’s] invention of China or of Chinese poetry?

What is left to say is that Pound set a style that came to typify early twentieth-century translations into English/American and that he later pointed (in Canto 49, say) toward other styles that were possibly closer to the classical Chinese … It fell to Wai-lim Yip – a poet first and foremost – to unearth all this for us – not to invent China over again but to explain and explore aspects of the traditional poetry that link to American works after and beyond Pound and William Carlos Williams.  From Yip’s work we get what we might call the montage principle based on both a knowledge and practice of Chinese poetry and an observation of the work of later American poets, including Pound himself in the Cantos.  (That Yip’s approach is not only that of a scholar but of a deeply involved poet is also something worth noting.)  In the course of doing this Yip has opened for us not only a sensible view of Chinese poetry but a profound understanding of the nature of translation and the possibilities of poetry as they emerge from an actual practice.

Click on the image above for the full piece.

Jidi Majia in Kiswahili

The poetry of Jidi Majia 吉狄马加 is now available in Kiswahili! Quartz writes:

Jidi Majia, a writer from southwest China, once described himself as a Chinese poet with an “African complex.” He emulated writers like Senegal’s Leopold Sedar Senghor, Nigeria’s Chinua Achebe, or Kenya’s Ngũgĩ wa Thiong’o, cheered for the end of apartheid in South Africa, and cried when Nelson Mandela died … Now, the poetry of a man who has never set foot on the African continent can be read in Kiswahili, in a new collection called Maneno Ya Moto Kutoka China or Words of Fire from China … the first time a creative work of Chinese literature has been translated into the lingua franca

Click the image for the full write-up.

Bai Meigui Chinese Poetry Translation Competition

eleanor goodmanThe University of Leeds is hosting its third Bai Meigui Translation Competition, with poems–by Chi Lingyun 池凌云, Qin Xiaoyu 秦晓宇, and Xu Xiangchou 徐乡愁–chosen by judges Eleanor Goodman, Heather Inwood, and Canaan Morse.

HeatherInwoodThe winner will receive a £490 bursary to the ‘Translate in the City‘ summer school at City University, London, in July 2017, and will have her or his winning translation published in Stand magazine in 2017.

canaan morseClick here for the poems, and here for the overview and judges’ bios.

The deadline is 20 August, 2016.

Klein on New Premodern Chinese Poetry Translations in LARB

2016-07-15_1030The Los Angeles Review of Books @lareviewofbooks has published “Tribunals of Erudition and Taste: or, Why Translations of Premodern Chinese Poetry Are Having a Moment Right Now,” my take on what looks like something of a resurgence in translation into English.

I use a nineteenth-century debate between Matthew Arnold and Francis Newman to frame a review of Chloe Garcia Roberts’s translation of Li Shangyin 李商隱, David Hinton’s translation of Wang An-shih 王安石, an anthology / travelogue by Red Pine (Bill Porter), and Stephen Owen’s translation of the complete Du Fu 杜甫, alongside Ira Nadel on Ezra Pound and the New Directions re-release of Ezra Pound’s Cathay (and mention of Gary Snyder, Bob Perelman, Paul Kroll, Eliot Weinberger, and more). Here’s how it ends:

The stakes of poetry translation from Chinese are indeed the stakes both of how we understand translation and how we in the English-speaking world understand China. Translation is neither simply a matter for scholars to judge, nor is it something that can be left to the unaccountable imaginings of revelers in poetry — any more than China should be something only specialists or tourists alone can pronounce upon. Rather, bringing expertise and excitement together, translation can help expand our conceptions of poetry and of China, demanding more from ourselves, and more from it. The contentiousness may remain, but it can motivate us to create new and better representations.

So will American poetry turn outward again, and in the process help redefine China as more than a strategic competitor, accused of currency manipulation by presidential candidates, or more than a polluted manufacturer to which we outsource abuses of human rights and labor? Will Chinese literature prove an old repository of poetic presentation from which the United States can both learn and create new beauty? Certainly larger historical and socioeconomic forces will determine the directions our poetry turns, but insofar as what we publish has any role, I see reasons for optimism — and in that optimism, a readiness to engage in the tensions of global and local that inhere in translation.

The recent poetry collections covered in this essay demonstrate a hunger for new ways of understanding and appreciating China, and more are coming soon … With these additions reaching new audiences, we may see premodern Chinese poetry making it new once again.

Click the image for the full article.

Johnston on Holton’s Staunin Ma Lane

Staunin Ma Lane book coverMichael Johnston blogs about Staunin Ma Lane, Brian Holton’s translations of classical Chinese poetry:

Brian Holton’s passions for language and languages, for the poetic and the pawky, his musicianship which adds rhythm, melody, counterpoint and grace notes to his translations are all sweetly evident in the poems in this beautiful book.  It not only reads well; it looks good, such is the care taken in the design.

Brian is working in the tradition of Hugh MacDiarmid whose drunk narrator gazed at a thistle and Lewis Grassic Gibbon whose Scots Quair caught the language and the land fair and square.  A long time ex-pat, my own knowledge of Scots needs this stimulus.  The book and the poems should be on the syllabus of Scottish schools teaching Scots and Chinese.

Click the image for the full write-up.

Qiu on the Poems of Inspector Chen

51ogn-PhntL._SX331_BO1,204,203,200_ (1)LARB has published Qiu Xiaolong’s 裘小龙 Poems of Inspector Chen, the poetry of the fictional hero of Qiu’s Detective Chen novels:

Chen Cao started writing during his college years in the early eighties, a period sometimes described as a “golden” one for modern Chinese poetry.  After the end of the Cultural Revolution in 1976, a considerable number of young people burst confidently onto the literary scene. But Chen is more of an accidental poet. While majoring in English and American literature, he studied with the well-known poet and critic Bian Zhilin (1910-2000), and handed in several pieces written as a sort of homework. With Bian’s encouragement, Chen had them published in Poetry and other magazines. In the meantime, he started translating T. S. Eliot and other Western poets, which added to his visibility in the circle.  While doing research for his thesis on Eliot, he fell in love with a young librarian named Ling in Beijing Library. Some of his early poems turned out to be idealistic in spite of the modernist influence.

Click the image for the full piece.

Tranter on China in Tranter

Australian poet John Tranter has published an essay titled “China: The influences of Eastern poetry and calligraphy,” in which:

A persuasive theory equates the English-language poets of the Elizabethan age (Shakespeare, Wyatt, Surrey, Sidney, Marlowe, Raleigh, Campion, and others) with the Chinese-language poets of the T’ang (or Tang) dynasty (618 to 907) which is often considered to be the Golden Age of Chinese poetry. Poets like Wang Wei, Tu Fu, Li Bai (or Li Po), and later poets like Su Shih, have in common with the Elizabethan poets and with many modern American poets that they were highly-educated and at the same time virtually unemployable. The emphasis on academic qualifications and the impossibility of attaining proper employment haunt these three eras: the Elizabethan Age, the Tang Period, and the modern American age.This means that many scholars from those three periods are highly trained in the various branches of rhetoric, yet afflicted with a world-view that is highly complex, negative, and painfully aware of the likelihood of unemployment.


The picture we in the west have of Li Bai is that of cheerful mastery through excess: he wrote millions of poems, threw most of them away, drank lots of alcohol and drowned on a drunken swim, trying to catch the reflection of the moon in the water. So legend has it.

Australians like poets who drink too much.

Click the link for the full article.