Butler reviews Hinton’s Classical Chinese Poetry

Writing in the Asian Review of Books, John Butler reviews two new books by David Hinton, Awakened Cosmos: The Mind of Classical Chinese Poetry, David Hinton (Shambhala, 2019) and The Selected Poems of Tu Fu, Expanded and Newly Translated, (New Directions, 2020).

Butler writes that for previous translators, “Tu Fu was important because he was a poet of understandable emotions, not because of any connections with abstruse philosophy,” but this is where “David Hinton and Awakened Cosmos comes in,” since

as a translator he puts a different emphasis on what he believed Tu Fu was doing and had a different agenda. As Hinton writes, “A typical classical Chinese poem appears to be a plain-spoken utterance about a poet’s immediate experience” … Hinton, however, moves beyond the literal meaning of the poems, their “apparent content”, and opens up a universe far beyond their emotional appeal, and that’s why anyone now reading Tu Fu should definitely keep a copy of Awakened Cosmos handy. We will then understand how Tu Fu was able to give us “a biography of the Cosmos awakened to itself in the form of a magisterial poet alive in T’ang Dynasty China.”

Click the link above for the full review.

Announcing publication of Chinese Poetry and Translation: Rights and Wrongs

We are pleased to announce publication of Chinese Poetry and Translation: Rights and Wrongs (Amsterdam University Press, 2019).

Open access download here. Order print copies here.

CHINESE POETRY AND TRANSLATION: RIGHTS AND WRONGS
    edited by Maghiel van Crevel and Lucas Klein

Introduction: The Weird Third Thing
    Maghiel van Crevel and Lucas Klein

Part One: The Translator’s Take

(1) Sitting with Discomfort: A Queer-Feminist Approach to Translating Yu Xiuhua
     Jenn Marie Nunes

(2) Working with Words: Poetry, Translation, and Labor
     Eleanor Goodman

(3) Translating Great Distances: The Case of the Shijing
     Joseph R. Allen

(4) Purpose and Form: On the Translation of Classical Chinese Poetry
     Wilt L. Idema

Part Two: Theoretics

(5) Embodiment in the Translation of Chinese Poetry
     Nick Admussen

(6) Translating Theory: Bei Dao, Pasternak, and Russian Formalism
    Jacob Edmond

(7) Narrativity in Lyric Translation: English Translations of Chinese Ci Poetry
    Zhou Min

(8) Sublimating Sorrow: How to Embrace Contradiction in Translating the “Li Sao”
    Nicholas Morrow Williams

(9) Mediation Is Our Authenticity: Dagong Poetry and the Shijing in Translation
    Lucas Klein

Part Three: Impact

(10) Ecofeminism avant la lettre: Chen Jingrong and Baudelaire
    Liansu Meng

(11) Ronald Mar and the Trope of Life: The Translation of Western Modernist Poetry in Hong Kong
    Chris Song

(12) Ya Xian’s Lyrical Montage: Modernist Poetry in Taiwan through the Lens of Translation
    Tara Coleman

(13) Celan’s “Deathfugue” in Chinese: A Polemic about Translation and Everything Else
    Joanna Krenz

(14) Trauma in Translation: Liao Yiwu’s “Massacre” in English and German
    Rui Kunze

(15) A Noble Art, and a Tricky Business: Translation Anthologies of Chinese Poetry
    Maghiel van Crevel

Krenz on Chinese Poetic Modernisms edited by Lupke and Manfredi

MCLC has published Joanna Krenz’s review of Chinese Poetic Modernisms (Brill, 2019), edited by Paul Manfredi and Christopher Lupke, which includes my chapter “Annotating Aporias of History: the ‘International Style’, Chinese Modernism, and World Literature in Xi Chuan’s Poetry.”

She writes:

one need only read a few paragraphs of the Introduction, by editors Paul Manfredi and Christopher Lupke, to see that the formula of “Chinese poetic modernisms” is anything but conventional. Each of its three main conceptual components—Chineseness, poeticness, and modernism(s)—alone can provoke endless discussion and debate, not to mention the plethora of contested terms associated with these concepts and their multiple configurations and contextualizations. The fourteen scholars whose contributions are included in the book confront the idea of Chinese poetic modernisms from various, sometimes radically different angles, which add up to a dynamic, multidimensional picture of modernist practice in Chinese poetry.

She has some criticisms of my disagreement with Michelle Yeh about how to handle “Chineseness” as a topic of academic discussion, but she does wrap it up with some praise:

In any event, Klein, who recently published a monograph that demonstrates how Chineseness has been consistently constructed through translation, is definitely not a person who would want to strip Chinese poetry of its complexity, and his chapter on Xi Chuan confirms this. He refers extensively to the International Style in architecture, taking it as a starting point for his reflection on (Chinese) “modernism [which] is already broadly postmodernist from the get-go” (319). Both modernism and postmodernism, he proposes, are in reality “two steps in the same historical movement of post-Romanticism” (319). Following Eliot Weinberger, he calls for inclusive understanding of modernism as a notion rooted in history and embracing specific cultural geographies without detracting from their uniqueness. Klein’s familiarity with Chinese literature at large and with the evolution of Xi Chuan’s poetry is exceptional, as is his “negotiating the relationship between local and universal logic” (335), to borrow from his own description of Xi Chuan.

Follow the link above to see the whole review, which is exemplary as a way to engage an edited volume with breadth and with depth.

Xi Chuan’s “January 2011 in Egypt” in Kenyon Review

Cover image of Nov/Dec 2019 Issue
The Nov/Dec 2019 Kenyon Review , the “Literary Activism” issue, featuring Xi Chuan’s “January 2011 in Egypt”

The new issue of the Kenyon Review has just launched, a special feature on “Literary Activism,” coedited by Rita Dove and John Kinsella–and in it, Xi Chuan’s poem “January 2011 in Egypt” 2011年1月埃及纪事 in the online edition. Here are some lines:

Eight thousand years after its founding the people are in a backwater earning too little always hearing about others making too much.

The piss stench of mules drifts through the alleys. Trash covers the wilderness.

Corrupt politics can’t manage the trash covering the wilderness; it can only keep the grand hall clean.

The midlevel official making E£500 a month and the doctor making E£150 a month demand change.

The youths banding together to vent their anger and despair don’t know each other. Vent first, then we’ll see.

So the smoke from burning tires rises from three sides of the temple,
choking the gods inside—they proclaim themselves to be aliens so they should get respect and protection.

Anxious foreigners are smoking in the airport waiting area and no one cares.

The Romanian girl who worried about having nowhere to put her feet later disappears in the chaos of the crowd.

Yana, where are you?

Among the rioters looting the flower shop may be one who wants a rose for his beloved.

Whether you can be his beloved depends entirely on whether you’re lucky enough to survive.

开国八千年后人民在一团死水中挣得太少但总听说别人挣得太多。

骡马的尿骚味沿街巷飘荡。垃圾遍及旷野。

腐败的政治顾不到垃圾遍及旷野,只把厅堂收拾干净。

月工资500埃镑的中层官吏、月工资150埃镑的医生要求变革。

抱团发泄愤怒和绝望的青年互不相识。发泄了再说。

于是焚烧轮胎的黑烟升起于神庙的三面,

神庙里的诸神呛了嗓子,声称自己是外星人理应受到保护和尊敬。

惴惴不安的外国人在候机厅里吸烟没人管。

飞机上担心没处落脚的罗马尼亚姑娘后来消失于慌乱的人群。

雅娜,你在哪里?

洗劫花店的暴徒中或有一位想把玫瑰花献给心上人。

你能否成为他的心上人全看你活下来的运气如何。

The whole looks great. In addition to Xi Chuan, there’s new work by Anne Carson, Robert Hass, Kwame Dawes, and others online, and in the print edition new work by Brenda Hillman, Nathaniel Mackey, and more.

Click here for the feature, starting with the introductions by Dove and Kinsella.

Narayanan on Bei Dao at Poetry Daily

Poetry Daily has published Vivek Narayanan on “a Poem’s Re-Entering History,” looking at Bei Dao’s 北岛 famous poem from the seventies, “The Reply” 回答 (elsewhere “The Answer”).

“I personally like to read multiple translations against each other,” he writes:

both as a way to see and triangulate what the translator is doing and to think/feel my way into what the source poem could be like. Read the translation on our site, by Clayton Eshleman and Lucas Klein, with its clear lyrical growl, to my ear more explicit in its political echoes, against this one by Bonnie S. McDougall, a little stilted in its language but also perhaps more indirect. If you can, read the version co-authored by Donald Finkel, a seemingly “free”-er version with surprising results. And do read this fourth—unattributed—translation on a “Learn Chinese” site, also very useful, despite what will feel to some like a mildly alienated idiom. Finally, listen to the dramatic recitation of the original Chinese linked on the “Learn Chinese” site above and consider to the extent possible, without fear, the transliterated Chinese. (Tip: also try hovering your mouse over the original Chinese characters!) 

If we look at just the first two lines—

bēibǐ shì bēibǐ zhě de tōngxíngzhèng 
gāoshàng shì gāoshàng zhě de mù zhì míng

—we see that the key lies in repetition—bēibǐ (“contempt,” “debasement,” “shabbiness”) in the first line and gāoshàng (“gravitas,” “nobility,” “refined,” “lofty”, etc.) in the second. This is no simple repetition, however. The translators show us how the word in each case is being turned against itself, in a visceral struggle for personal existence and for language to have any meaning or purpose at all. From this point, the poem should start to emerge. The line “I-do-not-believe”—four stark characters isolated by dashes, like cries from deep within—continues to resonate even in the moment from which I write, thinking of the protestors in Hong Kong, the silencing of Kashmir, or the current American era, with a head of state whose every utterance stokes disbelief. 

(links to the translations and the “Learn Chinese” site in the article).

“But it would be glib to stop there, because we have not yet grappled with the poem’s final paradox: between internal and external, public and private,” Narayanan continues. Click here to read more.

The 2019 Lucien Stryk Asian Translation Prize Shortlist

https://static.wixstatic.com/media/7a2274_49fac7dde9d94d07a5c5bb2d41126342~mv2_d_1791_2394_s_2.jpg/v1/fill/w_749,h_998,al_c,q_85,usm_0.66_1.00_0.01/7a2274_49fac7dde9d94d07a5c5bb2d41126342~mv2_d_1791_2394_s_2.webp
October Dedications, shortlisted for the 2019 Lucien Stryk Asian Translation Prize

October Dedications, the selected poetry of Mang Ke 芒克 (Zephyr Press), translated from the Chinese by Lucas Klein with Jonathan Stalling and Huang Yibing, has been shortlisted for the 2019 Lucien Stryk Asian Translation Prize, administered by the American Literary Translators Association (ALTA)!

Days When I Hide My Corpse in a Cardboard Box, poems by Lok Fung 洛楓 (Zephyr) translated by Eleanor Goodman, is the other book of poems translated from Chinese to make the shortlist.

Books by Kim Hyesoon translated from the Korean by Don Mee Choi, by Shrinivas Vaidya translated from the Kannada by Maithreyi Karnoor, and by Jin Eun-young translated from the Korean by Daniel T. Parker and YoungShil Ji, have also made the shortlist. This year’s judges are Chenxin Jiang, Vivek Narayanan, and Hai-Dang Phan.

Click here for the full descriptions of the shortlisted books.

Chinese Literature Today free for Women in Translation Month

Image result for chinese literature today
Chinese Literature Today, free for Women in Translation month

The current issue of Chinese Literature Today is free throughout August for Women in Translation month.

The main feature of the issue is of Newman Prize Laureate, the Hong Kong writer Xi Xi 西西, with introductions, appreciations, interviews, and new translations by Jennifer Feeley, Tammy Ho, Ho Fuk Yan 何福仁, Steve Bradbury, Wei Yang Menkus, and others.

The issue also features an appreciation of scholar Maghiel van Crevel, of Leiden University, with an interview with Jonathan Stalling and an appreciation by Nick Admussen, as well as an article by van Crevel about migrant worker poetry in China.

There is also a suite of contemporary Chinese poetry, by Wang Jiaxin 王家新 (translated by Diana Shi & George O’Connell), Che Qianzi 车前子 (translated by Yang Liping & Jeffrey Twitchell-Waas), Li Dewu 李德武 (translated by Jenny Chen & Jeffrey Twitchell-Waas), Hu Jiujiu 胡赳赳 (translated by Matt Turner & Haiying Weng), Mi Jialu 米家路 (with translations by Lucas Klein, Michael Day, and Matt Turner & Haiying Weng), Huang Chunming 黃春明 (translated by Tze-lan Sang), and Chen Li 陳黎(translated by Elaine Wong).

Click here to read for free!

Goodman’s Lok Fung reviewed at HKRB

Hong Kong Review of Books has published May Huang’s review of Days When I Hide My Corpse in a Cardboard Box, poems by Lok Fung 洛楓 translated by Eleanor Goodman (Zephyr Press).

Here’s a striking–and, I think, apt–line:

The pressures placed on women to appear young and stay beautiful are closely tied to systems of oppression inflicted upon the city itself.

Huang also pays attention to the translation–as all reviews of translated literature must, if they are to be worthwhile at all–and the multilingualism of the book and of life in Hong Kong:

While the visual effect of seeing English words amid a Chinese text disappears in the English translation, Goodman deftly captures the multilingual qualities of Lok’s poetics nonetheless. In “Tracks of Emotion,” Lok cites the English lyrics to Vanessa Williams’ “Save the Best for Last” in an otherwise Cantonese poem set in the train station. In Goodman’s translation, her use of the word “tracks” becomes an instance of clever wordplay, as it refers to both song tracks and train tracks. In other poems, rhymes in the English beautifully echo or complement the original Chinese: “I am low as a cello” and “I am slayed, I rot / powerless whether I love or not” are two instances. The book itself, which is printed in parallel texts, speaks to the multivalences that translation can expose—as does the Hong Kong Atlas series, the first to exclusively spotlight Hong Kong poetry in translation.

Click here for the review in full.

Red Pine Interview at Emergence

Emergence Magazine has published an interview with Bill Porter, a/k/a Red Pine, renowned travel writer and translator of classical Chinese poetry.

The interview covers his early interest in China and poetry, and his beginnings as a translator, as well as some of his understanding of translation:

Around thirteen or fourteen years ago, I was invited to a conference on Chinese poetry at a college in Boston called Simmons College. They asked me to give a talk or write a paper about translation, and I had never, ever thought about what I do. You know, you do something, and you don’t know how you do it. That’s when I thought: what am I doing? And that’s when I realized—the metaphor I came up with was this dance metaphor. I see this beautiful woman dancing on a dance floor, and her dance is just so entrancing. I want to dance with her, but I’m deaf. I don’t hear the music. I just see the results of her hearing the music. So, I go on the dance floor, and I try to dance with her. Obviously, I can’t dance across the room. That’s not very rewarding. Also, I can’t put my English feet on top of her Chinese feet to emulate her dance, which is what a lot of people think translation is. You know, it’s accurate, literal, but it kills the dance. But you have to dance close enough to pick up the energy, especially when you’re deaf and you’re not hearing where this stuff is coming from. That, to me, is what translation is about for Chinese poetry. Every day that I go up on the dance floor to dance with that same dance, I’m going to do it differently. And there’s good days and bad days. It could always be better and will always be different, every time I go up on the dance floor. But, I discovered that’s what I like to do. I like to translate.

People ask me, “Well, don’t you write poetry too?” I would never have the chutzpah to get on the dance floor by myself because I don’t hear any music. But, I’m really attracted to the feeling of dancing with somebody else. I would never dance alone. But that’s what I do—I translate. I dance with people.

I was at that conference at Simmons–it was the first time I met Bill (and many others in the Chinese poetry world). His essay on translation, “Dancing with the Dead,” has since appeared in a couple other places, but I published the version as he read it at the Simmons conference when I edited CipherJournal.

Click here read the interview in full.

“Tiananmen Thirty Years On” feature at Cha

Announcing the June/July issue of Cha: An Asian Literary Journal, the “Tiananmen Thirty Years On” feature, edited by Tammy Lai-Ming Ho and Lucas Klein, along with a special feature of poems by and in mourning of Meng Lang 孟浪.

The following CONTRIBUTORS have generously allowed us to showcase their work:

❀ REMEMBRANCES
Tammy Lai-Ming Ho, Gregory Lee, Ding Zilin (translated by Kevin Carrico), Andréa Worden, Shuyu Kong (with translations of poems by Colin Hawes), Ai Li Ke, Anna Wang, and Sara Tung

❀ POETRY
Bei Dao (translated by Eliot Weinberger), Duo Duo (translated by Lucas Klein), Liu Xiaobo (translated by Ming Di), Xi Chuan (translated by Lucas Klein), Yang Lian (translated by Brian Holton), Xi Xi (translated by Jennifer Feeley), Meng Lang (translated by Anne Henochowicz), Lin Zhao (translated by Chris Song), Liu Waitong (translated by Lucas Klein), Chan Lai Kuen (translated by Jennifer Feeley), Mei Kwan Ng (translated by the author), Yibing Huang (translated by the author), Ming Di (translated by the author), Anthony Tao, Aiden Heung, Kate Rogers, Ken Chau, Ilaria Maria Sala, Ian Heffernan, Reid Mitchell, Lorenzo Andolfatto, Joseph T. Salazar

❀ ESSAYS
Scott Savitt, Wang Dan (translated by Karl Lund), Hoi Leung, Louisa Lim, Jeff Wasserstrom, Lian-Hee Wee, Jed Lea-Henry, Jason G. Coe, and Guo Ting

❀ INTERVIEW
Han Dongfang and Lucas Klein

❀ FICTION
Boshun Chan (translated by Garfield Chow, Stephanie Leung and Felix Lo) and Christopher New

❀ PHOTOGRAPHY & ART
Daniel Garrett and Anonymous

❀ MENG LANG
Denis Mair, Meng Lang (translated by Denis Mair), Liu Waitong (translated by Lucas Klein), Jacky Yuen (translated by Nick Admussen), Tang Siu Wa (translated by Jennifer Feeley), Kwan Tin Lam (translated by Eleanor Goodman)

Click on the link above to read the issue in full.