Shi on Goodman’s Wang Xiaoni

ImageAt Cha Huiwen Shi reviews Eleanor Goodman’s translation of Something Crosses My Mind 有什么在我心里一过 by Wang Xiaoni 王小妮.

The collection provides both the Chinese and English versions of the works, allowing the reader to compare Goodman’s translations with the originals. Her translation doesn’t always provide a literal rendition of the Chinese, but it has full awareness of Wang’s poetic nuance, carries through the works’ humour and sentiments and keeps the essentials of the music. For example, there is the line “夜空背後黑汪汪的深,” which Goodman translates as “the boundless black depths behind the night sky.” Unable to reproduce the sound of the doubling “汪汪” (“wangwang”) in Chinese, Goodman cleverly uses the alliterative “boundless black” as an attempt to recreate the effect … There are many similar moments to these when the translation yields alternative imagery and themes that complicate any singular understanding of the original.

Click the image above for more.

Farrell on Lee’s Hong Ying

Michael Farrell at Cordite Poetry Review reviews I Too Am Salammbo 我也叫萨朗波, by Hong Ying 虹影, translated by Mabel Lee.

The collection’s translator, Mabel Lee, uses spacing as caesurae to evoke the possibility of Chinese characters for phrases like ‘moss attracts moss’ (‘Ascending the Mountain’) and ‘painting otters’ (‘Otters’). These are just one kind of moment that happens: many of the poems are far from being as sweetly picturesque, pointing instead to family and sexual trouble, and sometimes both together:

Our lungs
Always wrap around men’s lies and sex organs
Turning   I
Confront Mother
And Mother walks away all alone
Before death we sisters will open our beautiful mouths
To spit out one man after another (‘Dreaming of Beijing’)

The use of spacing is effective in aiding line readability. While sometimes it provides merely a slowing down of the line, at others, where the shift in sense between the two phrases is more disjunctive, the effect is one of montage, referring to text, feeling, memory, metaphor.

Click on the image above for the full review.

Lucien Stryk Award Shortlist

Stryk CollageALTA has posted the shortlist for this year’s Lucien Stryk Award, which honors book-length translations into English of poetry or Zen Buddhist texts from Hindi, Sanskrit, Tamil, Thai, Vietnamese, Chinese, Japanese, and Korean into English.

The shortlisted titles are:

  • Cat Town by Sakutarō Hagiwara 萩原朔太郎, translated from the Japanese by Hiroaki Sato (New York Review Books)
  • Kalidasa for the 21st Century Reader, translated from the Sanskrit by Mani Rao (Aleph Book Company)
  • Salsa by Hsia Yu 夏宇, translated from the Chinese by Steve Bradbury (Zephyr Press)
  • Something Crosses My Mind by Wang Xiaoni 王小妮, translated from the Chinese by Eleanor Goodman (Zephyr Press)
  • Sorrowtoothpaste Mirrorcream by Kim Hyesoon, translated from the Korean by Don Mee Choi (Action Books)

This year’s judges were Janet Poole, Stephen Snyder, and Lucas Klein.

Lupke on Xiao Kaiyu at U. of S. Carolina

Rendering Neo-Expressionist Poet Xiao Kaiyu 萧开愚 into English

Tuesday, September 15, 2015 – 4:30pm

Dr. Christopher Lupke, Washington State University

Welsh Humanities Classroom Building, Room 304, University of South Carolina

Christopher Lupke will provide a reading of his translations of contemporary Chinese poet Xiao Kaiyu’s work. Xiao Kaiyu is widely revered in China for the challenging structure and innovative use of language found in his verse. Spending several years in Germany, Xiao frequently comments obliquely on social issues facing ordinary people in China, on the pressures under which they labor, and on the ways they negotiate their practical and spiritual lives on a daily basis. The linguistic difficulty and profoundly serious subject matter are what first attracted Lupke to his work. Translating Xiao into English has been like solving a puzzle, but a puzzle that could be solved in many different ways, and in no way at all. It has been an extremely demanding process. In this reading and desultory discussion, Lupke argues that translation is one of the most difficult modes of creative writing that deserves to be considered alongside its more privileged siblings that are typically, but erroneously, deemed to be “original” work in contrast to the derivative nature of translation. Given the utter complexity of Xiao Kaiyu’s work in its language-busting modes, and the fundamental differences in expression between Chinese and English, the work of the translator can be viewed as nothing less than a creative effort. Lupke’s translations of Xiao Kaiyu’s poetry have appeared in New England Review, Five Points, Free Verse, Eleven Eleven, Epiphany, Michigan Quarterly Review, Cha: An Asian Literary Review, E-Ratio, and Asymptote, as well as some anthologies. He is currently seeking a publisher for a collection of Xiao’s work in English.

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Yi-Fen Chou, the Welfare Queen of American Poetry

reganBecause it’s broadly related to Chinese poetry as understood in English, I wrote something about the recent Best American Poetry controversy, published at Drunken Boat, titled “Yi-Fen Chou: Michael Derrick Hudson and/or Ronald Reagan.”

Here’s an excerpt:

Ezra Pound’s “The River-Merchant’s Wife: A Letter” is a translation of a poem by medieval Chinese poet Li Bai 李白, and was part of the redefinition of Chinese poetry and Chinese culture in English in the early twentieth century. The Love Poems of Marichiko, presented as translations of young Japanese woman’s poetry but which Rexroth admitted to writing after he was nominated for a translation prize, were an attempt at an imagined empathy with a cultural other, the poems narrating a passion with an unknown lover that dissolves boundaries as the passion dissolves as well. And the Araki Yasusada phenomenon undermined our prevailing notions of authorship to expose and critique the cultural double standards at work in the American poetry industry. Yi-Fen Chou, on the other hand, looks motivated by a desire to take advantage of the prevailing notions of authorship and our double standards in the American poetry industry. And this is why I’m thinking of Ronald Reagan.

The Reagan era was when American poetry of all stripes turned inward, as if mirroring not only the government’s xenophobia, but its configuring of trade into a neo-liberal assertion of American dominance, now called globalization. Not that American foreign policy before Reagan had been anything to be proud of, but poets had responded to the Vietnam War by translating more (as they would in the Bush II era, reacting against war by increasing their curiosity about the outside world); in the years afterward the Me Decade took over American poetry, as well, and American poets wrote best about their own personal me. Hudson says “he did briefly consider trying to make Yi-Fen into a ‘persona’ or ‘heteronym’ à la Fernando Pessoa, but nothing ever came of it.” That, at least, would have been interesting, and related his pseudonym to his poetry. As is, both his lack of interest in engaging with the culture he names and his use of a minority name to get published make him the poetic equivalent of the domestic and international policies of the Reagan presidency.

Click the image above for the full piece.

John Kinsella on Xi Chuan: How Many ‘I’s?

Last week Xi Chuan and I flew to Perth, Australia, to take part in the launch conference in Margaret River for their joint China-Australia Writing Centre. West Australian poet John Kinsella was in attendance, and afterword he wrote a wonderful blog post titled “How Many I-s in the Hotel of Xi Chuan?” Here’s a bit from the beginning:

A few days ago I had the privilege of hearing the Chinese poet from Beijing, Xi Chuan, reading from his work and discussing it, along with his English-language translator Lucas Klein. What grabbed me even before the reading began was Xi Chuan’s statement that his poetry was not of a single ‘I’, but rather a cluster of I-s. I don’t think any poet is a single I, and I have often over the years argued against denoting a unified self …

What Xi Chuan outlined as his reason for stating this, his need for such a declaration, struck me as deeply relevant and vital. He discussed having a ‘hotel in [his] head’ which is inhabited or co-inhabited by a number of other voices which are not his own. This is not so much a conceptual statement of artistic practice as one of deep necessity. In that hotel, or maybe boarding house, are those who have been lost or extinguished, those whose voices were taken from them, who were forced into silence …

It was clearly painful for Xi Chuan to discuss this, and what began as a kind of ironising (of all notions of innovation, of himself, of us all) quickly became a deeply-felt ‘confession’ of obligation and respect, of necessity. It was witness carried to the extent of giving away one’s sense of unified self (should even the idea exist) to a polyvalent (my interpolation) self. Not many selves, but many other selves.

Click on the image for the full piece.

Salutations; a Festschrift for Burton Watson

Edited by Jesse Glass and Philip Williams, this collection of essays, articles, and poems about Chinese and Japanese literature and culture celebrates the illustrious scholarly career of Burton Watson, whose range of excellent literary translations into English from Japanese and classical Chinese is second to none. Over half of the book’s seventeen chapters are articles about Chinese or Japanese literature and culture with full scholarly apparatus; the remainder are tributes to Watson in the form of poetry or informal essays.

Topics include analysis of Watson’s skills as a translator and practical critic; a cultural history of Chinese literati; masterpieces of the Ming essayist Zhang Dai; revisiting David Hawkes’ interpretations of Du Fu’s poetry; China’s earliest science fiction from the late Qing; reflections on cultural change by the early Yuan Confucianist Hao Jing; the multi-dimensional symbolism in Hagiwara Sakutarô’s poetry; the fictional portrayal of a self-sacrificing female Chinese Buddhist saint; key patterns of arboreal imagery in the 300 Tang Poems anthology; and Japanese linked verse across the centuries.

Featuring contributions by Victor Mair, Robert Hegel, Hiroaki Sato, William Nienhauser, Jonathan Chaves, Lucas Klein, Hoyt Tillman, Yenna Wu, Yoko Danno, Hua Li, Duncan Campbell, Stephen Addiss, Robert Epp, Timothy Clifford, Philip Rowland, Sam Hamill, and Gary Snyder.

Click on the image for ordering information.

Criticized Berserk Chinese Poet Official

Xiong Aichun 熊艾春, Communist Party branch secretary and chairman for the Leiyang Federation of Literacy and Art Circles, wrote a poem that was criticized online. Quartz reports:

Apparently he’s rather sensitive about his work. After the poem was criticized in a local online forum, he stormed into its physical office and smashed a computer monitor.

After venting his rage, Xiong decided to write about that, too, in a note he left at the scene.

Read more by following the link above.

Chinese Poetry in New England Review

NER36-2frontcoverThe current issue of the New England Review features poetry translations of Ya Shi 哑石 by Nick Admussen, Xiao Kaiyu 开愚 by Chris Lupke, and Yin Lichuan 尹丽川 by Fiona Sze-Lorrain–as well as prose translations of Wei An 苇岸 by Tom Moran.

Unfortunately, the NER has made none of these available online, but click on the image for ordering information, along with the full table of contents.