21 – 24 November, 2013
Featuring: Adonis (Syria), Aase Berg (Sweden), Conchitina Cruz (The Philippines), Menna Elfyn (Wales), Lee Seong-bok (South Korea), Tim Lilburn (Canada), Zeyar Lynn (Burma), Dunya Mikhail (Iraq), Peter Minter (Australia), Tomasz Różycki (Poland), Olvido García Valdés (Spain), Jeffrey Yang (USA), Raúl Zurita (Chile), Natalia Chan 洛楓 (Hong Kong), Han Dong 韓東 (mainland China), Lan Lan 藍藍 (mainland China), Un Sio San 袁紹珊 (Macau), and Ye Mimi 葉覓覓 (Taiwan)
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C. Derick Varn of Former People: A Journal of Bangs and Whimpers interviewed me with a series of complex questions on modernity and modernism in and about China. And of course, I couldn’t resist talking about Xi Chuan and Chinese and international poetry. Here’s an excerpt:
So that’s the problem. But as I’ve argued in a piece that’s forthcoming, modernism in literature is postmodernist in its philosophical implications … And I don’t think I’ve ever believed in modernism so much as modernisms. An interesting observation is that modernist writers who come from countries that claim an ownership of tradition—modernists from France or Italy or Russia—are often the ones to say, like Marinetti, “Museums, cemeteries!” while the modernists from countries that cannot claim such ownership—Pound and Eliot from the US, Joyce from Ireland—are the ones who want to revivify the ancient amidst the machinations of the modern (this isn’t foolproof, of course: William Carlos Williams and Gertrude Stein stand against such generalizations). As for whether there’s a Chinese modernism, the interesting thing is that after the Cultural Revolution, you get both: those feeling like their country has too much a claim on tradition, and is overwhelmed and stifled by it, as well as those who feel like their country is too displaced from tradition, and needs to re-own it and re-define it. So at any given moment Bei Dao might read like a shrugging off of tradition, and Yang Lian might read like a refitting of it, and Xi Chuan a refitting of that refitting, but they’re also specific responses to the relationship between tradition and modernity as have played out in China in the past hundred years and more.
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The San Francisco State University Chinese Program is pleased to present “Wandering – Homecoming / 我不是歸人,是個過客,” a lecture and poetry reading by renowned Taiwanese poet, Zheng Chouyu. For the lecture, Zheng will draw from a broad selection of poems that represent the various creative periods throughout his life and take guests on a physical and spiritual journey from the ancient ruins of China’s Western provinces to the shores of Taiwan. This event is sponsored by the SF State Chinese Program, the SF State Chinese Flagship Program, and the Taipei Economic and Cultural Office in San Francisco.
Click on the image above for directions and registration information.
At Popup Chinese Jeremy Goldkorn interviews translators Linda Jaivin and Alice Liu for a wide-ranging translation of what translation is, how it affects us, how to or not to do it, and how contentious translators can be in private. All that and a resounding endorsement of Xi Chuan’s Notes on the Mosquito!
Listen here or follow this link to download.
World Literature Today has published Josh Stenberg’s review of Zephyr books A Phone Call from Dalian by Han Dong 韩东, translated by Nicky Harman, and Doubled Shadows by Ouyang Jianghe 欧阳江河, translated by Austin Woerner:
Ouyang Jianghe and Han Dong … both occupy established places in what, for over thirty years, has been known as avant-garde Chinese literature. In poetic approach, they represent divergent tendencies—Ouyang cosmopolitan, clean, and heavily referential; Han craftily offhand, personal, confidently bizarre, not tetchy about grime or sex. Where Ouyang often seems to offer an argument about the cultural currents and skirmishes of today’s China, Han’s work most often reads as a lament for the failure of attempts to bridge the spaces between people
Jacob Edmond’s A Common Strangeness has been named runner-up for the Association for the Study of the Arts of the Present 2013 Book Prize. ASAP’s citation reads:
In this remarkable book, comparative literature outdoes itself, becoming fully contemporary and transnational: Edmond innovates a genuinely global poetics that discovers the fullest cultural crossings among Chinese, Russian, and U.S. poets. Reading correspondences among Yang Lian, Arkadii Dragomoshchenko, and Lyn Hejinian, Bei Dao, Dmitri Prigov, and Charles Bernstein, among others, Edmond aims to give a field “still shaped by the history and conceptual and political structures of the Cold War” the resources to read the “appositional, transnational, and multicultural poetics of our current era”; its focus is contemporary poetry’s “common commitment to forms of strangeness,” which disallow old assertions of what unites or foreignizes the world’s populations. And its great advantage is a sense of literary culture equally powerful in its three languages, which translates to interpretive insight uniquely adequate to the world today.
China will be guest of honor at the International Istanbul Book Fair (Nov 2-10), with the theme being the Journey of Chinese literature from traditional to contemporary as illustrated by the “New Silk Road.”
Festivities are scheduled to include Xi Chuan 西川 and sixteen other Chinese authors, such as Ge Fei 葛菲, Jiang Nan 江南, Lao Ma 马俊杰, Li Jingze 李敬泽, Liu Zhenyun 刘震云, Su tong 苏童, Wang Gang 王刚, Yang Hongying 杨红樱, Yu Hua 余华, Zhang Wei 张炜, Zhang Yueran 张悦然, and China Writers Association president, Tie Ning 铁凝.
For more, click the image above, or see here.
Someone was impressed enough by my acceptance speech for the Lucien Stryk prize to suggest I share it here. So I am!
It’s a wonderful honor, both for me and for Xi Chuan, to be awarded the Lucien Stryk Prize for Asian poetry in translation. Any prize awarded by ALTA would be an honor, because ALTA is one of my favorite organizations to belong to—I’ve often said that literary translators are by definition interesting people, because by definition we’re interested in more than one thing. ALTA as a group and many of its members as individuals were very helpful in offering their time, patience, insight, and scolds as I worked on translating Xi Chuan, and much of my success as a translator is owed to the wisdom I gained from them.
The Lucien Stryk prize, in particular, is also a special one for me and for Xi Chuan, because of its dedication to honoring Asian poetry in translation, and the tradition of Asian poetry in translation—in addition to Asian poetry in general—was very much in my mind when translating the pieces in Notes on the Mosquito, as it was in Xi Chuan’s over the three decades in which he wrote the poems. As an undergrad English major, Xi Chuan wrote his senior thesis on Ezra Pound’s translations from Chinese, he recently published a translation of Gary Snyder’s poetry, and in many ways Xi Chuan was reintroduced to the literary history of his own culture from the attention and presentation he encountered in Pound, Snyder, and others, including Jorge Luis Borges.
I’m also especially honored to be part of the group of previous Lucien Stryk honorees—a group that already features some of my favorite translators! I find inclusion in such a group both humbling and inspiring, as the best Asian poetry in translation has always been.
I would like to extend my deepest gratitude to New Directions, to my editor Jeffrey Yang, and most of all to Xi Chuan, whose cooperation and friendship were essential to the success of this book. Until three years ago there were no single-author collections of poetry by Chinese-language poets currently living in mainland China published in the US, but now we are living in what appears to be a golden age of contemporary Chinese poetry in English translation, to match what may be a golden age of poetry in China itself. Thanks to New Directions for contributing to that golden age, and thanks to Xi Chuan for helping make that golden age in the first place!
Thank you very, very much!
Now that “Dissident writer Alice Munro was awarded the Nobel Prize in Literature Thursday morning for her fiction critical of the Canadian regime,” the year of Mo Yan’s Nobel has ended.
So the last Mo Yan update from this blog will be a link to this interview with Liao Yiwu 廖亦武, who, upon being asked to compare himself with Mo Yan, who, ahem, “received the Nobel Peace in Literature,” said:
I don’t want to be compared to someone like Mo Yan. He is an official of the Communist Party. Whenever he makes a public appearance, he is representing the dictatorship. So my criticism is natural … Of course there is a happy medium; there are authors who criticize the realities of Chinese society without being political. But they aren’t on the side of the dictatorship. Mo Yan overdoes it.