Lucas Klein Talking Translation with Leeds Centre for New Chinese Writing

As a follow-up to Xi Chuan’s being October 2018 author-of-the-month at the Leeds Centre for New Chinese Writing, the Centre is now hosting a Talking Translation interview with me!

They ask, and I answer:

Do you have any advice for readers new to Xi Chuan about where best to begin or how to approach his poetry?

My advice to new readers of Xi Chuan would be different depending on what those readers are used to reading, because he made a pretty big stylistic change in the early nineties. If you like well-crafted lyrical poems, calm and deep, then start with his earliest publications at the beginning of Notes on the Mosquito and work your way through the whole book. If you like more expansive prose poems, long sequences, and the poetics of knowledge with a good sense of humor, then maybe skip Xi Chuan’s earliest work and start with his prose poetry—or what he calls “poessays”—coming back to his earlier lyrics later.

Click the link above for the full interview.

Manfredi on Admussen’s Recite and Refuse

The MCLC Resource Center has published Paul Manfredi’s review of Nick Admussen’s monograph, Recite and Refuse: Contemporary Chinese Prose Poetry (University of Hawaii Press, 2016).

Manfredi summarizes:

Orthodox prose poetry is exemplified for Admussen by the writings of Ke Lan [柯蓝 ] and Guo Feng [郭风], semi-orthodox prose poetry by Liu Zaifu 刘再复 (b. 1941), and the works of Ouyang Jianghe [欧阳江河] (b. 1956 ) and Xi Chuan (b. 1963) represent the unorthodox tradition in Chinese prose poetry. A through line in Admussen’s identification and exploration of the three sub-genres is the critical question of voice, and the vocal attribute most essential to Admussen’s analysis is a kind of ventriloquism that characterizes the prose poetic voice. This ventriloquist feature best substantiates Admussen’s argument, because it is as compellingly present in leftist oriented work as it is in more ideologically independent or experimental poetry. Indeed, the entire question of ideological underpinning, other than being responsible for the relative scarcity of prose poetry from about 1963 through the late 1970s, is refreshingly recast in this book. Admussen’s description of Chinese prose poetry manages to rise above left/right, free/constrained dichotomies.

Beyond the summary, Manfredi writes:

While the previous chapters are full of insights and useful information, one feels that Admussen is really working up to his final chapter, which addresses the work of Ouyang Jianghe and Xi Chuan. Ouyang Jianghe’s “Hanging Coffin” is the focus of the first part of the chapter. “Hanging Coffin,” however, is too long to quote at the outset, as he does with the poems opening the other chapters. Instead—and most creatively and ambitiously—Admussen advances his own condensation of Ouyang’s massive work in a single sentence: “Hanging Coffin is an epic manifestation of the evacuation of history” (134). He then proceeds to unpack that sentence, word by word, until a full reading of Ouyang Jianghe’s poem emerges. That reading details the incredible sweep of Ouyang’s work, but also the ways in which the poet endeavors to close the door on his own chapter of prose-poetic composition. By contrast, shifting finally to Xi Chuan, Admussen arrives at a very compelling summary of some of his key concepts as manifested in Xi Chuan’s work:

This is a basically ventriloquistic and pluralist ideology, one that calls into question the position of the speaker as a maxim-producing creator of wisdom; the poem recasts that speaker as a channeller of wisdom, a collector whose task implicitly denies the existence of a single set of universal truths. (153)

Manfredi concludes: “Admussen’s work is a rare combination of breezy and substantive, and certainly well worth the read.”

Click the image above for the review in full.

Xi Chuan October 2018 Featured Writer for Leeds Centre for New Chinese Writing

Xi Chuan has been the featured writer for October 2018 at the Leeds Centre for New Chinese Writing. Xi Chuan gave a reading and discussion on Chinese poetry and translation at Leeds on October 12, and was at the Manchester Literature Festival on the 13th, reading with Mary Jean Chan and Jennifer Tsai, then took kpart in an afternoon of writing workshops, networking, and dinner, at an event organised by Bi’an – the UK Chinese Writers’ Network – called ‘Both Sides Now: Writing from East and West‘.

The Leeds page also posts:

Xi Chuan and his translator Lucas Klein have kindly given us permission to feature three poems – ‘Eight Fragments’ 八段; ‘Abstruse Thoughts at the Panjiayuan Antiques Market’ 潘家园旧货市场玄思录, (first published in English in Pathlight, 2015) and ‘Travels in Xichuan Province’ 西川省纪行 – which you can read in Chinese and in English translation here.

Click here, or the image above (with a very old photo of me), to download the poems.

Xi Xi Wins 2019 Newman Prize for Chinese Literature

Image may contain: 3 people, including Tammy Ho Lai-Ming, people smiling, people sitting and indoorNewman Prize winner Xi Xi with her nominator Tammy Ho and translator Jennifer Feeley (photo by Ho Fuk Yan 何福仁)

NORMAN, OK—An international jury has selected the Hong Kong poet Xi Xi 西西 (born 1937) as the winner of the sixth Newman Prize for Chinese Literature. She is the third female Newman laureate, and the first from Hong Kong.

Sponsored by the University of Oklahoma’s Institute for U.S.-China Issues, the Newman Prize is awarded biennially in recognition of outstanding achievement in prose or poetry that best captures the human condition, and is conferred solely on the basis of literary merit. Any living author writing in Chinese is eligible. A jury of seven distinguished literary experts nominated seven poets this spring, and selected the winner in a transparent voting process on October 9, 2018.

Winner Xi Xi 西西 (the pen name of Zhang Yan 張彥) will receive USD $10,000, a commemorative plaque, and a bronze medallion at an academic symposium and award banquet at the University of Oklahoma, Norman, on March 7–8, 2019. In addition to this year’s nominating juror, Tammy Lai-Ming Ho (Hong Kong Baptist University), other nominees and jurors include Yu Xiuhua 余秀华, nominated by Nick Admussen (Cornell University); Wang Xiaoni 王小妮, nominated by Eleanor Goodman (Fairbank Center, Harvard University); Xi Chuan 西川, nominated by Lucas Klein (University of Hong Kong); Xiao Kaiyu 萧开愚, nominated by Christopher Lupke (University of Alberta); Zheng Xiaoqiong 郑小琼, nominated by Maghiel van Crevel (Leiden University); and Bei Dao 北岛, nominated by Wang Guangming (Capital Normal University).

“This year’s nominees represent an extraordinarily wide variety of Sinophone poetry,” said this year’s Newman Prize Coordinator, Jonathan Stalling. “The jurors spent over an hour in vigorous deliberation before they finally emerged with one poet out of the many. It is genuinely exciting to see Xi Xi’s poetry and her lifelong contributions to world letters recognized by this year’s prize.”

According to Dr. Tammy Lai-Ming Ho,

Hong Kong literature has for too long been relegated to a secondary position, or even worse—it is as though the city is incapable of producing significant literary works and writers of note. Hong Kong poetry is to many perhaps an even more abstract and chimerical concept. Xi Xi’s poetry, at times whimsical and at times serious, speaks to the character of the city and its people. Her poems also demonstrate how stories of a city can be told through narratives that are at first glance insignificant, allegories and fairy tales instead of grand statements. Feminine, tender, witty, observant, and capable of tugging at the heartstrings, Xi Xi’s poetry reminds us Hong Kong poetry should not be ignored in any discussion.

Previous winners of the Newman Prize have included mainland Chinese novelists Mo Yan 莫言, Han Shaogong 韩少功, and Wang Anyi 王安忆, who won the 2009, 2011, and 2017 Newman Prizes, respectively. Mo Yan went on to win the Nobel Prize in Literature in 2012. Taiwanese poets Yang Mu 楊牧 and novelist and screenwriter Chu Tien-wen 朱天文 won the Newman Prize for Chinese Literature in 2013 and 2015.

The Newman Prize honors Harold J. and Ruth Newman, whose generous endowment of a chair at the University of Oklahoma enabled the creation of the OU Institute for US-China Issues over a decade ago, in 2006. The University of Oklahoma is also home to the Chinese Literature Translation Archive, Chinese Literature Today, World Literature Today, and the Neustadt International Prize for Literature.

 

美國中部時間2018年10月8日,中國香港作家和詩人西西獲得第六屆紐曼華語文學獎(詩歌獎)。她是紐曼華語文學獎的第三位女性獲獎者,也是第一位來自香港的獲獎者。

紐曼華語文學獎是由美國俄克拉荷馬大學美中關係研究院於2008年設立的獎項,是美國第一個為華語文學或詩歌設立的獎項,每兩年頒獎一次。評委們完全基於文學價值選出為最能表現人類生存狀況作品。所有在世的用中文寫作的作家都有機會入選。諾貝爾文學獎得主莫言是2009年年首位紐曼文學獎得獎者,中國大陸作家韓少功和王安憶分別於2011年和2017年折桂,台灣詩人楊牧和台灣作家朱天文分別在2013和2015年領此殊榮榮。

紐曼華語文學獎的七位專家評審早在今年年初提名了七位詩人。今天,他們經過六輪投票,決定出最終得獎者。獲獎者西西(原名張彥)可獲得一萬美元的獎金,紀念獎牌一塊,銅質獎章一枚,並將受邀於2019年三月7日至8日參加在俄克拉荷馬大學舉辦的紐曼學術研討會和晚宴。西西的提名者是香港浸會大學的何麗明教授(Tammy Lai-Ming Ho)。另外六位評委和被提名的詩人信息如下:康奈爾大學的安敏軒(Nick Admussen)提名了詩人於秀華,哈佛大學費正清中心的學者顧愛玲(Eleanor Goodman)提名了詩人王小妮,香港大學的柯夏智(Lucas Klein)教授提名了詩人西川,阿爾伯塔大學的陸敬思(Christopher Lupke)教授提名了詩人蕭開愚,萊頓大學的柯雷(Maghiel van Crevel)教授提名了詩人鄭小瓊,以及北京首都大學的王光明教授提名了詩人北島。

今年紐曼華語詩歌獎評委團的組織者石江山(Jonathan Stalling)說,“本次被提名的詩人們代表了華語詩歌極度豐富的多樣性。”“評委們經過一個多小時的熱烈的評議和投票才選出了最後的勝者。西西的詩歌和她畢生對文學的貢獻在今年的紐曼文學獎上得到了肯定,這是一件真正激動人心的事“。

何麗明博士在提名詞中寫道:“很長一段時間以來香港文學都被視為是次要的,甚至有人認為這個城市不能出產重要的文學作品或著名的作家。香港詩歌或許在很多人眼中是個更抽象和虛妄的概念。西西或諧或莊的詩歌道出了這個城市及其居民的品格。她的詩歌也證明了一個城市的故事不必是宏大的敘述,而可以是表面瑣碎的絮語,寓言或者童話。西西的詩歌陰柔,纖細,機智,敏銳,動人心弦,無可辯駁地宣示著香港詩歌的存在感“。

紐曼華語文學獎的主辦方美國俄克拉荷馬大學美中關係研究院於2006年成立。該學院的成立與Harold J. Newman和Ruth Newman夫婦的慷慨捐贈密不可分。俄克拉荷馬大學還設有中國文學翻譯檔案館,“今日中國文學”雜誌,“今日世界文學”雜誌,並定期主辦紐斯塔特(Neustadt)國際文學獎。

Newman Prize Nominees Announced

The nominee list for the 2019 Newman Prize for Chinese Literature has been announced!
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Convened by Jonathan Stalling at the University of Oklahoma, this year’s judges are Nick Admussen, Eleanor Goodman, Tammy Ho Lai-ming, Lucas Klein, Christopher Lupke, Maghiel van Crevel, and Wang Guangming 王光明.
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This year’s finalists are Yu Xiuhua 余秀华, Wang Xiaoni 王小妮, Xi Xi 西西, Xi Chuan 西川, Xiao Kaiyu 萧开愚, Zheng Xiaoqiong 郑小琼, and Bei Dao 北岛.
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The winner will be announced in the spring of 2019.

Admussen’s Recite and Refuse on New Books in East Asian Studies

Image result for nick admussen recite refuseMiranda Corcoran interviews Nick Admussen about his monograph Recite and Refuse: Contemporary Chinese Prose Poetry–about Lu Xun 鲁迅, Bing Xin 冰心, Ke Lan 柯蓝, Guo Feng 郭风, Liu Zaifu 刘再复, Ouyang Jianghe 欧阳江河, Xi Chuan, and more–for New Books in East Asian Studies.

From the intro:

Published by the University of Hawaii Press in 2016, Nick Admussen’s exciting new book Recite and Refuse: Contemporary Chinese Prose Poetry explores the development of twentieth-century prose poetry within the unique political and cultural context of Communist China. In this ambitious study, Admussen attempts not only to define prose poetry but also to trace its ever-shifting role in modern Chinese society. In doing so, he produces a study which comprehensively analyses the dynamic manner in which Chinese prose poetry engages with a range of diverse cultural discourses, including science, popular culture and political rhetoric. Throughout the book, Admussen foregrounds the protean nature of the genre by exploring how prose poetry has been used by poets working both within and outside of official Communist Party strictures. Moreover, he identifies Chinese prose poetry as a unique tradition, distinct from Euro-American manifestations of the genre. In addition to these insightful analyses, Recite and Refuse also contains a number of original translations of important Chinese prose poems, including Ouyang Jianghe’s stunning “Hanging Coffin”.

Click the image above or listen here.

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C D Wright on Xi Chuan

I’ve had a hard time processing C.D. Wright’s unexpected death since January 12, when she passed away as a result of a clot on a flight home from Chile. Death of an admired figure is always hard, and though I didn’t know C.D. well, I’ve long felt a personal resonance and connection. Unlike many American poets, contemporary Chinese poetry was not a stranger to her: she accompanied Bei Dao onstage for his honorary PhD at Brown in 2011. And she blurbed the back cover of Notes on the Mosquito.

In The Poet, the Lion, Talking Pictures, El Farolito, a Wedding in St. Roch, the Big Box Store, the Warp in the Mirror, Spring, Midnights, Fire & All (Copper Canyon), a selection of snippets from her prose writings about poetry, there’s more. Though he’s not mentioned by name, pages 82 – 85 are about Xi Chuan. It’s from “Of Those Who Can Afford to be Gentle,” previously unpublished in English, but translated into Portuguese by Cláudia Roquette-Pinto for Revista Confraria: Arte e literatura (and Ron Slate writes a little about it here). She writes:

The poets who became important symbols of the June 4 events are either those who were not in the country at the time, and could not return, or those who left he country, some at risk of arrest and some not. And inside, since Tiananmen, many began to enjoy, within limits, the autonomy of international urban life. The visiting writer, the poet who stayed with his face, stayed silent, and began again, reconnecting with his language one word at a time–bird, bicycle, city, fire, peony–in a series of prose poems that commence with literal and naive elaborations on the simple nouns and turn toward skeptical, if not wryly antagonistic, investigations of naming and meaning-making. All of this, to what end, what end. “Only when a nail pierced through my hand did my hand reveal the truth; only when black smoke choked me to tears could I feel my existence. Riding sidesaddle on a white horse ten fairies tore up my heart.” Zigzag. Learn to love the enigma, learn to love the paradox. Speak again.

Haysom’s Hermits and butterflies: nature writing in China

article imagePathlight managing editor Dave Haysom’s “Hermits and butterflies: the resurgence of nature writing in China” has been published on China Dialogue, covering the range of contemporary Chinese literature–and even mentioning Xi Chuan:

Their rural existence was no idyll, and it ended in tragedy: in 1993 Gu Cheng killed Xie Ye with an axe before hanging himself. By that point Hai Zi and Luo Yihe were also dead: Hai Zi committed suicide in 1989 by throwing himself under a train (leaving his copy of Walden in his bag alongside the tracks); Luo Yihe died from a brain haemorrhage just a few months later, apparently from the strain of his editorial efforts to secure Hai Zi’s poetic legacy. Wei An died from liver cancer in 1999.

Their untimely deaths seem to have sealed these poets behind the curtain of history – but many of their contemporaries are still with us, and still producing poetry that engages with the same themes. Last year Ouyang Jianghe (欧阳江河) published Phoenix, a 400-line mini-epic in which the spiritual and environmental strains of China’s feverish development are embodied in the vast avian sculpture of artist Xu Bing (徐冰). The polymath writer, artist, editor and filmmaker Ou Ning (欧宁) is perhaps the closest thing contemporary China has to a Thoreau figure, having founded his own rural commune in Bishan, Anhui, as part of the New Rural Reconstruction Movement. Xi Chuan (西川) was a classmate of Hai Zi and Luo Yihe, and after the deaths of his friends he switched from lyric poetry to a looser, prose-poem style, in which nature is seldom idealised.

Trees eavesdrop on trees, birds eavesdrop on birds; when a viper stiffens and attacks a passing human it becomes human … The truth cannot be public, echoless thoughts are hard to sing.

— from “Exhor[ta]tions” by Xi Chuan – translated by Lucas Klein

As Jennifer Kronovet observes: “This is not nature poetry and yet it is.”

Click the image for the piece in full.