“Everything can happen in the teeming space of a stanza by Arthur Sze; almost everything does. The profane and the glorious are never far apart; more often than not they are contained in the same couplet. And the extraordinary invariably manifests itself in the ordinary or as he writes, “Revelation never comes as a fern uncoiling/a frond in mist; it comes when I trip on a root,/slap a mosquito on my arm.” Sze specializes in the serial or linked poem. He specializes in irresoluble contradictions and the simultaneity of their circumstance. He is deft with improbable metamorphoses. He is undeterred from the uninflected actual, “When//Robin’s coworkers were terminated, she left/ her communications job to groom horses.” Little escapes his attention, be it a particular mushroom camouflaged in the forest floor or light lifting off the length of a power line while a sous-chef slices ginger and scallions. All that is teeming is specific and nothing is unrelated. His “mind aligns such slivers.” Sze is hyper-awake to a chance that a petal may tip the balance of life; to the fact that “we cannot act if we are asleep.” Through eight collections of poetry,translations of Chinese poetry and the recently edited Chinese Writers on Writing, Arthur Sze has proven to be one of our most patient, painstaking, and prepared observers. The impression of land and sky on mind and mind on the mess we tend to make of things is seldom brought to such an exquisite degree of awareness. In exacting language, Sze has brought his gleaming perceptions and looming concerns to a rare quality of order.”
In the zone of rain shadows, at the moment of losing
My winding way, the star is the only guide
Your contemplation is an ocean, you are endless brooding
At night, in the morning, at the moment when mountain shadows
Retreat from my side table, we recall the time before exile
Click here to read all three.
“The Pocketwatch,” a new translation of a Huang Chunming story (by Howard Goldblatt)
Translations of Yang Mu’s poetry (by Arthur Sze and Michelle Yeh)
Translations of Ye Mimi’s poetry (by Steve Bradbury)
Dylan Suher essay on Qian Zhongshu, that also serves as a review of Humans, Beasts and Ghosts: The Collected Short Stories of Qian Zhongshu (translated by Christopher G. Rea)
Also see the January 2012 issue for my translations of Xi Chuan‘s “Beast” 巨兽, “The Distance” 远方, and “Poison” 毒药, and hear a recording of “The Distance” read in Chinese by Huang Yin-Nan.
Sky Lanterns brings together innovative work by authors—primarily poets—in mainland China, Taiwan, the United States, and beyond who are engaged in truth-seeking, resistance, and renewal. Appearing in new translations, many of the works are published alongside the original Chinese text. A number of the poets are women, whose work is relatively unknown to English-language readers. Contributors include Amang, Bai Hua, Bei Dao, Chen Yuhong, Duo Yu, Hai Zi, Lan Lan, Karen An-hwei Lee, Li Shangyin, Ling Yu, Pang Pei, Sun Lei, Arthur Sze, Fiona Sze-Lorrain, Wei An, Woeser, Yang Lian, Yang Zi, Yi Lu, Barbara Yien, Yinni, Yu Xiang, and Zhang Zao.Sky Lanterns also features images from the Simple Song series by photographer Luo Dan. Traveling with a portable darkroom in remote, mountainous regions of southern China’s Yunnan Province, Luo Dan uses the laborious nineteenth-century, wet plate collodion process of exposure and development. In exquisite detail, he captures a rural life that has remained intact for centuries.
Click the image for ordering information.
Click here for my translation of Xi Chuan’s “The Ant’s Plunder” 蚂蚁劫, published in Plume last November. And follow this link for information about Chinese Writers on Writing, edited by Arthur Sze, which includes my translation or essays by Xi Chuan and Bian Zhilin 卞之琳.
I’ve added a new link to the Bibliography for Xi Chuan list to the right: Chinese Writers on Writing, edited by Arthur Sze, which was published last year as part of a series of on Writing titles published by Trinity University Press. My translation of the Xi Chuan essay is titled “Chinese as a Language in a Neighborhood.” Here’s the quick review by Greta Aart of Cerise Press:
It is difficult, if not impossible, to grasp a progressive development of modern Chinese literature since the wake of the 20th century, when the Chinese language became vernacular. That said, this anthology presents an intelligent, personal selection of landmark essays, novel excerpts, poems, manifestos and conversations (many of which are newly commissioned translations) by 41 writers from China, Taiwan and Hong Kong. A seminal work that helps increase a critical understanding of Chinese writing and literary aesthetics free from official ideology, Chinese Writers on Writing invigorates dialogue about the differences and universality of Chinese language — and its consciousness — in reference to our global framework today.