MCLC Review of Jade Ladder

200Modern Chinese Literature & Culture has published Meng Liansu’s review of Jade Ladder: Contemporary Chinese Poetry, edited by Yang Lian 杨炼 and W. N. Herbert, with Brian Holton and Qin Xiaoyu 秦晓宇. Here’s how she begins her piece:

Jade Ladder is a welcome addition to the handful of anthologies of contemporary Chinese poetry in English, and the most comprehensive one to date. Featuring fifty-three poets born in mainland China and nearly 200 poems written between the 1970s and 2010, this anthology introduces the reader to a significantly larger number of excellent poets and poems than its peers and presents a fascinating overview of contemporary Chinese poetry in the past three decades. It is an important resource for general English-language readers interested in poetry and China, as well as for students, teachers and scholars of Chinese literature and culture.

Click the image above for the full review.

Holton & Herbert do Mang Ke’s “The Moon on the Road”

The Scottish Poetry Library has published the Mang Ke 芒克 poem “The Moon on the Road” 路上的月亮, from Jade Ladder, as translated into English by Brian Holton & W N Herbert.

Certainly,

There’s nothing better to take pride in than being human.

But you?

You’re a cat.

And a mouser may look at a Mao.

To read the poem in full, click the image above.

Mark Burnhope Reviews Jade Ladder

At Magma Poetry Mark Burnhope has posted his review of Jade Ladder, the recent anthology of contemporary Chinese poetry published in the UK. Burnhope is new to Chinese poetry, and he doesn’t know whether family names come first or last in Chinese, but he raises some nice questions about translation in his enthusiastic take on Chinese poetry today. Here’s how it begins:

In his essay concluding Jade Ladder, Brian Holton discusses the trials, tribulations, negotiations and compromises involved in translating Chinese poetry into English. Some of Yang Lian and Qin Xiaoyu’s first choices were shelved, he writes, “because the joke just wasn’t funny in English”, poems “were speaking only to Chinese readers’, or they ultimately “fell flat in translation”. The translators generally avoided footnotes unless they appeared in original poems, or unless they would “transform a poem that otherwise would be closed to the reader into something more accessible and enjoyable”.

Sean O’Brien reviews Jade Ladder

The Guardian has published Sean O’Brien’s review of Jade Ladder: Contemporary Chinese Poetry, edited by Yang Lian 杨炼, W N Herbert, Brian Holton, and Qin Xiaoyu 秦晓宇. It’s a fine and enthusiastic take written by an obviously engaged reader conversant with the current goings-on of poetry worldwide. Here’s how it begins:

The diversity and richness of contemporary Chinese poetry defy description. As Zang Di understatedly puts it in “Cosmo-Sceneriology”, “We seem / to have come to a new place”, but the place itself is multiple. In “100 Years of Solitude for the New Poetry”, the same poet suggests that poetry “has dismissed language” and finds that “yes, for an instant, it was almost not written by you”. To the reader coming newly to the subject, or with the competing translatorial templates of Ezra Pound and Arthur Waley in mind, these are exciting declarations, even as, or maybe because, they resist confident analysis.

O’Brien also singles out Xi Chuan for mention, with an interesting observation that dovetails with some of what he writes about Chinese and Eastern European literature in the afterword to Notes on the Mosquito, “The Tradition This Instant” 传统在此时此刻:

A western reader is likely to be reminded here of Mandelstam’s ill-fated “Stalin Epigram“. Although Mao is seen posthumously by a poet born in 1960, subsequent Chinese administrations have proved just as interested in the ideological demeanour of the arts as were Kruschev and his successors in Russia. Xi Chuan’s “Commandments” could be a poem from the eastern bloc of the 1950s (in this translation it recalls Zbigniew Herbert): “you shall not covet / so it’s not a bad idea to crown yourself king in a dark room / and why not cut a skeleton key and carry it in your hand? / walk, stop, turn: in that capital city under the light of your sun / you will disdain to open each rusted lock”.

The version of “Commandments” 戒律 quoted here is Holton’s from Jade Ladder. My version is included in Notes on the Mosquito.

Jade Ladder’s Poets

I’ve compiled a list of the poets whose work appears in English translation in Jade Ladder, the new anthology of contemporary Chinese poetry edited by Yang Lian 杨炼, W N Herbert, Brian Holton, and Qin Xiaoyu 秦晓宇. The anthology presents the work of poets by birth year, but the work is separated into sections–lyric poems, narrative poems, neo-classical poems, sequences, experimental poems, and long poems–so I’ve put together this alphabetical list of the poets represented. Poets in bold (23, by my count) are those not included in the recent Copper Canyon anthology, Push Open the Window (of whom 19 of the 49 are not included in JL; click here for that anthology’s table of contents). Also, since Jade Ladder is English-only, I’m not sure of every poet’s name in Chinese, and consequently have left some blank. If you know, or spot any other errors, let me know.

  1. Bai Hua 柏桦
  2. Bei Dao 北岛
  3. Chen Dongdong 陈东东
  4. Chen Xianfa 陈先发
  5. Duo Duo 多多
  6. Ge Mai 戈麦
  7. Gu Cheng 顾城
  8. Hai Zi 海子
  9. Han Bo韩博
  10. Hu Dong
  11. Hu Xudong 胡续冬
  12. Huang Canran 黄灿然
  13. Jiang Hao 蒋浩
  14. Jiang He 江河
  15. Jiang Tao 姜涛
  16. Liao Yiwu 廖亦
  17. Lü De’an 吕德安
  18. Ma Hua 马骅
  19. Mai Cheng
  20. Mang Ke 芒克
  21. Meng Lang 孟浪
  22. Ouyang Jianghe 欧阳江河
  23. Pan Wei
  24. Qin Xiaoyu 秦晓宇
  25. Qing Ping 清平
  26. Senzi 森子
  27. Shui Yin
  28. Song Lin 宋琳
  29. Song Wei
  30. Sun Lei
  31. Sun Wenbo 孙文波
  32. Wang Ao 王敖
  33. Wang Xiaoni 王小妮
  34. Xi Chuan 西川
  35. Xiao Kaiyu 肖开愚
  36. Ya Shi
  37. Yan Li
  38. Yang Lian 杨炼
  39. Yang Xiaobin 杨小
  40. Yang Zheng
  41. Yi Sha 伊沙
  42. Yu Jian 于坚
  43. Yu Nu 余怒
  44. Zang Di 臧棣
  45. Zhai Yongming 翟永明
  46. Zhang Danyi
  47. Zhang Dian
  48. Zhang Shuguang 张曙光
  49. Zhang Zao 张枣
  50. Zhong Ming
  51. Zhou Lunyou
  52. Zhu Zhu 朱朱
  53. Zou Jingzhi

Jade Ladder Arrival

I received my copy of Jade Ladder: Contemporary Chinese Poetry from Bloodaxe Books yesterday. Edited by Yang Lian 杨炼, W N Herbert, Brian Holton, and Qin Xiaoyu 秦晓宇, it’s brimming with Chinese poetry from the last thirty-five years, mostly translated by Holton with Lee Man-Kay 李漫琪 and / or Herbert. Jade Ladder includes five Xi Chuan poems–one, “Exercises in Thought” 思想练习, in my translation (which Herbert calls “marvellous work”!), one in Holton’s translation, and two done by Xi Chuan with Bill Herbert. This allows for readers to get a sense of how different translators work, and of course to see different aspects of Xi Chuan’s poetry as they find different expressions in English.

Also of interest, both to scholars and general readers, are the preface by Herbert, the introduction by Yang Lian, the essays by Qin Xiaoyu, and the afterword by Holton.

Words Without Borders on the London Book Fair & Contemporary Chinese Poetry

Last week Words Without Borders was reporting on location from the London Book Fair, and their report from Day 3 is full of excitement about Chinese poetry in English and the newly published Jade Ladder: Contemporary Chinese Poetry, which includes my translations of some of Xi Chuan’s work. Here’s the beginning of their writeup:

The highlight of the third and final day at the Literary Translation Center was a conversation among poets, editors, and translators about an exciting new book of contemporary Chinese poetry.  The book is called Jade Ladder—and the panelists discussing it, and related subjects, sounded like just the playful, dissenting and sensitive voices you’d hope to find in such company.

As I posted before, Xi Chuan was one of the panelists at the event, but for some reason WWB didn’t mention him by name; nor did they mention him as part of the Chinese poetry panel with Han Dong 韩东 and Nicky Harman, either, which he also participated in. Ah well.

Xi Chuan at the London Book Fair

Digital Conference catch up

The London Book Fair opens today, with China as the Guest of Honor. My friend the translator Bruce Humes compiled a list of China-related events, but his blog is down, so I’m re-posting here:

April 16

Modern Chinese Masters: The launch of two new books in translation by Annie Baobei and Li Er, together with their translators and publisher Harvey Thomlinson.

Independent Foreign Fiction Prize 2012: Shortlist Spotlight: Chinese novelist and film maker Xiaolu Guo and Director of the Edinburgh International Book Festival Nick Barley as they reflect on judging the scores of books in translation submitted for this year’s award. They will be sharing their insights into literary translation with Literary Editor of The Independent Boyd Tonkin, a long-serving judge of the Prize.

Editing China and Japan: This session will explore the joys and challenges of editing translations from Chinese and Japanese, languages and literary cultures that are unfamiliar to many editors and readers. How can editors make decisions about translation from languages they don’t know; what are the peculiarities and specificities of languages such as Chinese and Japanese; and what is the role of the translator in this process? We will hear from Harvill Secker’s publishing director Elizabeth Foley, Penguin China’s Managing Director Jo Lusby and translators Eric Abrahamsen and Michael Emmerich.

April 17

Bi Feiyu Interviewed by Rosie Goldsmith: Bi Feiyu’s novel The Moon Opera (青衣), translated by Howard Goldblatt was longlisted for the 2008 Independent Foreign Fiction Prize while Three Sisters (玉米 ,玉秀,玉秧), also translated by Goldblatt, won the 2010 Man Asian Literary Prize. In China, his awards include twice winning the Lu Xun Literary Prize, and  the 2011 Mao Dun Prize, the highest national literary award, for Massage.

Ancient Myths in Contemporary Fiction: Alai and Tsering Norbu explore why ancient myths fascinate us until today and how these timeless stories can be brought into the 21st century.

New Perspectives in Chinese and British Literature: Four Chinese writers, Tie Ning, Mo Yan, Alai and Liu Zhenyun as well as their four British counterparts will share ideas on topics such as “maintaining national characteristics in a global context”, “active and diverse literature creation in China (UK), “literature and contemporary life, “literature and social progress and development”, etc.

Chinese Children’s Literature: British readers are all too aware of the British superstars in children’s literature, such as J.K. Rowling, Michael Morpurgo or Julia Donaldson. In an attempt to find out more about the world of Chinese children’s literature, two of China’s most popular authors in this genre—Yang Hongying and  Zheng Yuanjie—join us to discuss their writing.

April 18

Contemporary Chinese Poetry: Contemporary Chinese poetry is constantly evolving, drawing both on the ancient and rich poetic tradition in China as well as on influences from around the world. Xi Chuan and Han Dong, two of China’s most celebrated contemporary poets, read from their work with fellow poet Pascale Petit and reflect on this evocative and though-provoking genre.

Bringing Chinese Poetry to the UK: Chinese poetry has a long and honourable history in English translation – it is nearly 100 years since Arthur Waley’s 170 Chinese Poems was first published. Both the Chinese classics and contemporary poetry, which has flourished in the last three decades, provide rich opportunities for Western publishers. In the last twelve months alone, several new volumes – both anthologies and single-poet volumes have been published in the UK and the USA. Nevertheless there are huge challenges: • Few poetry publishers will have in-depth knowledge of the contemporary Chinese poetry scene. Which poets will be represented? In the West, the label ‘dissident’ sells books, but what does it mean in the Chinese poetry context? • Who will do the translations? The panel will look at collaborative translating (translators + poets) as a practical and creative solution. • Promoting the unfamiliarand finding new audiences. How much contextualization is needed when introducing new poetry (whether classical or contemporary) to readers? How important are promotional events or readings, if at all? Panelists Nicky Harman, Bill Herbert, Brian Holton and Yang Lian, will discuss all this and more with chair David Constantine.

Contemporary China on the Page: Chinese society has been undergoing monumental changes and is constantly evolving under the influence of China’s changing status in the world. Chi Zijian, Feng Tang and fellow author Xinran discuss how contemporary literature is reflecting these transformations and the effect they have on the life of Chinese people today.

Rural China: Amidst rapid urbanization, the rural setting in contemporary fiction has acquired new meaning in China. Authors Mo Yan and Li Er debate with literature expert Lu Jiande the role of life outside the city in contemporary fiction, forming the background to explorations of tradition and change.