Lupke’s Xiao Kaiyu on Asymptote

https://i1.wp.com/file.juzimi.com/category_pictures/201401/xiaokaiyujingdianyulu29779.jpg?w=584Asymptote has published new translations of Xiao Kaiyu 蕭開愚 poetry by Christopher Lupke.

He sleeps in a swimming pool filled with ancient texts,
a renovated workshop, looking into the air,
speaking short incomprehensible sentences.
Unfathomable ideas are concealed in stiff reeds of utterance,
The soldier’s language comes from an imperceptible battlefield, but who can  understand it?

他睡在滿是舊籍的游泳池
改建的工作間,望着空氣
說着晦澀的短句子,
無法破解的意思藏匿在堅挺的語音芒刺中,
戰士的語言來自看不見的戰場,有誰懂得?

Click the image above for the full suite.

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

Location:
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.

Click the image above for further details.

Lupke’s Xiao Kaiyu in Eratio

The new issue of E·ratio includes four poems by Xiao Kaiyu 肖开愚, as translated by Chris Lupke. Here’s a sample:

In answering a well-intentioned query, Milton
declared: “Oh Leader, vengeance!”
I asked him to emulate the scorched youths who
suffered so he could get the power they craved.

答應善良的請求,彌爾頓
呼籲過:“主啊,復仇吧!”
我要求他像燒焦的青年那樣
受難的人能夠請求到力量。

Click here to download the .pdf publication.

Chinese Poetry at Epiphany

The journal Epiphany, with Nick Admussen as poetry editor, has published a suite of contemporary Chinese pieces, including the following:

  • Chun Sue 春树 (translated by Martin Winter)
  • Mu Cao 墓草 (translated by Scott E. Myers)
  • Liu Waitong 廖偉棠 (translated by Audrey Heijins)
  • Xiao Kaiyu 肖开愚 (translated by Christopher Lupke)
  • Haizi 海子 (translated by Nick Kaldis)
  • Sai Sai (Xi Xi) 西西 (translated by Jennifer Feeley)
  • Hsia Yü 夏宇 (translated by Steve Bradbury)
  • Yao Feng 姚风 (translated by Tam Hio Man and Kit Kelen)
  • Han Dong 韩东 (translated by Nicky Harman)
  • Huang Lihai 黄礼孩 (translated by Song Zijiang)

Click the image above for an online sample, including pieces by Mu Cao and Hsia Yü:

He says the world is very big
We should go outside and look around
That’s how one wards off sadness
We should go to a gay bathhouse in Beijing
And experience group sex with a hundred people
Or go to Dongdan Park, or Sanlihe, or Madian
And know a different kind of lust
If I could visit Yellow Crane Tower
I’d have new inspiration for writing poems
He says all the great artists
Were fine comrades like us

Announcing the Ancient Asia issue of Cha

Announcing the Ancient Asia Issue of Cha (December 2013), featuring new translations of Chinese poetry by Xi Chuan, Tao Yuanming 陶淵明, Du Fu 杜甫, He Qifang 何其芳, Xiao Kaiyu 肖开愚, Liu Yong 柳永, the Shijing 詩經, Laozi 老子, Du Mu 杜牧, and Li Shangyin 李商隱, and new work by Eliot Weinberger, Matthew Turner, Eleanor Goodman, Sharmistha Mohanty, and Jonathan Stalling. The full list of contributors:

Translation: Lucas Klein, A.K. Ramanjuan, Reid Mitchell, George Life, Canaan Morse, Michael Gray, Christopher Lupke, Dulal Al Monsur, Nicholas Francis, Michael Farman, Michael O’Hara, Eleanor Goodman, Chloe Garcia Roberts

Poetry: Eliot Weinberger, Matthew Turner, W.F. Lantry, Aditi Rao, Stuart Christie, Luca L., Xiao Pinpin, Kate Rogers, Pey Pey Oh, DeWitt Clinton, Elizabeth Schultz, Stephanie V Sears, Joshua Burns, James Shea, Sean Prentiss, Steven Schroeder, Marjorie Evasco, Arjun Rajendran, Pui Ying Wong, Julia Gordon-Bramer, June Nandy, Janice Ko Luo, Stuart Greenhouse, Barbara Boches, Cathy Bryant, Justin Hill, Eleanor Goodman

Fiction: John Givens,  Xie Shi Min, Sharmistha Mohanty, Zhou Tingfeng, Khanh Ha

Articles: Jonathan Stalling, Michael Tsang

Creative non-fiction: Pavle Radonic

Photography & art: Alvin Pang (cover artist), Adam Aitken

Click the image above to access the full issue.

New Cathay: Contemporary Chinese Poetry

New Cathay: Contemporary Chinese Poetry Edited by Ming Di

 

New Cathay: Contemporary Chinese Poetry

The most up-to-date anthology of contemporary Chinese poetry, translated by American poets and edited by the executive editor of the bilingual literary journal Poetry East West. Showcasing the achievement of Chinese poetry in the last twenty years, a time of tremendous literary ferment, this collection focuses on a diversity of exciting poets from the mainland, highlighting Duo Duo (laureate of the 2010 Neustadt International Prize for Literature) and Liao Yiwu (recipient of 2012 Peace Prize of the German Book Trade organization) along with not yet well-known but brilliant poets such as Zang Di and Xiao Kaiyu and younger poets Jiang Tao and Lü Yue. The anthology includes interviews with the poets and a fascinating survey of their opinions on “Ten Favorite Chinese poets” and “Ten Best-Known Western poets in China.”

Featured poets: Duo Duo, Wang Xiaoni, Bai Hua, Zhang Shuguang, Sun Wenbo, Wang Jiaxin, Liao Yiwu, Song Lin, Xiao Kaiyu, Lü De’an, Feng Yan, Yang Xiaobin, Zang Di, Ya Shi, Mai Mang, Lan Lan, Jiang Tao, Jiang Hao, Lü Yue, Hu Xudong, Yi Lai, Jiang Li, Zheng Xiaoqiong, Qiu Qixuan, and Li Shumin.

With translations by Neil Aitken, Katie Farris, Ming Di, Christopher Lupke, Tony Barnstone, Afaa Weaver, Jonathan Stalling, Nick Admussen, Eleanor Goodman, Ao Wang, Dian Li, Kerry Shawn Keys, Jennifer Kronovet, Elizabeth Reitzell, and Cody Reese.

Poetry International Interview with Mindy Zhang

In April Poetry International published their interview with Mindy Zhang 明迪 about translating poetry between English and Chinese. Here’s how the interview begins:

PI: What is the most challenging aspect of translating poetry?

MZ: The hardest part of translation is to go inside the mind of the poet and find out what he did NOT want to say. I like ambiguities and multiple readings but I think we should avoid misleading. If the poet hated rhythm and musicality in poetry, making the translation musical would mean cheating.  These are, of course, extreme cases. Usually I try to figure out what’s in a poem rather than what’s not in a poem. There are always several choices to translate a line, I would focus on which one represents the closest meaning and brings out the implied, the suggested, the hidden meaning and which one best presents the tone and the mood.  Very often I look at the translation, hmmmm, this doesn’t sound right— I make changes; I stare at the original poem, stare at it literally, until I hear the voice of it.  In other words, a translated poem should be as good as it was originally with its linguistic and emotional subtleties. Whatever drives the poem forward, the motif and echoes, the rhythm and variations, the passion or reasoning, the word play, the visual shifting, whatever, should be reflected in the translation.

Her responses include mentions of lots of poets & writers from around the world, as well as translators Jonathan Stalling, Christopher Lupke, Denis Mair, and Nick Admussen.

#XiChuan

Scrounging through the series of tubes that make up the internet the other day I came across someone’s Twitter feed from January, posting live updates from my event with Xi Chuan and Chris Lupke at the MLA. After the event I posted Rachel Blau DuPlessis‘s excellent response to “Hearing Xi Chuan for the First Time,” but these tweets took me back in a different way. eetempleton seemed particularly impressed with Xi Chuan’s aversion to “good poems”–something I explained in my Poetry Society of America write-up as poems “both acceptable to more conservative aesthetic standards as well as simply poems that are too ‘well-behaved.'” Ultimately, however, I think these tweets capture something important about Xi Chuan as a writer, quoting: “I’m not trying to be a poet. I’m trying to be a person writing texts.”

Rachel Blau DuPlessis on Hearing Xi Chuan for the First Time

 

American poet Rachel Blau DuPlessis attended last week’s discussion at the MLA between Xi Chuan and Chris Lupke. The following excellent essay is her take on the event:

A Note on hearing Xi Chuan for the First Time

Rachel Blau DuPlessis

The poet Xi Chuan appeared at the annual conference of the Modern Language Association in Seattle in January 2012, in a question and answer session curated by Professor Christopher Lupke of Washington State University, interspersed with a reading by the poet (in Chinese) and by his translator Lucas Klein (in English). The event was very striking to me. There are various “paths” one can pick at this bazaar-like humanities conference, but as part of the “county fair” or “state fair” array, the path that leads the attendee to new information certainly counts for something. The session on Xi Chuan, in a solemn hall, was attended by a number of scholars and teachers with an interest in Asian literature, and of these, there were many Chinese speakers. There were also a few spare poets and folks committed to poetic culture. Among those, me.

The most interesting phenomenon of the occasion, at least to this particular “spare poet,” was the very polite and quiet resistance of some members of the audience to what they saw in Xi Chuan’s work as—here’s what I would call it—non-poetic (or anti-poetic, or un-poetic). That is, people challenged his lexicon (range of words, some quite colloquial) as brought forward by the translator; they challenged why this material is classified as poetry; they wanted (politely, etc.) to suggest that perhaps the poet had missed that he was writing in prose, or making short fiction, or working in a hybrid genre, but that he wasn’t really writing what they would call (in somewhat hushed tones), “poetry.” Or perhaps with a capital “P”: “Poetry.”  “Why,” one person asked, “is poetry the most appropriate mode in which to articulate your cultural critique?”

This was (and remains) a very good question, but I suspected it was motivated by the questioner’s resistance to the fusion of poetry and critique rather than, as I’d think, an interest in how one can, may, and even should be able to propose and carry out this goal for poetry as a mode of practice. (By the way, I’d define poetry as a mode of writing in chosen rhythmic segments that are culturally read as poetry. Clearly, the issue of “cultural reading” was precisely at stake for some of the people hearing Xi Chuan.) Such a question also shows that a whole range of world poetries and poetics of the 20th and early 21st century were not being credited. In short, some of the members of the audience had a strong case of what I’d call “poetry ideology.” They not only preferred the focused lyric, the misty, “pure poetry,” and the “poetic” on principle, but they seemed to find this the only kind of writing worthy of the honorific “poetry.”  Some silvery aura of specialness shimmered around “poetry”; some sense that it should stay untainted by… well, by what? by words like “shithole” (country colloquialism for latrine) or by noticing some kids (“delinquents”) in a country town, acting up by dying their black hair yellow. Or by the general air of realist disjunction so well-honed that it passes into almost-surrealism. Or by a meta-commentary or sense of allegory that infuses some of the work. Or by the desire to record everyday life seen in such a light as it is both comic, observationally accurate, and endowed with a humane generosity and ethical melancholy within that notional intensity. “Dignity and shithole together” is how Xi Chuan characterized this move.

In short, the reading offered evidence of a cultural clash around issues fundamental to modern and contemporary poetry. Xi Chuan fed this clash and teased about it, stating that he did know how to write “good poems”—I assume this means poems conventional in this milieu, using or alluding to the appropriate formal and imagistic conventions of Chinese poetry, including stanza and rhyme. He said that he even had written such “good poems,” and that every once in a while he still did. He has loved the work of both Yeats and Valéry.  But generally, “I am trying to be a person writing texts.” That is, he has been touched by certain rhetorics and forms with which I am familiar from Western cultural traditions and would refer to via these names and practices—by the term “writing” for William Carlos Williams (see Spring and All), by the urban, suspicious and sometimes “crashed out” sensibility of Charles Baudelaire, by the prose poem tradition of, say, Robert Bly (whose work he read in his student days courtesy of a Peking University professor of English named Herbert Stone).

Xi Chuan’s personal/social history as it bears on his poems was quickly sketched in. The years around Tiannamen Square (when he was in his mid-twenties) were exciting and difficult; a friend died, another committed suicide; he was “lonely” and felt “crashed out.” (Xi Chuan’s English is excellent, and this verb—slightly unidiomatic—is notably expressive. All apparent citations here are what I heard.)  He could not write poetry for a couple of years; he wrote notes only, and then discovered that these fragments were the germ for a new kind of text. “History and reality gave me the way of writing.” The fusion of aesthetic and ethical concerns in his work is serious and generative.

Xi Chuan’s work in the English translation of Lucas Klein will be published by New Directions in April 2012 under the title Notes on the Mosquito.