Translator Denis Mair reviews Liang Yujing’s Zero Distance: New Poetry from China (Tinfish) for the International Examiner:
In the late 90s and early years of the new millennium, a polemical battle between “intellectual writing” and “populist writing” unfolded on Chinese websites … The populist camp was interested in developing China’s own native modernism; the intellectual writing camp seemed committed to working through Western modernist currents that had been interrupted during China’s period of leftist isolationism … we can hear reverberations of that clash in this concise anthology ably edited and translated by Liang Yujing. This svelte volume indeed gives English readers “a glimpse of what is being written in China now.” However, a random sampling would be confusing in a country where “good poetry can be found anytime anywhere…and good unknown poets can be seen at every corner of the land.”
This collection hangs together because the translator mines an authentic vein of native modernism. It also earns the title Zero Distance by affording glimpses into the life-experience of inquiring young minds since the new millennium.
Read the full review by clicking on the image above.
Xi Chuan and other Chinese and American poets are at the University of Oklahoma for the US-China Poetry Dialog, organized by Jonathan Stalling.
The first public events will be on the 24th at 10:30 a.m. in OU’s Bizzell Memorial Library and 7 p.m. at Fred Jones Museum of Art. There will also be a reading on the 25th in Eureka Springs, AR, at 7 p.m. at the Writers Colony at Dairy Hollow, and on the 26th in Bentonville, AR at Crystal Bridges Museum of American Art at 6 p.m.
When you hear it
It seems above all illusion
Like a faint wisp of bluish smoke
Why just now are the ranged mountains
Felt to be filled with a timeless stillness?
Whose voice drifts between men and ghosts?
It seems to have left the body
Yet between reality and nothingness
In tones both human and divine it utters
A praise song for life and death
When it invokes sun, stars, rivers, and ancient heroes
When it summons deities and surreal powers
Departed beings commence their resurrection!
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.
Though the Nights are over, and Xi Chuan has flown off to Norway (about which I’ll be posting anon), the conversation continues at Paper Republic, with notes by Canaan Morse and extra commentary by Yours Truly. Also, I expect that videos of the readings will be posted on YouTube, as they were two years ago, so expect clips and further links to those as they appear.