van Crevel on Chinese Migrant Worker Poetry

At Modern Chinese Literature & Culture Maghiel van Crevel reviews Iron Moon the film (directed by Qin Xiaoyu 秦晓宇 and Wu Feiyue 吴飞跃) and the anthology (edited by Qin Xiaoyu, translated by Eleanor Goodman).

The review begins:

Poetry is the most ubiquitous of literary genres. It is written and recited and read and heard for families and festivals, in love and on stage, in prayers and protests, at imperial courts and in factories. In China, associations of poetry and factories, and of poetry and manual labor at large, are anything but far-fetched. One recalls the story of poetry production, which is really the only right word here, being whipped up to keep up with steel production during the Great Leap Forward (quite aside from the results in terms of quality, for poetry or for steel). And less frenetic, more sustainable instances of the linkage of poetry and labor throughout the Mao era, with factories – and drilling rigs, construction sites, and so on – generally depicted as good places. But today, poetry + factories + China conjure up a different picture. One thinks not of the proletariat but of the precariat, and not of glory but of misery.

And on the translation and the poetry, he writes:

Goodman is to be commended for the many places in which she handles the particulars of migrant worker poetry astutely in terms of style. If we allow for some generalization, this poetry tends to be less polished – to cite a cliché that may fit the present context better than most – than professional writing. It is, for instance, often unsteady or unbalanced in terms of register and tone, line length, rhythm, and so on. This raises the old question of whether the translator is at liberty to “improve the original,” and of what determines whether the changes they make are improvements. Beyond textual and linguistic issues, this question often involves reflection on cultural difference and, sometimes, more directly political considerations of what one wants the translation to be and do – with migrant worker poetry, prison writing, and so on as cases in point. On the whole, in this respect, Goodman’s engagement with the texts is highly effective, especially because she knows when to honor the literal, and when to shun it. For the great majority of the poems, she treads a fine line between respecting the original and ensuring that the translations read well, maximizing the chance that the reader will stay tuned and get the message. In all, the poetry in Iron Moon remains true to life in translation, so to speak.

For the full write-up, click the image.

Eleanor Goodman on Contemporary Chinese Poetry from Zephyr

somethingcrosses_w

As part of Paper Republic‘s series of blogs for Global Literature in Libraries throughout February, Eleanor Goodman writes on Zephyr Press, which she says “has done more to raise the profile of contemporary Chinese poetry in English translation than any other press today”:

Their books are carefully curated, well edited, and beautifully produced. Above all, their translators (here I must profess that I am one of them) tend to be at the top of the field, which is of course essential to the making of a good book in English.

Alongside mentions of their publications of Han Dong 韩冬, Bai Hua 柏桦, Lan Lan 蓝蓝, and Yu Xiang 宇向, Goodman specifically writes about her translation of Wang Xiaoni 王小妮, about Andrea Lingenfelter’s translation of Zhai Yongming 翟永明, Austin Woerner’s translations of Ouyang Jianghe 欧阳江河, Jennifer Feeley’s translation of Hong Kong poet Xi Xi 西西, Steve Bradbury’s translation of Taiwanese poet Hsia Yü 夏宇, and my own forthcoming translations of Mang Ke 芒克.

With with “deep resources of scholarship and natural talent to draw upon,” she writes, it is

this mix of qualities—the best of the contemporary Chinese poetry world combined with translators who are also careful readers and appreciators of poetry—that makes the Zephyr collection so unique and valuable. These books are a labor of love from start to finish, and it shows in the final products. There is simply no better introduction to the contemporary Chinese poetry scene available today.

Click the image above for the full article.

Chinese Poetry in the Lucien Stryk Shortlist

The American Literary Translators Association (ALTA) has announced the 2016 Lucien Stryk Asian Translation Prize shortlist, including two books that are translations from the Chinese, by Hai Zi 海子 and Wang Anshi 王安石:

zi_coverRipened Wheat: Selected Poems of Hai Zi
By Hai Zi
Translated from the Chinese by Ye Chun
(The Bitter Oleander Press)

Hai Zi is one of China’s most beloved poets, whose suicide at the age of 25, just months before the Tiananmen Square protests of 1989, catapulted him to a fame that is almost mythic in proportions. Although his poetic oeuvre is relatively small, his archetypal descriptions of a rural and natural world now virtually extinguished by industrialization, have a lyric intensity that is richly evocative:

Sunlight

Pear flowers
arise along the dirt wall
Cow bells dinging

Auntie brings my nephews over
They stand in front of me
like two charcoal sticks

Sunlight is in fact very strong
Whip and blood for all that grows!

Ye Chun is not the first translator to represent Hai Zi’s poetry in English, but her generous selection of poems and informative preface provide an excellent introduction to this marvelous poet.

and
the_late_poems_of_wang_anshih
The Late Poems of Wang An-Shih

By Wang An-Shih
Translated from the Chinese by David Hinton
(New Directions)

 

David Hinton has long been accepted as one of the premier translators of ancient Chinese texts. He has translated not only collections of the essential poets Li Po, Tu Fu, Wang Wei, Po Chü-i and others, but also given us new interpretations of the I Ching, the Analects, and the Tao Te Ching. In this new translation, Hinton brings us the less well-known Sung poet Wang An-shih, an eccentric figure and brilliant poet.

I can’t see anything of this autumn day,
its last few scraps of yellow in treetops.

Out with my goosefoot staff, I think of
serene fields, but looking find no light.

Hinton captures the Chan Buddhist background of the poet and the freely roaming nature of his later life in finely-wrought language and vivid images. This is an important collection rendered beautifully into English.

This year’s judges are Steve Bradbury, Eleanor Goodman, and Kendall Heitzman. Click either image for the full list.

Bai Meigui Chinese Poetry Translation Competition

eleanor goodmanThe University of Leeds is hosting its third Bai Meigui Translation Competition, with poems–by Chi Lingyun 池凌云, Qin Xiaoyu 秦晓宇, and Xu Xiangchou 徐乡愁–chosen by judges Eleanor Goodman, Heather Inwood, and Canaan Morse.

HeatherInwoodThe winner will receive a £490 bursary to the ‘Translate in the City‘ summer school at City University, London, in July 2017, and will have her or his winning translation published in Stand magazine in 2017.

canaan morseClick here for the poems, and here for the overview and judges’ bios.

The deadline is 20 August, 2016.

Bem on Stalling’s Lost Wax

lost wax 0Queen Mob’s Teahouse now features Greg Bem’s review of Lost Wax, poems by Jonathan Stalling with Chinese and English re-translations by Zhou Yu, Yao Benbiao, Nick Admussen, Jennifer Feeley, Jami Proctor-Xu, Eleanor Goodman, Andrea Lingenfelter, and me. Here’s how it ends:

Moving from poem to poem, curiosity strikes me: is the primary goal of this book to bring us toward an understanding of the nuances of multilingual and multi-personal translation? Is this just an editor’s paradise to see how the process of a significant body of learned, engaged writers see the shape of a work? If there some collective meaning across the pages? By the end of the book, I hoped for commentary. I hope for more “meta.” An afterward from or an interview between the technicians. But in its absence, I was left with my own thoughts and theories (and a drive to learn some Chinese) in hopes of getting towards an understanding of what the core meaning of “lost wax” really is.

Click the image for the full review.

Goodman on Chinese Poetry Scenes in LARB

http://static.projects.iq.harvard.edu/files/styles/profile_full/public/fairbank/files/goodman_eleanor_headshot_henan_crop.jpg?m=1436712818&itok=M9XJuU4TLast November Austin Dean interviewed Eleanor Goodman for the Los Angeles Review of Books:

What aspects of the lives and works of Chinese poets and writers are under-reported or under-acknowledged in English-language writing on China? In other words, what types of question should we be asking that we aren’t currently thinking about? 


This is a wonderful question because it assumes that there are aspects that are widely reported and acknowledged. I would say the American reading public lacks virtually any exposure to or understanding of the contemporary poetry scene in China. Part of this is the paucity of translations (let alone of quality translations), and part of this is a lack of interest. Compared to Chinese readers, American readers tend to be incredibly narrow in their choices. We don’t like to read literature in translation, we aren’t curious about other literary scenes, and we’d rather just be fed something sweet and simple than work to extract something from a foreign text. This is all a vast over-generalization, but I think it holds true writ large. If you go into a Chinese bookstore, perhaps a quarter of the shelf space will be taken up by translated books, many if not most of them recently translated into Chinese and prominently displayed. If you walk into an American bookstore (does anyone still do that?), you’re unlikely to find anything similar.

Click the image above for the full interview.

Goodman on Wang Xiaoni on New Books in East Asian Studies

Carla Nappi interviews Eleanor Goodman about her translation of Something Crosses My Mind by Wang Xiaoni 王小妮. From the intro:

Goodman offers a fascinating introduction to the work of this “poet of place.” Wang’s poetry evokes a sense of dislocation and distances traveled, a sense of isolation while being embedded in a community of everyday material and nonhuman beings – corn and pigs, peanuts and windows, potatoes and blades, dust and mountains, farmers and colors. In the course of our conversation we talked about the challenges and opportunities of the translator’s practice, and Goodman was exceptionally generous in reading several of her beautiful translations and guiding us through some of the most powerful and evocative moments therein.

Click the image above or listen here.

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Goodman’s Xu Lizhi in China Labour Bulletin

Eleanor Goodman’s new translations of the work of Xu Lizhi 许立志 have now been published on China Labour Bulletin. She writes:

As I translated the poetry … I was immediately attracted to Xu’s straightforwardness, honesty, and darkness. Although his life was clearly unhappy–indeed, he committed suicide a little over a year ago at the age of 24 by jumping from the 17th floor of a building in Shenzhen not far from the Foxconn factory where he worked–there is very little self-pity evident in his poetry. Rather, he casts a cold eye on the larger society, on the conditions in which he worked, and on himself … He keeps the reader (and translator) on her toes, and given his rhetorical skill and highly topical subjects, he has become an important voice in Chinese poetry, one that was silenced much too soon.

Here’s an excerpt of the poetry.

I Swallowed an Iron Moon

I swallowed an iron moon
they called it a screw

I swallowed industrial wastewater and unemployment forms
bent over machines, our youth died young

I swallowed labor, I swallowed poverty
swallowed pedestrian bridges, swallowed this rusted-out life

I can’t swallow any more
everything I’ve swallowed roils up in my throat

I spread across my country
a poem of shame

Click the image above for more. For my translations on China Labour Bulletin from November, 2014, click here.

Goodman’s Wang Xiaoni wins Lucien Styke Prize

At their annual convention in Tucson, ALTA announced that Eleanor Goodman has won the 2015 Lucien Stryk Asian Translation Prize for Something Crosses My Mind, by Wang Xiaoni 王小妮 (Zephyr / Chinese University Press, 2014).

“‘I rush down the stairs,/ pull open the door,/ dash about in the spring sunlight…’ So begins this exquisite collection of translations by Eleanor Goodman of poems composed over the past several decades by Wang Xiaoni. In what follows we are taken out into the streets and on cross-country trains, into villages, cities and markets; we peep out through the windows of the poet’s home and sense the nostalgia invoked by a simple potato. Here is a poetry of the everyday, written in delicate yet deceptively simple language, and translated beautifully into its like in this first collection of Wang’s work to appear in English. Something Crosses My Mind offers up the refreshing voice of a poet forging her own path, neither shunning the political nor dwelling in the lyrical but gently and resolutely exploring her world in her writing,” write the judges of the Lucien Stryk Asian Translation Prize, Lucas Klein, Janet Poole, and Stephen Snyder.

Click on the image of Goodman reading for further details.