Goodman’s Lok Fung reviewed at HKRB

Hong Kong Review of Books has published May Huang’s review of Days When I Hide My Corpse in a Cardboard Box, poems by Lok Fung 洛楓 translated by Eleanor Goodman (Zephyr Press).

Here’s a striking–and, I think, apt–line:

The pressures placed on women to appear young and stay beautiful are closely tied to systems of oppression inflicted upon the city itself.

Huang also pays attention to the translation–as all reviews of translated literature must, if they are to be worthwhile at all–and the multilingualism of the book and of life in Hong Kong:

While the visual effect of seeing English words amid a Chinese text disappears in the English translation, Goodman deftly captures the multilingual qualities of Lok’s poetics nonetheless. In “Tracks of Emotion,” Lok cites the English lyrics to Vanessa Williams’ “Save the Best for Last” in an otherwise Cantonese poem set in the train station. In Goodman’s translation, her use of the word “tracks” becomes an instance of clever wordplay, as it refers to both song tracks and train tracks. In other poems, rhymes in the English beautifully echo or complement the original Chinese: “I am low as a cello” and “I am slayed, I rot / powerless whether I love or not” are two instances. The book itself, which is printed in parallel texts, speaks to the multivalences that translation can expose—as does the Hong Kong Atlas series, the first to exclusively spotlight Hong Kong poetry in translation.

Click here for the review in full.

Goodman Interviewed for Shanghai Literary Review

Brian Haman of The Shanghai Literary Review has interviewed poet and translator Eleanor Goodman “about translating Chinese literature, gender dynamics within contemporary Chinese poetry, linguistic and geographical liminality, and the meaning of home.”

The questions start out rote, but it’s not long before the conversation gets going:

BH: Do you think that there’s a cross-pollination between the translation work and your work as a poet? Is there a continuity of images, themes, or ideas? And how do you choose the works that you translate?

Goodman: … On a linguistic level, I’m very interested in the plasticity of Chinese, the way that the different grammatical elements can be put together in more configurations than can generally be done naturally in English. For a while I was very interested in this technique that some Chinese poets use where you have what seems to be an integral line of poetry and then the next line casts a different meaning on it. Ambiguous subject or ambiguous nouns, leaving out “he” or “she” or “it,” the lack of certain things like noun markers – there’s a kind of ambiguity that Chinese poets manipulate beautifully and to great effect and I sometimes try to play with that in my own work.

And, on the role of gender in the field of Chinese poetry today, she says:

In Chinese poetry there are shiren (诗人) [poet] and nü shiren (女诗人) [female poet]. Poetry is still considered a male game: men write about the important topics; they have an expansive, outward looking view; they’re philosophical; they have deep thoughts. Women, in stark contrast, write about jiating shiqing (家庭事情) [the household]: they write about domestic things such as children and making dinner. They’re inward looking rather than outward looking. And those kinds of attitudes are deeply entrenched in the Chinese poetry world, and not just among male poets but also to some degree among a minority set of women poets, who have internalized this and who do write about flowers in springtime – not that there’s anything wrong with that (after all, Wordsworth wrote about such things). But the majority of female poets that I come into contact with are infuriated by this assumed hierarchy and the limitations that they constantly come up against.

Follow the link for the interview in full.

Introduction to Chinese Poetry in Translation in SupChina

As part of SupChina‘s feature on poetry last month, translator Dave Haysom selected five books to introduce Chinese poetry in English translation: Chinese Poetic Writing by François Cheng (translated by Donald A. Riggs & Jerome P. Seaton), The New Directions Anthology of Classical Chinese Poetry (edited by Eliot Weinberger), Jade Ladder: Contemporary Chinese Poetry (edited by W.N. Herbert & Yang Lian, with Brian Holton), Iron Moon: An Anthology of Chinese Worker Poetry (translated by Eleanor Goodman), and Nineteen Ways of Looking at Wang Wei: How a Chinese Poem is Translated by Eliot Weinberger.

Click through to see more on these titles, as well as Dave’s honorable mentions.

Daniel Tay on The Reciprocal Translation Project

Daniel Tay has written a review of The Reciprocal Translation Project, edited by James Sherry and Sun Dong 孙冬, which gives a different take from Eleanor Goodman‘s (“There is no acknowledgement of the structure, form, tone, emotional texture, repetition, surprise, rhythm, rhyme, sound effect, level of diction, intent, etc., etc., of the original,” posted here earlier). He writes:

All in all, the poems and their translations are strong and successful. That is, they make good on the editors’ aims, and do so without conclusively declaring any single work as ideal, final, better, or best. The poets generate translations that expose and negotiate the similarities and differences between Chinese and American language, poetic interests, and cultures. In doing so, they expand the criteria available for writing and considering translations.

Put another way, the poets and editors show that poems, translations, and their writers can create and function together in a poetic ecosystem. Normally placed in an evaluative hierarchy, with different works competing for critical praise and attention, these poems and their translations function in an inclusive hierarchy. This means that the poems and translations develop meaning in one another, symbiotically, with none being superior in status to the other. Moreover, no poem or translation is the title work of the collection, and no work is inferior to the collection as a whole …

In this poetic ecosystem, writers do not, as generally understood, hand down their original works to translators; instead, they hand them off – in this case to contemporaries and peers. Critics and publishers often claim that translations have “captured” an original work or its voice. The environmental model for poetics, embodied in The Reciprocal Translation Project, introduces nonlinear goals for translations, and adds a useful complexity to their relationships with original works.

This far, the review only reiterates what Sun and Sherry write in their introduction. But Tay goes on:

in observing the ways in which these questions overwhelmed me, I came to see that my questions manifested a personal resistance. With so many choices, I was refusing to settle into and engage any particular way of reading. After all, each way of reading would preclude, prevent, or worse predetermine certain understandings of the texts. How could I see past my particular way of reading to identify the aims and maneuvers of the various writers?

In showing multiple translations side by side and without commentary, the book invites readers to take stock of and maintain awareness of their own assumptions, preconditions, and demands for texts. At the same time, it asks readers to observe the variety of writers’ considerations, expectations, and intentions as expressed through their works. In essence, readers must reflect, look inward, and ultimately accept and take responsibility for their ways of reading. Only then can they negotiate, and translate between, those ways of reading and the translators’ ways of translating.

Click here to read the review in full.

Denis Mair on Meng Lang

Three poets come to Bumbershoot

In honor of the passing of Meng Lang 孟浪 (1961 – 2018) on December 12 in Hong Kong, Cha: An Asian Literary Journal has published a commemorative piece by Denis Mair, his friend and translator:

All these details are just the outer lineaments of Meng Lang’s life, but his true story—his true biography–lies in the trajectory of his poems. He was a poet who found his own unique path to write about the social, political realities of his country in the language of modern, avant-garde thought. As a poet he always faced political realities, never going down a rabbit hole of metaphysics or aestheticism, yet each poem demonstrates his powerful artistic sensibility. I reaped tremendous reward by translating over a hundred of his poems, and I am proud that he trusted me with his beautiful creations.

Later this month Cha will publish a feature on Meng Lang and his place in poetry, with poems by Meng translated by Mair, as well as poems by Hong Kong writers Tang Siu Wa 鄧小樺, Jacky Yuen 熒惑, Kwan Tin-Lam 關天林, and Liu Waitong 廖偉棠 remembering Meng–as translated by Jennifer Feeley, Nick Admussen, Eleanor Goodman, and Lucas Klein.

Click here for Mair’s commemoration.

Goodman on Poetry and Translation at NüVoices

In the newest installment of the NüVoices Podcast, Eleanor Goodman talks to Alice Xin Liu and guest host Lijia Zhang 张丽佳 about poetry, translation, poetry translation and the place of women in these fields in the US and China.

She reads from her translations and from her own poetry, with particular attention to her translations of Wang Xiaoni 王小妮 and migrant worker poetry.

Listen here, or click the image above to listen at the SupChina.com host site.

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James Sherry’s reply to Goodman’s review of The Reciprocal Translation Project

As I posted in early August, Eleanor Goodman reviewed The Reciprocal Translation Project (Roof Books), edited by James Sherry and Sun Dong, for LARB‘s China Channel. She called the book a “messy, fraught endeavor”:

There is no acknowledgement of the structure, form, tone, emotional texture, repetition, surprise, rhythm, rhyme, sound effect, level of diction, intent, etc., etc., of the original.

Well now James Sherry has replied, in the form of a letter to the editor of China Channel. “I agree with Goodman,” he writes, “that we should expand our description of the ‘bilingual specialists’ to include these translators’ other roles as mentioned above. In the second printing, we have amended that.” He concludes, though:

I do appreciate Goodman’s term “responses” to describe some of the poetic translations of the original poems, but her tendency to look at the translation process from a single perspective undermines her own well-framed statement “translation is a notoriously tricky business.” The Reciprocal Translation Project establishes a range of solutions, not all of which will be imitated, but will all be read as relevant to the process of communicating between languages and cultures. Clearly, the standard approach has not produced great understanding between our two cultures. Perhaps this discussion with all its outliers, queerness and experiments can promote a willingness to see poetry in global and environmental terms instead of only in terms of our prior understanding. Thanks, Eleanor, for inviting this discussion.

Click the image above for the letter in full.

 

Xi Xi Wins 2019 Newman Prize for Chinese Literature

Image may contain: 3 people, including Tammy Ho Lai-Ming, people smiling, people sitting and indoorNewman Prize winner Xi Xi with her nominator Tammy Ho and translator Jennifer Feeley (photo by Ho Fuk Yan 何福仁)

NORMAN, OK—An international jury has selected the Hong Kong poet Xi Xi 西西 (born 1937) as the winner of the sixth Newman Prize for Chinese Literature. She is the third female Newman laureate, and the first from Hong Kong.

Sponsored by the University of Oklahoma’s Institute for U.S.-China Issues, the Newman Prize is awarded biennially in recognition of outstanding achievement in prose or poetry that best captures the human condition, and is conferred solely on the basis of literary merit. Any living author writing in Chinese is eligible. A jury of seven distinguished literary experts nominated seven poets this spring, and selected the winner in a transparent voting process on October 9, 2018.

Winner Xi Xi 西西 (the pen name of Zhang Yan 張彥) will receive USD $10,000, a commemorative plaque, and a bronze medallion at an academic symposium and award banquet at the University of Oklahoma, Norman, on March 7–8, 2019. In addition to this year’s nominating juror, Tammy Lai-Ming Ho (Hong Kong Baptist University), other nominees and jurors include Yu Xiuhua 余秀华, nominated by Nick Admussen (Cornell University); Wang Xiaoni 王小妮, nominated by Eleanor Goodman (Fairbank Center, Harvard University); Xi Chuan 西川, nominated by Lucas Klein (University of Hong Kong); Xiao Kaiyu 萧开愚, nominated by Christopher Lupke (University of Alberta); Zheng Xiaoqiong 郑小琼, nominated by Maghiel van Crevel (Leiden University); and Bei Dao 北岛, nominated by Wang Guangming (Capital Normal University).

“This year’s nominees represent an extraordinarily wide variety of Sinophone poetry,” said this year’s Newman Prize Coordinator, Jonathan Stalling. “The jurors spent over an hour in vigorous deliberation before they finally emerged with one poet out of the many. It is genuinely exciting to see Xi Xi’s poetry and her lifelong contributions to world letters recognized by this year’s prize.”

According to Dr. Tammy Lai-Ming Ho,

Hong Kong literature has for too long been relegated to a secondary position, or even worse—it is as though the city is incapable of producing significant literary works and writers of note. Hong Kong poetry is to many perhaps an even more abstract and chimerical concept. Xi Xi’s poetry, at times whimsical and at times serious, speaks to the character of the city and its people. Her poems also demonstrate how stories of a city can be told through narratives that are at first glance insignificant, allegories and fairy tales instead of grand statements. Feminine, tender, witty, observant, and capable of tugging at the heartstrings, Xi Xi’s poetry reminds us Hong Kong poetry should not be ignored in any discussion.

Previous winners of the Newman Prize have included mainland Chinese novelists Mo Yan 莫言, Han Shaogong 韩少功, and Wang Anyi 王安忆, who won the 2009, 2011, and 2017 Newman Prizes, respectively. Mo Yan went on to win the Nobel Prize in Literature in 2012. Taiwanese poets Yang Mu 楊牧 and novelist and screenwriter Chu Tien-wen 朱天文 won the Newman Prize for Chinese Literature in 2013 and 2015.

The Newman Prize honors Harold J. and Ruth Newman, whose generous endowment of a chair at the University of Oklahoma enabled the creation of the OU Institute for US-China Issues over a decade ago, in 2006. The University of Oklahoma is also home to the Chinese Literature Translation Archive, Chinese Literature Today, World Literature Today, and the Neustadt International Prize for Literature.

 

美國中部時間2018年10月8日,中國香港作家和詩人西西獲得第六屆紐曼華語文學獎(詩歌獎)。她是紐曼華語文學獎的第三位女性獲獎者,也是第一位來自香港的獲獎者。

紐曼華語文學獎是由美國俄克拉荷馬大學美中關係研究院於2008年設立的獎項,是美國第一個為華語文學或詩歌設立的獎項,每兩年頒獎一次。評委們完全基於文學價值選出為最能表現人類生存狀況作品。所有在世的用中文寫作的作家都有機會入選。諾貝爾文學獎得主莫言是2009年年首位紐曼文學獎得獎者,中國大陸作家韓少功和王安憶分別於2011年和2017年折桂,台灣詩人楊牧和台灣作家朱天文分別在2013和2015年領此殊榮榮。

紐曼華語文學獎的七位專家評審早在今年年初提名了七位詩人。今天,他們經過六輪投票,決定出最終得獎者。獲獎者西西(原名張彥)可獲得一萬美元的獎金,紀念獎牌一塊,銅質獎章一枚,並將受邀於2019年三月7日至8日參加在俄克拉荷馬大學舉辦的紐曼學術研討會和晚宴。西西的提名者是香港浸會大學的何麗明教授(Tammy Lai-Ming Ho)。另外六位評委和被提名的詩人信息如下:康奈爾大學的安敏軒(Nick Admussen)提名了詩人於秀華,哈佛大學費正清中心的學者顧愛玲(Eleanor Goodman)提名了詩人王小妮,香港大學的柯夏智(Lucas Klein)教授提名了詩人西川,阿爾伯塔大學的陸敬思(Christopher Lupke)教授提名了詩人蕭開愚,萊頓大學的柯雷(Maghiel van Crevel)教授提名了詩人鄭小瓊,以及北京首都大學的王光明教授提名了詩人北島。

今年紐曼華語詩歌獎評委團的組織者石江山(Jonathan Stalling)說,“本次被提名的詩人們代表了華語詩歌極度豐富的多樣性。”“評委們經過一個多小時的熱烈的評議和投票才選出了最後的勝者。西西的詩歌和她畢生對文學的貢獻在今年的紐曼文學獎上得到了肯定,這是一件真正激動人心的事“。

何麗明博士在提名詞中寫道:“很長一段時間以來香港文學都被視為是次要的,甚至有人認為這個城市不能出產重要的文學作品或著名的作家。香港詩歌或許在很多人眼中是個更抽象和虛妄的概念。西西或諧或莊的詩歌道出了這個城市及其居民的品格。她的詩歌也證明了一個城市的故事不必是宏大的敘述,而可以是表面瑣碎的絮語,寓言或者童話。西西的詩歌陰柔,纖細,機智,敏銳,動人心弦,無可辯駁地宣示著香港詩歌的存在感“。

紐曼華語文學獎的主辦方美國俄克拉荷馬大學美中關係研究院於2006年成立。該學院的成立與Harold J. Newman和Ruth Newman夫婦的慷慨捐贈密不可分。俄克拉荷馬大學還設有中國文學翻譯檔案館,“今日中國文學”雜誌,“今日世界文學”雜誌,並定期主辦紐斯塔特(Neustadt)國際文學獎。

The 2018 Lucien Stryk Prize

DarkeningMirrorFinalCoversThe 2018 Lucien Stryk Asian Translation Prize shortlist has been announced, with Diana Shi and George O’Connell’s Darkening Mirror, translations of Wang Jiaxin 王家新 (Tebot Bach) on the list. Congratulations to Shi and O’Connell!
But a look at the rest of the list: There’s Sonic Peace, by Kiriu Minashita, translated by Eric E. Hyett and Spencer Thurlow
(Phoneme Media), which is poetry. But Junichirō Tanizaki’s Devils in Daylight, translated by J. Keith Vincent, and The Maids, translated by Michael P. Cronin (both New Directions), and Notes of a Crocodile by Qiu Miaojin 邱妙津, as translated by Bonnie Huie (New York Review Books)? Those are works of fiction.
The Stryk Prize is–or was–a poetry translation prize. The prize’s Wikipedia page still makes that clear:
Eligible works include book-length translations into English of Asian poetry or source texts from Zen Buddhism, book-length translations from Hindi, Sanskrit, Tamil, Thai, Vietnamese, Chinese, Japanese, and Korean into English.
But this year, for the first time, works of prose fiction are on the shortlist.
I think this is a problem.
Seems to me that the Stryk prize was endowed with the mission of promoting a certain kind of work–translation of poetry and Zen texts from Asian languages. I believe in, and I’d bet a lot of translators believe in, the room to interpret those categories broadly. But for the Stryk nominations to be suddenly–and without public consultation–open to works of fiction, the poetry translations in question are bound to be crowded out, not recognized or promoted.
A look at Paper Republic’s wrap-up of translations published in 2017 gives a sense of what I’m talking about, even if it also offers an idea why some might want the prize to be eligible to translated fiction. Something like twenty titles of fiction translated from Chinese, but only five books of poetry. And yet look at that list: Liu Waitong 廖偉棠, one of Hong Kong’s most interesting poets; Narrative Poem 敘事诗, by Yang Lian 杨炼, translated by Brian Holton, and two titles translated by Eleanor Goodman (who won the Stryk in 2015 for her translations of Wang Xiaoni 王小妮), including the anthology Iron Moon, the most reviewed anthology of Chinese poetry to appear in English in decades. I think it’s scandalous that neither Goodman nor Holton are on this year’s Stryk shortlist. Which just goes to show: if poetry is going to compete with fiction, and if the judges are primarily translators of fiction, then poetry translators are not going to get recognized. Are they?
Word is that ALTA didn’t make this change to increase the number of submissions, but rather simply received submissions of fiction from overzealous publishers. They asked the source of the funding about whether prose was eligible, and the source seemed not to have any issues with the eligibility of fiction. So the description of the award was revised.
But this is a problem not only because of crowding out poetry (which indeed already gets the short end of the proverbial stick when it comes to modern Asian literature), but also because this change was not done transparently. If this was really going to be a prize that includes prose, then more presses that published prose translations should have been informed so they could submit their books. Not to mention how this affects the translators–as well as the poets in Asia hoping to gain readership in translation (I don’t know about poets in other countries, but Chinese-language writers are very aware of the Stryk Prize). The more I think about it, the bigger I think this problem is.
Good luck to this year’s shortlisted candidates!