R267. Contemporary Chinese Literature in Translation. (Lucas Klein, Xi Chuan, Jonathan Stalling, Eric Abrahamsen, Eleanor Goodman) Panelists will discuss the pleasures and frustrations they encounter translating contemporary Chinese literature, including issues of linguistic differences between Chinese and English, problems of copyright, the rise of web-based literature, and how to identify appropriate projects. Each panelist will read a short excerpt of recent work to illustrate. Xi Chuan will speak as a poet whose work has been translated into English and who has also translated literature into Chinese. (Room 305, Level 3)
Thursday, March 7:
4:30 - 5:45: AWP Boston: R267. Contemporary Chinese Literature in Translation, with Eleanor Goodman and Jonathan Stalling (Room 305, Level 3)
7:30: Cha: An Asian Literary Journal reading at the Fairbank Center for Chinese Studies at Harvard University, with Eleanor Goodman, W. F. Lantry, Kim Liao, Mai Mang (Yibing Huang), Tracy Slater, Marc Vincenz, and Nicholas YB Wong. Hosted by March issue guest editors Kaitlin Solimine and Marc Vincenz.
Friday, March 8:
12:00 - 1:30: Harvard University EALC Common Room (2 Divinity): Notes on the Mosquito – Poetry Reading and Talk by Xi Chuan, moderated by David Der-wei Wang and Lucas Klein
Monday, March 11:
7:00-8:00: Middlebury College Axinn Center 229: Poetry Reading by Xi Chuan
Tuesday, March 12:
4:30: Middlebury College Robert A. Jones '59 House conference room: Translating Poetry: A roundtable discussion with Chinese poet Xi Chuan, Central Academy for Fine Arts (Beijing), and his translator, Assistant Professor Lucas Klein of City University of Hong Kong, and Middlebury College faculty.
Wednesday, March 13:
6:30 - 8:30: "Senses of Reality" 现实感 -- A Talk from Chinese Writer & Poet Xi Chuan, with translator Lucas Klein, at NYU China House, 8 Washington Mews
Friday - Saturday, March 15 - 16:
from Poetry East West 诗东西:
DJS Translation Award for 2012
News Release December 26, 2012
DJS Translation Award for 2012 will be given to the following individuals whose new translations of Chinese poetry have formed a significant part of “New Cathay: Contemporary Chinese Poetry 1990-2012” (to be published by Tupelo Press in 2013):
Nick Admussen (for translation of Ya Shi)
Christopher Lupke (for translation of Xiao Kaiyu)
Jonathan Stalling (for translation of Zheng Xiaoqiong)
Katie Farris (for co-translation of Duo Duo, Liao Yiwu, Zhang Shuguang, Feng Yan, and Hu Xudong)
Afaa Weaver (for co-translation of Sun Wenbo and Jiang Hao)
Tony Barnstone (for co-translation of Jiang Tao, Hu Xudong and Li Shumin)
Kerry Shawn Keys (for co-translation of Song Lin)
Eleanor Goodman (for co-translation of Bai Hua)
Jennifer Kronovet (for co-translation of Wang Xiaoni and Lan Lan)
Elizabeth Reitzell (for co-translation of Sun Wenbo)
Cody Reese (for co-translation of Hu Xudong)
The above translators will share the DJS Translation Award for 2012.
The 2011 DJS Translation Award recipient was Neil Aitken for his co-translations of poetry by Chinese poets Lü De’an, Sun Wenbo, Jiang Tao, Qin Xiaoyu, Yang Xiaobin, Zhang Zhihao, Liu Jiemin, Yu Xiang, Lü Yue, and Jiang Li.
DJS Translation Award was established by DJS Art Foundation, a private entity, to promote literary exchange between China and other countries and to encourage quality translation of poetry. DJS has supported several projects such as the multi-lingual journal Poetry East West. For more information, please visit the DJS pages on the website of Poetry East West: http://poetryeastwest.com/djs-translation-award/
In the fourteen-page Author’s Afterward to his Selected Poems, Xi Chuan references or quotes from Tolstoy, Yang Lian, the Zhuangzi, the Indian social theorist Ashis Nandy, Eileen Chang, Leo Strauss, C.T. Hsia, Jonathan Spence, Milan Kundera, Li Bai, Czeslaw Milosz, the 20th-century sociologist Fei Xiaotong, ancient philosopher Han Feizi, Mao Zedong, Foucault, Tang dynasty literati Han Yu, and Goethe. This is not a poet who can be accused of parochialism. Yet Xi Chuan wears his erudition lightly, at least in the context of his verse. This is not to say that the poems do not give a sense of a formidable intellect behind them—they do—but what is striking in the poems is less Xi Chuan’s breadth of reference than his sense of humor, his humanity, and his attention to the smallest details of ordinary life, ranging from bodily functions to rats to the way drizzle soaks through socks.
Click the icon above to read the whole review.
New Nobel Prize-winner for Literature Mo Yan 莫言 has, for obvious reasons, become a hot topic of discussion. I’ve assembled some of the analysis that’s recently appeared online in various forms.
First, my highschool classmate & translator from Swedish B J Epstein has written about the Nobel from an outsider’s perspective, bringing a discussion she and I had recently into her report.
Next, poet & translator Eleanor Goodman talks about the different reactions to the Nobel from within China and without.
Then, translator Bruce Humes covers the other side of the issue, demonstrating how “references deemed unbecoming to China’s image are often ‘airbrushed’” from a published Chinese translation of the NYTimes report of Mo Yan’s prize. And Brendan O’Kane asks “Is Mo Yan a Stooge for the Chinese Government?” (Brendan sez the short answer is ‘no’).
Next, Sabina Knight (Smith College) on Mo Yan’s Nobel (from NPR):
Earlier, Granta‘s John Freeman interviewed Mo Yan (from Silliman’s blog):
And PBS‘s Jeffrey Brown talks to Charles Laughlin (University of Virginia) and Xiao Qiang (University of California, Berkeley) about Mo Yan:
Poetry International has published its interview with poet & Chinese translator Eleanor Goldman, whose responses include a plug for Xi Chuan’s Notes on the Mosquito–she calls it “an example of the work of a mature poet working at the top of his craft”! Here’s how she explains how her interests in Chinese poetry began:
I’m embarrassed to say that when I first lived in China, it was as though Chinese literature didn’t exist. I remember being so starved for something to read that I asked my father to send a box of books, and he mailed by freight a box packed with Gogol, Faulkner, and Dickens. I have no idea how he came up with that list, but it was life-sustaining. At that point, my Chinese wasn’t good enough to read anything but the simplest of texts. But when I got back to the States and started to read as part of my efforts not to forget Chinese, I encountered some wonderful books of poetry. I had brought back a children’s addition of the famous compilation, Three Hundred Tang Poems 唐诗三百首, and I started to go through it systematically. I understood a tiny percentage of the allusions, but I basked in the richness of the imagery and related to the cleverness of language and emotional depth of these little lyrics. I memorized dozens of them and would recite them to myself while taking walks. Then in graduate school at Boston University, I took Rosanna Warren’s amazing translation workshop, and as my final project I translated a selection of Wang Wei poems into English. They were terrible translations, but I didn’t know that at the time. Rosanna encouraged me to send them to the Seneca Review, which published three of them. That was a much nicer welcome than any of my own poems had gotten at that point, so I thought, this is a great racket, I’m going to keep doing this. Several years later, the poet and translator Afaa Michael Weaver asked me to help him put together a contemporary Chinese poetry conference at Simmons College, where he teaches. That was my first introduction to contemporary Chinese poetry and it knocked my socks off.
Click here for the full interview.
Over at the Metre Maids poetry blog, Pathlight poetry editor Canaan Morse has a poignant and touching post about contemporary Chinese poetry–featuring discussion of my translation of Xi Chuan’s “The Body and History” 体相与历史. Canaan explains:
Obscure to a Western reader, “double corneas” and heavy earlobes are references to Xiang Yu and Liu Bei, two of the great heroic figures of early Chinese history. In fact, all of the described abnormalities are references to specific mythicized figures. They are characters whom historical and poetic narrations have always served, never satirized.
Canaan’s framework is to discuss awakening to his aesthetic in Chinese poetry in the context of his father’s passing away, and the fading of his poetic influence–as I said, poignant and touching–but he also discusses an Andrea Lingenfelter translation of Zhai Yongming 翟永明, and Eleanor Goodman‘s translations of Lei Pingyang 雷平阳 and Shen Wei 沈苇.
It’s fair to say that translation was not completely absent at AWP. Buried in an overwhelming heap of events were a few related to translation, bilingual literature, or teaching bilingual / multilingual students. The most attended translation event I saw was a reading put on by Poets House, headlining Bei Dao, Eliot Weinberger, Forrest Gander, and C. D. Wright. It was held in one of the ballrooms at the Chicago Hilton and attracted a nice crowd that nevertheless looked a bit sparse in the oversized room. The hour consisted mainly of Bei Dao and Eliot Weinberger reading from The Rose of Time 时间的玫瑰, Bei Dao’s “new & selected” of 2010 from New Directions, edited and in part translated by Weinberger. The fun of the event was to see the interactions between Bei Dao and Weinberger, who are old friends and quite comfortable with each other.
It was also amusing to be in a fancy ballroom with a respectfully silent and literary audience after having heard a nearly identical performance the night before, when Bei Dao and Weinberger gave an off-site reading at a Barnes and Noble attached to DePaul University. At that reading, which about fifteen people attended in a cramped space between shelves of romance books and a display of graphic novels, the two had had to compete with rowdy students and a few confused shoppers who stumbled in looking for the latest Danielle Steele novel. In the end, though, the intimacy of that gathering appealed more to me than the larger more formal reading the next day. Also attending both events was Jeffery Yang, who is the New Directions editor for Lucas Klein’s translations of Xi Chuan. Chinese poetry is indeed a small world. So small that on the way out, I ran into Jonathan Stalling and had a lively conversation with him about his fascinating experimental poetry book Yingelishi.
From there, I went to a reading held by Poetry International, which I hoped would involve a lot of translation but didn’t. Perhaps editors think that poets reading their own work is more of a draw than translators reading the work of other poets; perhaps they’re right. There was another disappointment in the form of a panel titled “War is Not Lost in Translation.” The panel itself was pretty interesting, and the translations read aloud were, to my ear, quite good. But it’s a problem at these conferences that much is promised and then not much can be delivered in the time allotted. The panel members were all smart, engaged translators—working from Hebrew, Urdu, Icelandic; I just wished someone there actually translated writing from a current conflict zone.
Downstairs in the belly of the Hilton, which is amazingly dark and warren-like, was the bookfair. It was impossible to locate anything, and if you happened upon what you wanted accidently, there was no way you’d find it again if you turned your back. Wandering the aisles, I did find some presses and journals focusing on translation, though they were fairly few and far between. New Directions had a nice simple setup, manned by Jeffrey Yang when I dropped by. He pointed me a few aisles over to the Dalkey Archives, whose table was crammed with books of translation, although very few from Asian languages. There were also displays from the PEN Center, Poetry International, The Center for the Art of Translation, and Zephyr Press. Most of these were to be found in the low-ceilinged, overcrowded quarters of the Table section of the bookfair. The fancier presses were on the Booth side. Booths, apparently, cost about twice as much as Tables, and afford about twice as much space per outfit. From this I conclude that translation, while acknowledged by everyone I met as very important, vital even (this always said in an earnest tone), is still stuck living in one of the low-rent ghettos of the literary realm.
Probably my favorite of the panels I attended was called “Translation as the Actualization of Poetry and the Blurring of Literary Histories, Nations, and Borders.” The panelists mainly wrote in or translate from Spanish, which is pretty far from my own forte. But they were a lively bunch, and gave spirited presentations to a large room of perhaps a hundred and fifty chairs, eleven of which were occupied. (Yes, I counted.) This meant that the ratio of panelists to audience was almost 1:2. Granted, it was 9 a.m. on the last day of the conference. And none of the presenters were superstars. Nevertheless, I found it discomfiting that in a conference of more than ten thousand participants, only eleven of us had found the translation of poetry interesting enough to attend. I mean, where was everybody?
The panelists were so engaged in their conversation that they went a bit over time, and toward the end, I noticed people trickling in from the back. Could it be that they were translation fanatics who had just overslept? Were all these latecomers kicking themselves from missing the panel they’d been waiting for the whole conference? The panel ended and we all got up to leave, and suddenly we bedraggled, sleep-deprived eleven had to fight our way through the human flood that gushed into the room to fill those one hundred and fifty seats. What were all these enthusiastic, almost frantic, people coming to hear—a poetry panel? a discussion of contemporary fiction? a reading by someone famous? I felt warmed. Perhaps I had misjudged the bulk of the attendees of AWP. They really were interested in something literary, something having to do with art, with creativity, with the beautiful and profound. Then I made the mistake of looking at the schedule: “Agents & Editors: Partners in Publishing. An inside look at the manuscript acquisition process.”
For more, see the New Directions calendar for March. And stay tuned for an update on the state of poetry and translation as seen from the AWP from Eleanor Goodman. Maybe one day Xi Chuan and I will present a panel at the AWP…