Chinese Poetry in New England Review

NER36-2frontcoverThe current issue of the New England Review features poetry translations of Ya Shi 哑石 by Nick Admussen, Xiao Kaiyu 开愚 by Chris Lupke, and Yin Lichuan 尹丽川 by Fiona Sze-Lorrain–as well as prose translations of Wei An 苇岸 by Tom Moran.

Unfortunately, the NER has made none of these available online, but click on the image for ordering information, along with the full table of contents.



WLT review of Sze-Lorrain’s Lan Lan

Canyon in the BodyCanaan Morse at World Literature Today reviews Canyon in the Body 身体里的峡谷 by Lan Lan 蓝蓝, translated by Fiona Sze-Lorrain. Here’s how it wraps up:

The majority of the translations in this volume are both artistically accomplished and reflective of the source texts. Yet there are too many instances in which the translator steps in front of the author instead of standing beside her. Readers expect good translations to stand independently in their own language, of course; should we not expect them to be co-creative as well?

Click the image above to link to the full review.

Switchback review of Sze-Lorrain’s Lan Lan

Canyon in the BodyChristina Cook at Switchback reviews Canyon in the Body 身体里的峡谷 by Lan Lan 蓝蓝, translated by Fiona Sze-Lorrain. Here’s how it wraps up:

One might call this collection of poems evidence of lyrical poetry at its finest or political poetry at its finest. However, Lan Lan’s, and Sze-Lorrain’s, evasive and eminently creative use of language and punctuation helps the book dodge ultimate categorization—in much the same way that the speaker in the poems defies being identified in a traditional, or even non-traditional way. It is poetry that complies without being compliant; subverts without being subversive. It is poetry written by a Chinese woman and translated into a Parisian woman who writes English. In mirroring the cultural complexities of our world, it is poetry that must, especially now, be read.

Click the image above to link to the full review.

Asian Cha reviews Han Dong & Lan Lan

ImageLu Jin at Cha reviews A Phone Call from Dalian 来自大连的电话, by Han Dong 韩东 as edited and translated by Nicky Harman, and Canyon in the Body 身体里的峡谷, by Lan Lan 蓝蓝 as translated by Fiona Sze-Lorrain.

While Han Dong’s poetry is manly, controlled and ironic, Lan Lan’s work is highly lyrical sensuous, delicate, with a tender sophistication … For both titles, the apt, delicious English translations add new possibilities to the aesthetic life of the poems. Despite a Imagefew missteps, imagery and wit continue to surprise, and the original sensibility is eloquently transmitted.

Click either of the images to link to the review.

LA Review Reviews Lan Lan

CanyonintheBodyJohn Zeiser writing for the LA Review has his take on Canyon in the Body, by Lan Lan 蓝蓝 as translated by Fiona Sze-Lorrain, from the Jintian series published by Zephyr and Chinese University Presses. He writes:

her early success was followed by years of poor health which prevented her from attending university. Although she never lost sight of poetry as her calling, she had to take work where she could find it. She was a crane operator, a packer in a factory, and eventually as a technical writer. These experiences on the bottom rungs of a country plowing forward crop up again and again. Small villages full of laborers and peasants she encountered daily populate her poems. In “Please Discuss Happiness with Me”, she writes, “an old shepherd smacks his lips loudly / on a wine cup” while in “Siesta”:

Noon. The village slumps into
…………a bright late night.

A draft brushes the spine of a napping man
a mother lies on a kang mat nursing her child
her fragrant body aligning with the earth.

I will make one correction, though: Zeiser says “For many, the Jintian collections represent their first in English.” In fact, this is the first collection in English for every poet published in the series.

Click the image for the full review.

Cutbank Reviews on Yu Xiang

61nowRuAZEL._SY344_BO1,204,203,200_Christina Cook of Cutbank Reviews has reviewed Yu Xiang’s 宇向 I Can Almost See the Clouds of Dust 我几乎看到滚滚尘埃, translated by Fiona Sze-Lorrain. Cook places Yu Xiang in the history of contemporary Chinese poetry, and says her

lines are neatly swept in a poetic house that has no cobwebs and does not pretend to be something it isn’t. The poem neither bears an underlying political agenda, as did the socialist, realist poetry of the mid-20th century; nor does it express a reaction against it, as did the Misty poetry of the late 20th century.  It does not even hint at the anti-hero, anti-allegory, anti-image leanings of her New Generation contemporaries. This is the house that Yu built, where the books of the past are no longer threatening or even relevant, aside from the presence of the stacked physical forms. They have become as benign as the tangerine tree or the piece of coal beside them.

Click the image above for the full review.

Jury Duty & Reading Yu Xiang

In the Jury Assembly RoomThe Coming of the Toads blogs “On Jury Duty, Poetry Gaze, and Yu Xiang’s I Can Almost See the Clouds of Dust,” translated by Fiona Sze-Lorrain:

I take the Yu Xiang from my bag. I’m thinking of poetry gaze. In a land where poetry has been devalued beyond zero, isn’t every poem a sigh of dissentire? What is poetry gaze? I feel like Yu Xiang is watching me reading her poems. But she does not care what I think, nor even what I might be feeling. Then again, her poems are like

…a door that says:
Be careful! You might lose your way”

Click the image above for the full post.

SCMP Runs Another Lame Review

Clouds of Dust

In February the South China Morning Post ran a review I called “horribly written” and said made me feel “embarrassed to say I like the translations in a book that could inspire such homely homilies.”

Here’s another stupid review of contemporary Chinese poetry in the SCMP, of I Can Almost See the Clouds of Dust 我几乎看到滚滚尘埃 by Yu Xiang 宇向, translated by Fiona Sze-Lorrain. It starts badly:

I Can Almost See the Clouds of Dust differs from other poetry anthologies due to its simplicity. However, that doesn’t mean this collection is easy to understand.

(The book is not an “anthology,” it’s a collection; the interest of the poetry is not whether it’s easily understandable; simplicity is not a rare feature of poetry collections…). It continues with ignorant and sexist remarks:

This doesn’t follow traditional poetic rhythms or even the cadences of normal conversations; it’s like reading a woman’s tangled thoughts.

And concludes with platitudes, clichés, and mixed metaphors all at once!

This anthology is a refreshing breeze that highlights the little details of our daily lives.

It can be helpful to address a non-poetry-reading audience in a poetry review–especially in a newspaper in a place such as Hongkong. But I hope this is the last time the SCMP runs a poetry review by someone who hasn’t read a poem since middle school.

Yu Xiang reviewed on Words Without Borders

Image of Yu Xiang’s “I Can Almost See the Clouds of Dust” I Can Almost See the Clouds of Dust, the new poetry collection by Yu Xiang 宇向 translated by Fiona Sze-Lorrain, has been reviewed on Words Without Borders by Naomi Long Eagleson. Here’s how it begins:

Yu Xiang’s poems are the poetic equivalent of shoegazer rock. She takes the mundane—a whiff of cigarette smoke, a falling leaf, a housefly—and stares at it so intently that it splits open to reveal something unexpected. In the introduction to I Can Almost See the Clouds of Dust, the translator Fiona Sze-Lorrain writes that Yu “is adamant that a mundane life does not lack poetry. Rather, it lacks being discovered.” And indeed, throughout this bilingual collection the everydayness of life is keenly observed, giving rise to poems that reveal as much about the self as they do the world.

Click on the image above for the full review.

Fiona Sze-Lorrain featured in China Daily

Solving a riddle with a harp and the magic of words

“Solving a riddle with a harp and the magic of words”

As a student at Columbia University, she dabbled in theater, writing and East Asian studies, and came to realize that there was more to be understood in the space between words and cultures, she said. Studying her own heritage from an intellectual perspective allowed for an ambivalence she had never indulged, and poetry provided an outlet for evolving views.

When she struggled with writing, she found solace in source material and the writing of other poets; from there, she discovered the pleasure of translating Chinese works. She has since translated books by the poets Yu Xiang, Bai Hua and Yi Liu, among others.

Click on the image for the full article.