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!

Lingnan Symposium on Translation & Modern Chinese Poetry

Moving the Goalposts:
Symposium on Translation and Modern Chinese Poetry

龍門陣:翻譯與現代中文詩歌研討會

16 June 2017
LBYG06, Lingnan University
9:30–18:30

Contemporary Chinese Poetry in Pangolin House

2016-02-26_1002The new issue of Pangolin House features translations of poems by Liu Wai-tong 廖偉棠 and Zhang Shuguang 张曙光, translated by Diana Shi and George O’Connell.

From Liu Wai-tong’s 讀中唐史 “Mid-Tang History”:

On the riverbank, the rebel army
passing with torches,
singing some barbaric tune.
Let them; I can’t make out a word.
Today, my white shift tattered,
I’m more like a flower.

Click the image above for the full issue.

NEA Grants for Chinese Literature in Translation

From the National Endowment for the Arts:

Literary translations enter our canon as new works of art, bringing voices and stories from diverse cultures to a new audience. For the art of literary translation is not simply the act of converting an author’s words from one language into another; rather, it requires difficult choices and creative thinking in order to fully convey images and meaning. Today, the National Endowment for the Arts announced its latest efforts to support literary translation through $250,000 in recommended grants to 16 translators to support the translation of works into English from 13 languages and 15 countries.

The following grants have been awarded to Chinese literature:

  • Andrea Lingenfelter (Berkeley, California) is recommended for a grant of $12,500 to support the translation from Chinese of The Kite Family, a collection of fiction by contemporary Hong Kong writer Hon Lai Chu.
  • George O’Connell (Omaha, Nebraska) is recommended for a grant of $12,500 to support the translation from Mandarin of From Here to Here: New and Selected Poems by Chinese writer Hu Lan Lan. This project is in collaboration with Diana Shi.

Congrats to all!

New Issue of Cerise Press

Cerise Press Vol. 4 Issue 10 CoverThe Spring 2012 issue of Cerise Press has been online since the beginning of the month, with new work by Seth Abramson, Sylvia Legris, and others, and poems by Li Jianchun 李建春 translated by Diana Shi & George O’Connell and Yi Lu 伊路 translated by Fiona Sze-Lorrain.

Also see my feature “Xi Chuan: Poetry of the Anti-lyric” from an earlier issue, with translations of “Power Outage” 停电, “Re-reading Borges’s Poetry” 重读博尔赫斯诗歌, and “Three Chapters on Dusk” 黄昏三章. (And my earlier co-translations of poems by Bei Dao 北岛 with Clayton Eshleman).

诗东西 Poetry East West

A new double issue of the Beijing / LA-based literary journal Poetry East West 诗东西 is out, featuring poems by Xi Chuan in my translation and a grand host of other poets translated into & out of Chinese, from Diana Shi and George O’Connell’s Yu Jian 于坚 to Charles Laughlin’s Ma Lan 马兰 and Fan Jinghua’s Cheng Ying 成婴, along with Fan Jinghua’s 范静哗 translations of Derek Walcott, Li Li’s 李笠 translations of new Nobel Prize-winner Tomas Tranströmer, and others. Click on the link above for the full Table of Contents, or here for ordering and subscription information.