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.

Haysom’s Hermits and butterflies: nature writing in China

article imagePathlight managing editor Dave Haysom’s “Hermits and butterflies: the resurgence of nature writing in China” has been published on China Dialogue, covering the range of contemporary Chinese literature–and even mentioning Xi Chuan:

Their rural existence was no idyll, and it ended in tragedy: in 1993 Gu Cheng killed Xie Ye with an axe before hanging himself. By that point Hai Zi and Luo Yihe were also dead: Hai Zi committed suicide in 1989 by throwing himself under a train (leaving his copy of Walden in his bag alongside the tracks); Luo Yihe died from a brain haemorrhage just a few months later, apparently from the strain of his editorial efforts to secure Hai Zi’s poetic legacy. Wei An died from liver cancer in 1999.

Their untimely deaths seem to have sealed these poets behind the curtain of history – but many of their contemporaries are still with us, and still producing poetry that engages with the same themes. Last year Ouyang Jianghe (欧阳江河) published Phoenix, a 400-line mini-epic in which the spiritual and environmental strains of China’s feverish development are embodied in the vast avian sculpture of artist Xu Bing (徐冰). The polymath writer, artist, editor and filmmaker Ou Ning (欧宁) is perhaps the closest thing contemporary China has to a Thoreau figure, having founded his own rural commune in Bishan, Anhui, as part of the New Rural Reconstruction Movement. Xi Chuan (西川) was a classmate of Hai Zi and Luo Yihe, and after the deaths of his friends he switched from lyric poetry to a looser, prose-poem style, in which nature is seldom idealised.

Trees eavesdrop on trees, birds eavesdrop on birds; when a viper stiffens and attacks a passing human it becomes human … The truth cannot be public, echoless thoughts are hard to sing.

— from “Exhor[ta]tions” by Xi Chuan – translated by Lucas Klein

As Jennifer Kronovet observes: “This is not nature poetry and yet it is.”

Click the image for the piece in full.

Poetry in the New Pathlight

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The new issue of Pathlight is available, featuring translations of poetry by Hai Zi 海子 (translated by Eleanor Goodman), Cai Shiping 蔡世平 (translated by Canaan Morse), and Luo Yihe 骆一禾 (translated by Karmia Olutade), plus an interview with Ouyang Jianghe 欧阳江河 by Shu Jinyu 舒晋瑜 (translated by Eleanor Goodman).

Click the image for the full table of contents and free download link.

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Asymptote Nominates Hai Zi for Pushcart

Asymptote has put forward translations of Hai Zi 海子 by Ye Chun for consideration for the 2014 Puschart Prize.

in the wheat field of May      dreaming of my brothers
I see cobblestones roll over the riverbank
The arc sky at dusk
fills the earth with sad villages
Sometimes I sit in the wheat field reciting Chinese poetry
My eyes disappear, my lips disappear
有时我孤独一人坐下
在五月的麦地 梦想众兄弟
看到家乡的卵石滚满了河滩
黄昏常存弧形的天空
让大地上布满哀伤的村庄
有时我孤独一人坐在麦地里为众兄弟背诵中国诗歌
没 有了眼睛也没有了嘴唇
Click on the image above for the full issue

Hai Zi translations in Asymptote

The new issue of Asymptote is here, with translations of Hai Zi 海子 by Ye Chun:

Sometimes I sit alone
in the wheat field of May      dreaming of my brothers
I see cobblestones roll over the riverbank
The arc sky at dusk
fills the earth with sad villages
Sometimes I sit in the wheat field reciting Chinese poetry
My eyes disappear, my lips disappear
有时我孤独一人坐下
在五月的麦地 梦想众兄弟
看到家乡的卵石滚满了河滩
黄昏常存弧形的天空
让大地上布满哀伤的村庄
有时我孤独一人坐在麦地里为众兄弟背诵中国诗歌
没 有了眼睛也没有了嘴唇
Click on the image above for the full issue

Lucas Klein on Rui Kunze’s Struggle and Symbiosis

200My review of Rui Kunze’s scholarly monograph, Struggle and Symbiosis: The Canonization of the Poet Haizi and Cultural Discourses in Contemporary China, has been published online by Modern Chinese Literature & Culture. Here’s how it begins:

“The death of Haizi the poet will become one of the myths of our time,” eulogized Xi Chuan 西川 in 1990, a year after the suicide of one of his closest friends. Four years later, however, he tried to pierce that mythology: if we continue to “frame Haizi in a sort of metaphysical halo,” he wrote, “then we can neither get a clear view of Haizi the person nor of his poetry.” Testifying to its significance in the promotion and dissemination of Haizi’s writings, the first quotation (differently translated and romanized) also appears on the back cover of Over Autumn Rooftops (Host Publications, 2010), the collection of Haizi translations by Dan Murphy… The reconsideration, however, presents a cognizance essential for literary history and readers interested in approaching the reality, rather than mythology, of the poet. It is also the starting point for Rui Kunze’s ambitious, painstakingly researched, yet ultimately uneven study, Struggle and Symbiosis: The Canonization of the Poet Haizi and Cultural Discourses in Contemporary China.

Click on the image above for the full review.

Sky Lanterns: Poetry from China, Formosa, and Beyond

Sky Lanterns: Poetry from China, Formosa, and BeyondThe new issue of Mānoa is available, edited by Frank Stewart with Fiona Sze-Lorrain:

Sky Lanterns brings together innovative work by authors—primarily poets—in mainland China, Taiwan, the United States, and beyond who are engaged in truth-seeking, resistance, and renewal. Appearing in new translations, many of the works are published alongside the original Chinese text. A number of the poets are women, whose work is relatively unknown to English-language readers. Contributors include Amang, Bai Hua, Bei Dao, Chen Yuhong, Duo Yu, Hai Zi, Lan Lan, Karen An-hwei Lee, Li Shangyin, Ling Yu, Pang Pei, Sun Lei, Arthur Sze, Fiona Sze-Lorrain, Wei An, Woeser, Yang Lian, Yang Zi, Yi Lu, Barbara Yien, Yinni, Yu Xiang, and Zhang Zao.
Sky Lanterns also features images from the Simple Song series by photographer Luo Dan. Traveling with a portable darkroom in remote, mountainous regions of southern China’s Yunnan Province, Luo Dan uses the laborious nineteenth-century, wet plate collodion process of exposure and development. In exquisite detail, he captures a rural life that has remained intact for centuries.

Click the image for ordering information.

Hai Zi Festival in Qinghai

From China Daily, this report on an upcoming festival to honor Hai Zi 海子, an early friend of Xi Chuan’s, in Qinghai Province 青海:

To commemorate Haizi, a bust made of jade from Kunlun Mountain will be unveiled beside Bayin River during the festival, along with 18 stone slabs of different shapes engraved with his poems.

A memorial hall encompassing 1,300 square meters will open to exhibit his legacy, including his works and personal belongings.

The poetry festival will assemble contemporary Chinese poets and critics for seminars on Haizi and other Chinese poets. A poetry contest will be held for entrants from all over the country.

Michelle Yeh on Dan Murphy’s translation of Over Autumn Rooftops: Poems by Hai Zi

200At Modern Chinese Literature & Culture, esteemed scholar Michelle Yeh 溪密 has a review of Dan Murphy‘s translations of Hai Zi 海子 (an early friend of Xi Chuan’s) in the collection Over Autumn Rooftops. A fan of the translations overall, Yeh’s enthusiasm emerges most when she discusses the poetry, as follows:

What readers will find–and enjoy–in Over Autumn Rooftops is a poetry of considerable complexity. Hai Zi draws on a wide range of literary sources: from the Book of Odes and Qu Yuan to Homer and Greek mythology, from canonical works to folk literature. His early poetry suggests influences by his older contemporaries, such as Shu Ting and Duo Duo. His images exhibit a tendency toward the primal (water, fire, sky, earth, fish, bird, seasons) and the sublime (“the king,” God), and he often identifies with village, sun, prairie, and wheat (“beautiful, wounded wheat” [237], “wheat in despair”). His language is simple yet tinged with mysticism, effortlessly crossing the boundary between the inner and the external world.

Click here or the image above for the review.