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

2015-10-17_1028

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.

tumblr_nvl53fppcf1si526io1_1280

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.

Jade Ladder’s Poets

I’ve compiled a list of the poets whose work appears in English translation in Jade Ladder, the new anthology of contemporary Chinese poetry edited by Yang Lian 杨炼, W N Herbert, Brian Holton, and Qin Xiaoyu 秦晓宇. The anthology presents the work of poets by birth year, but the work is separated into sections–lyric poems, narrative poems, neo-classical poems, sequences, experimental poems, and long poems–so I’ve put together this alphabetical list of the poets represented. Poets in bold (23, by my count) are those not included in the recent Copper Canyon anthology, Push Open the Window (of whom 19 of the 49 are not included in JL; click here for that anthology’s table of contents). Also, since Jade Ladder is English-only, I’m not sure of every poet’s name in Chinese, and consequently have left some blank. If you know, or spot any other errors, let me know.

  1. Bai Hua 柏桦
  2. Bei Dao 北岛
  3. Chen Dongdong 陈东东
  4. Chen Xianfa 陈先发
  5. Duo Duo 多多
  6. Ge Mai 戈麦
  7. Gu Cheng 顾城
  8. Hai Zi 海子
  9. Han Bo韩博
  10. Hu Dong
  11. Hu Xudong 胡续冬
  12. Huang Canran 黄灿然
  13. Jiang Hao 蒋浩
  14. Jiang He 江河
  15. Jiang Tao 姜涛
  16. Liao Yiwu 廖亦
  17. Lü De’an 吕德安
  18. Ma Hua 马骅
  19. Mai Cheng
  20. Mang Ke 芒克
  21. Meng Lang 孟浪
  22. Ouyang Jianghe 欧阳江河
  23. Pan Wei
  24. Qin Xiaoyu 秦晓宇
  25. Qing Ping 清平
  26. Senzi 森子
  27. Shui Yin
  28. Song Lin 宋琳
  29. Song Wei
  30. Sun Lei
  31. Sun Wenbo 孙文波
  32. Wang Ao 王敖
  33. Wang Xiaoni 王小妮
  34. Xi Chuan 西川
  35. Xiao Kaiyu 肖开愚
  36. Ya Shi
  37. Yan Li
  38. Yang Lian 杨炼
  39. Yang Xiaobin 杨小
  40. Yang Zheng
  41. Yi Sha 伊沙
  42. Yu Jian 于坚
  43. Yu Nu 余怒
  44. Zang Di 臧棣
  45. Zhai Yongming 翟永明
  46. Zhang Danyi
  47. Zhang Dian
  48. Zhang Shuguang 张曙光
  49. Zhang Zao 张枣
  50. Zhong Ming
  51. Zhou Lunyou
  52. Zhu Zhu 朱朱
  53. Zou Jingzhi