Queen Mob’s Teahouse now features Greg Bem’s review of Lost Wax, poems by Jonathan Stalling with Chinese and English re-translations by Zhou Yu, Yao Benbiao, Nick Admussen, Jennifer Feeley, Jami Proctor-Xu, Eleanor Goodman, Andrea Lingenfelter, and me. Here’s how it ends:
Moving from poem to poem, curiosity strikes me: is the primary goal of this book to bring us toward an understanding of the nuances of multilingual and multi-personal translation? Is this just an editor’s paradise to see how the process of a significant body of learned, engaged writers see the shape of a work? If there some collective meaning across the pages? By the end of the book, I hoped for commentary. I hope for more “meta.” An afterward from or an interview between the technicians. But in its absence, I was left with my own thoughts and theories (and a drive to learn some Chinese) in hopes of getting towards an understanding of what the core meaning of “lost wax” really is.
The book presents Stalling’s sequence of poems about his wife Amy’s work as a sculptor. These poems are translated into Chinese and back into English by members of a “workshop” of eight fellow translators–Zhou Yu, Yao Benbiao, Nick Admussen, Jami Proctor-Xu, Jennifer Feeley, Eleanor Goodman, Lucas Klein, and Andrea Lingenfelter–then re-amalgamated by Stalling into a new final. Each poem is then presented in a) the original; b) the Chinese; c) the new English version. An additional workshop page illustrates choices made by translators on both sides of the English/Chinese divide.
The clay is the past
The wax inherits
As its own
The conditions, but not the only source
Of her arising
陶泥成为过去 石蜡也有了自己的 传承， 条件，不仅仅是她 出现 的唯一来源。
Clay becomes the past
Paraffin has its own
This condition is not her only
Source of coming into being
Click on the image for more, including ordering information.
The journal Epiphany, with Nick Admussen as poetry editor, has published a suite of contemporary Chinese pieces, including the following:
Chun Sue 春树 (translated by Martin Winter)
Mu Cao 墓草 (translated by Scott E. Myers)
Liu Waitong 廖偉棠 (translated by Audrey Heijins)
Xiao Kaiyu 肖开愚 (translated by Christopher Lupke)
Haizi 海子 (translated by Nick Kaldis)
Sai Sai (Xi Xi) 西西 (translated by Jennifer Feeley)
Hsia Yü 夏宇 (translated by Steve Bradbury)
Yao Feng 姚风 (translated by Tam Hio Man and Kit Kelen)
Han Dong 韩东 (translated by Nicky Harman)
Huang Lihai 黄礼孩 (translated by Song Zijiang)
Click the image above for an online sample, including pieces by Mu Cao and Hsia Yü:
He says the world is very big
We should go outside and look around
That’s how one wards off sadness
We should go to a gay bathhouse in Beijing
And experience group sex with a hundred people
Or go to Dongdan Park, or Sanlihe, or Madian
And know a different kind of lust
If I could visit Yellow Crane Tower
I’d have new inspiration for writing poems
He says all the great artists
Were fine comrades like us
Yang was nominated by UC Davis professor Michelle Yeh, co-translator with Lawrence R. Smith of Yang’s collection No Trace of the Gardener (another volume, translated by Joseph Allen, was published as Forbidden Games & Video Poems: The Poetry of Lo Chʻing [羅青]). The other nominees were Hsia Yü 夏宇, Yang Lian 杨炼, Zhai Yongming 翟永明, and Ouyang Jianghe 欧阳江河, nominated by Jennifer Feeley (U. Iowa, USA), Michel Hockx (U. London SOAS, UK), Wolfgang Kubin (Bonn U., Germany), and Zhang Qinghua 张清华 (BNU, PRC), respectively.
Rare for contemporary Chinese poetry, all nominated poets have single-author collections available in English translation. Coincidentally, three of the nominees–Hsia, Zhai, and Ouyang–have had their only books in English published by Zephyr Press.
Modern Chinese Literature & Culture has just published Jennifer Feeley’s review of The Pearl Jacket and Other Stories: Flash Fiction From Contemporary China, edited by Shouhua Qi 祁寿华. While there’s a discussion to be had about the relationship, or difference, between flash fiction and prose poetry, Qi’s anthology doesn’t seem to engage in that point (and for what it’s worth, I’d say that Xi Chuan’s prose poems are closer to “flash nonfiction,” anyway). Here’s how Feeley begins her review:
In an age of diminishing attention spans, stories that can be read in the few minutes it takes to wait for the bus, stand in line, or smoke a cigarette are valued for their ability to entertain on demand. Mobile technologies such as text messaging and micro-blogging on cell phones and tablets spur both the production and consumption of this economic genre—the shortest of these works can be contained within a single computer screen or a few text messages. Flash fiction (微型小说), or short-short fiction, is by no means a recent phenomenon, however. Shouhua Qi, editor and translator of The Pearl Jacket and Other Stories: Flash Fiction From Contemporary China, traces its multiple origins thousands of years back to Aesop’s fables from ancient Greece and the Chinese creation myths of Nüwa, Fuxi, and Pangu.