Asian American Writers’ Workshop recommends Asian Literature

The Asian American Writers’ Workshop has collected recommendations from noted American writers and publishers for what to read of Asian literature. And unsurprisingly, Chinese poets and poetry are well-represented.

Barbara Epler, president of New Directions publishing, recommends Li Shangyin and Bei Dao, among others. She writes:

I am torn between favorites—Qian Zhongshu’s Fortress Besieged, Tanizaki’s The Maids, Li Shangyin’s Derangement of My Contemporaries, Takashi Hiraide’s The Guest Cat, Eka Kurniawan’s Beauty is a Wound, Sei Shonagon’s The Pillow Book—but finally want to choose Bei Dao’s new memoir, City Gate, Open Up. It’s a remarkably moving autobiography of this great poet, beautifully translated by Jeffrey Yang: a testament to stubbornness and endurance, City Gate, Open Up is a love letter to the Beijing of his childhood and to his family.

And Eliot Weinberger gives an even fuller syllabus, explaining, “‘Favorite Asian book’ is as impossible as ‘favorite European book’ or ‘favorite song.’ Sorry not to play by the rules of this game–and instead rattle off a long list of personal faves–but, after all, it’s 3000 years of writing in many languages and over a hundred years of translations that one would still want to read.” His list includes:

The many translations of classical Chinese poetry and philosophy by David Hinton (especially, for me: the poems of Tu Fu, T’ao Ch’ien, and Meng Chiao); Ezra Pound’s Cathay (now in a facsimile edition from New Directions) and his much-maligned masterpiece The Confucian Odes; A.C. Graham, Poems of the Late T’ang; Kenneth Rexroth & Ling Chung’s translation of the Sung Dynasty woman poet Li Ch’ing-chao; Gary Snyder, Cold Mountain Poems (Han Shan); Michèle Métail’s anthology of reversible poems, Wild Geese Returning (tr. Jody Gladding). (For more translations by Pound, Rexroth, Snyder, W.C. Williams, and Hinton, and essays by them on Chinese poetry: my The New Directions Anthology of Classical Chinese Poetry.)

As for modern and contemporary Chinese poetry: Bei Dao (various translators); Gu Cheng (tr. Joseph Allen); Xi Chuan (tr. Lucas Klein). Lastly, David Knechtges’s three-volume translation of the Wen xuan, a 6th-century anthology of the usually neglected, often ridiculed documentary poetry fu form (also Watson’s Chinese Rhyme-Prose)

It’s a lot to read!

Click on the image above for the full list.

Stanford News on Egan’s Li Qingzhao

Poet Li QingzhaoStanford News has a brief feature on Ronald Egan’s new book on Li Qingzhao 李清照 (1084-1150s): The Burden of Female Talent: The Poet Li Qingzhao  and Her History in China, they say, “is the first critical treatment of Qingzhao’s writing in English to appear in 50 years.” They don’t know that Chinese surnames come before given names, but the feature is still worth reading. Here’s an excerpt focusing on what makes Egan’s approach important:

Unlike traditional Chinese scholarship, Egan’s groundbreaking approach to investigating Li Qingzhao’s life and writings examines her place in history before analyzing her literary work. Reconstructing the social and literary world in which Qingzhao wrote has to come first, Egan explained, because it enables him to address the gender biases she has faced throughout the past 800 years of Chinese scholarship and criticism.

“I can’t start talking about my understanding of her literary works,” Egan said, “until the reader sees the whole story unpacked and deconstructed. And then we can go back with all that in mind and have a fresh look at her literary works. Only by doing that can we accurately gauge her achievement as a poet.”

Click the image above for the full piece.

The Complete Sino-Platonic Papers for Free

The entire run of Sino-Platonic Papers are now available for free download, including Jiaosheng Wang’s translations of The Complete Ci-Poems of Li Qingzhao 李清照 (1989), David McCraw’s Pursuing Zhuangzi as a Rhymester (1995), and Jonathan Ratcliffe on “The Mythos of the One-Eyed Man in Greek and Inner Asian Thought” (2014). From Victor Mair:

Sino-Platonic Papers began in 1986 and for its first twenty years remained a print publication.

In 2006, however, Sino-Platonic Papers became an electronic publication, with all new issues released on the Web for free. Since that time we have been gradually converting the print issues to PDFs so that they could also be made available for free to readers around the world. We are very pleased to announce that process is now complete–Two hundred and forty-nine and counting!

All issues of Sino-Platonic Papers are now available for free at www.sino-platonic.org.

We continue to publish new material, so check our website often to find our latest issues.

Victor Mair

Ron Egan on The Burden of Female Talent

Cover: The Burden of Female Talent in HARDCOVERThe Burden of Female Talent: The Poet Li Qingzhao and Her History in China
by Ronald Egan

Widely considered the preeminent Chinese woman poet, Li Qingzhao 李清照 (1084-1150s) occupies a crucial place in China’s literary and cultural history. She stands out as the great exception to the rule that the first-rank poets in premodern China were male. But at what price to our understanding of her as a writer does this distinction come? The Burden of Female Talent challenges conventional modes of thinking about Li Qingzhao as a devoted but often lonely wife and, later, a forlorn widow. By examining manipulations of her image by the critical tradition in later imperial times and into the twentieth century, Ronald C. Egan brings to light the ways in which critics sought to accommodate her to cultural norms, molding her “talent” to make it compatible with ideals of womanly conduct and identity. Contested images of Li, including a heated controversy concerning her remarriage and its implications for her “devotion” to her first husband, reveal the difficulty literary culture has had in coping with this woman of extraordinary conduct and ability. The study ends with a reappraisal of Li’s poetry, freed from the autobiographical and reductive readings that were traditionally imposed on it and which remain standard even today.

Click on the image for more information & how to order.