Eberlein on Han Dong in English

Xujun Eberlein in LARB looks at Han Dong 韩东 in English and asks, “Is There a Good Way to Translate Chinese Poetry?
Her answer is clearly yes. She asks, “why would I want to read a translation that has departed from the original? Wouldn’t I be better off reading original poetry in the target language, instead of a half-baked translation?”

She looks at Han as presented in two translations, one the recent Phone Call from Dalian with translations by Nicky Harman and Maghiel van Crevel, and the other the anthology Another Kind of Nation. Eberlein writes:

Why do we read translated poetry after all? If specific manners of expression and thinking, different uses of words and images, serve as the carrier of a different culture and reality, the stuff that draws in the translator and reader alike, what can translation accomplish? For poetry, language—the nuance of language—is paramount. We care not only about a poem’s meaning; we care equally, if not more, about how thoughts and observations are expressed in unfamiliar, refreshing ways. Form is part of content in poetry translation.

Click the image above for the full article, and for my own takes, see my reviews of A Phone Call from Dalian and Another Kind of Nation.

Critic Chen Chao, 1958-2014

3294438317Poetry critic Chen Chao 陈超 took his own life on October 31. Maghiel van Crevel writes:

Chen Chao made important contributions to scholarship and criticism. Starting from the early 1980s, he wrote numerous essays on individual oeuvres, themes, and texts, and on overarching trends in poetry and criticism.

Among many other publications, Chen served as editor of the 1993 anthology 《以梦为马:新生代卷》 [With a Dream for a Horse: Newborn Generation Volume], part of the six-volume 《当代诗歌潮流回顾》 [A Look Back at Trends in Contemporary Poetry] edited by Xie Mian 谢冕 and Tang Xiaodu 唐晓渡; and as editor-cum-author of 《20世纪中国探索诗鉴赏辞典》 [A Critical Anthology of 20t-Century Chinese Explorative Poetry], an ambitious book in the genre in which each poem is accompanied by an individual commentary, first published in 1989 and substantially revised and expanded in 1999.

Click on the image for the full post, with links to more information in Chinese.

van Crevel Reviews Manfredi’s Modern Poetry in China

200Modern Chinese Literature & Culture has published Maghiel van Crevel’s review of Modern Poetry in China: A Visual-Verbal Dynamic, by Paul Manfredi. Here’s how it begins:

How does one “see” a poem? Is seeing a poem like reading a painting, a friendly metaphor that brings together various perspectives on literature and art? As such, are there any poems that can not be seen, apart from those that commit the unforgivable sin of speaking in abstractions? If not, can the metaphor succeed in capturing a particular set of texts, rather than the genre in its entirety?

Click on the image above for the full review.


Heather Inwood on Yi Sha

Yi ShaHeather Inwood of Ohio State University has written an introduction to the work of Yi Sha 伊沙, “lower-body” 下半身 and “post-colloquial writing” 后口语写作 poet. Here’s a sample of what she says:

Although his profession as a writer and a college professor makes Yi Sha an intellectual in his own right, his sympathies lie firmly with the less advantaged people of China, as can be seen from the poems included in this section (indeed, the dichotomy that has developed in contemporary poetry discourse between intellectuals and the “popular” or folk is a false one, given China’s long intellectual tradition of showing concern for the common people in literature). His poetry is predominantly narrative in style, relating with brevity and wit the kinds of everyday stories and detailed observations that are left out of most public records of contemporary life. As Tang Xin reports, the characters in his poems include criminals, prostitutes, traitors, punks, and drunks; no person or topic is omitted for being too lowly or crass. Maghiel van Crevel suggests that a quality of rejectiveness can be detected in Yi Sha’s poetic attitude of “cynicism, disbelief, negation, demystification, desecration, deconstruction, aggression, and destruction,” but readers could equally see the stories he tells as evidence of a more receptive or broadminded approach to poetry and its capacity to accommodate humanity in all shapes and sizes.

The feature also includes Inwood’s translation of six poems by Yi Sha.

Bonus point: last time I saw Heather, she had the same haircut as Yi Sha does in the picture above.

More China Daily on Xi Chuan [a/k/a “Xichuan”]

None the verseUnder the title “None the verse” (a headline I first found lame, but after a bit more reflection find reveals something interesting about Xi Chuan’s writing) is another China Daily article on Xi Chuan and his career in poetry. It took me so long to find it because it refers to Xi Chuan, inexplicably, as “Xichuan,” but it offers a decent overview of the changes of his work and quotes translations by Maghiel van Crevel (unattributed; go figure), and ends with a decent discussion about the Xi Chuan’s understanding of the place of poetry in China and the world today:

Although Xichuan admits that the Chinese have almost forgotten poetry in their pursuit of material success, he is continuing his explorations as a serious intellectual trying “to influence the quality of life in China in an indirect way”.

One of these experiments is a drama adapted from his long poem Flowers in the Mirror and the Moon on the Water in collaboration with Chinese avant-garde director Meng Jinghui. Xichuan was pleased to see that its non-traditional structure made people think from a post-modernism perspective, an approach they were unfamiliar with in the past. “Even if they felt uncomfortable, it was an important social effect,” he says.

“I have to acknowledge that the past decade has been unfavorable for Chinese poets, but they have far transcended themselves, in terms of new expression, sophisticated rhetoric, and greater growth and solidity.”