World Literature Today has published Josh Stenberg’s review of Zephyr books A Phone Call from Dalian by Han Dong 韩东, translated by Nicky Harman, and Doubled Shadows by Ouyang Jianghe 欧阳江河, translated by Austin Woerner:
Ouyang Jianghe and Han Dong … both occupy established places in what, for over thirty years, has been known as avant-garde Chinese literature. In poetic approach, they represent divergent tendencies—Ouyang cosmopolitan, clean, and heavily referential; Han craftily offhand, personal, confidently bizarre, not tetchy about grime or sex. Where Ouyang often seems to offer an argument about the cultural currents and skirmishes of today’s China, Han’s work most often reads as a lament for the failure of attempts to bridge the spaces between people
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.
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.
The January 2012 issue of Asymptote is now online, featuring Xi Chuan‘s “Beast” 巨兽, “The Distance” 远方, and “Poison” 毒药, in my translations. You can also hear a recording of “The Distance” read in Chinese by Huang Yin-Nan.
This issue also hosts a great range of international writing, especially when it comes to writing in Chinese: there’s Xi Chuan’s friend Ouyang Jianghe 欧阳江河, translated by Austin Woerner, and Taiwanese superstar poet Hsia Yü 夏宇, translated by Steve Bradbury. And then there’s the Taiwan Fiction Feature.
While I expect it will be some time until the participants of the India-China Writers Dialogues publish anything about the event–these writers want to be thorough and accurate to both reality and emotion–I did come across another press report, from Express India. It begins discussing the germ of the idea with Sharmistha Mohanty and Bei Dao, and moving on toward the following detail:
Since the beginning of the dialogue two years ago, the participants have been the same group of writers, and Mohanty believes this has been a very important aspect. “With the same group of writers meeting each time, we have become good friends and learnt a lot from each other,” she says. Besides the speakers for the panel discussion, the participants include Allan Sealy, Rukmini Bhaya Nair, Adil Jussawalla, Vivek Narayanan and K Satchidanandan from India and Ge Fei, Xi Chuan, Zhai Yongming and Ouyang Jianghe from China.
These discussions are not limited to analysing writing styles and such. In the course of these two years, the participants have exchanged a great deal about their histories and cultures, too. “We talk about a variety of things,” says Mohanty. “For instance, what does tradition mean to us? How is it represented in our lives and works? Or how a writer wrestles with his past when he is writing. We discuss whether he rejects that long past or embraces it, and so on.”
See also the Almost Island publication of Mohanty’s essay on her experiences in China, “Mountains and Rivers“; Xi Chuan only gets the briefest of mentions (Bei Dao 北岛, Ouyang Jianghe 欧阳江河, and Li Tuo 李陀 get fuller discussions), but it’s a grand take on one writer’s considerations of China and its contrasts with India. Also the prose poem “Editorial Sutras,” which offers Mohanty’s impressions of the first Chinese – Indian Writers’ Dialogue, in 2009.