Enter Words & the World, the material result of 2011’s International Poetry Nights in Hong Kong. A white box roughly 7 x 11 x 2.5 inches in dimension houses a collection of twenty chapbooks, black ink on white paper, with at least two languages guaranteed in each chapbook (Chinese and English). The collection “begins” with the younger generation Mexican poet María Baranda (b. 1962), and “ends” with Chinese writer Yu Xiang (b. 1970), integrating them with better-known or longer-standing international versifiers, including Irish trickster Paul Muldoon, American spiritualist C.D Wright, Japanese lyric master Shuntaro Tanikawa, and Slovenian dynamo Tomaz Salamun. The box-set effect encourages reading at cross-cultural purposes, to be sure, and a nice leveling effect emerges between poets, poems, and languages. The work inside is generally stunning, strange, and vibrant, in no small part due to having crossed so many borders to appear before your very eyes.
Today’s English speaker is more than likely aware of the myriad forms of English informing the polyphonic Anglo poetry world, and the inclusion of such diverse poets as Muldoon, Wright, and Indian Vivek Narayanan intimates as much. Perhaps because the “West” often conveniently forgets that a billion people speak the language, Words & The World importantly underscores the heterogeneous nature of living and writing in Chinese by showcasing writers from mainland China, Hong Kong, and Taiwan. All of them seem engaged in some form of epic conversation with a “West” that is far from predictable or uniform in its concerns or manifestations. The addition of poets like Brazilian Régis Bonvicino (writing in Portuguese, despite his French-Italian name) and German-born Russian poet Arkadii Dragomoshchenko further reinforces the sense of a grandiloquent, irreverent dialogue occurring across the seven seas. Bonvicino’s chapbook includes an untitled poem dedicated to Dragomoshchencko, which begins: “Almost no one sees / what I see in the words / byzantine iconoclasm / the clock reads midnight or mid-day?” (56). Indeed, the byzantine iconoclasm of this box set is what astonishes most of all, the overriding and often overwhelming sense that, night or day, it is high time for all of us to wake up.
Click on the image above for the full review.
The new issue of Plume is here, with new poetry by Taiwanese superstar poet Hsia Yü translated by Steve Bradbury and Eduardo Chirinos translated by Gary Racz, as well as new work by Lydia Davis and International Poetry Nights Hong Kong 2011 participant Paul Muldoon.
Click here for my translation of Xi Chuan’s “The Ant’s Plunder” 蚂蚁劫, published in the last issue.
Words & the World, the multilingual anthology and twenty-volume box-set of the International Poetry Nights, is now in stores, as I noticed when in a bookstore in Tsim Sha Tsui 尖沙咀. Right before snapping this picture, I saw a browser stop by the display, read a few lines, and head off to buy one of the pocket editions. No joke!
If you’re not in the Hongkong area or can’t find these books in a shop near you, click on the image to get to the ordering page.
The final reading of the International Poetry Nights Hong Kong 2011 took place last night, with Paul Muldoon (Ireland / USA), Tian Yuan 田原 (China/Japan), and Yip Fai 葉煇 (Hong Kong) reading. Tian Yuan also read the poems of Japanese poet Shuntarô Tanikawa, who was prevented from traveling due to illness. And as with Xi Chuan’s graciousness on the first night’s reading, Tian Yuan extended thanks to his English translator, Denis Mair.
Though the Nights are over, and Xi Chuan has flown off to Norway (about which I’ll be posting anon), the conversation continues at Paper Republic, with notes by Canaan Morse and extra commentary by Yours Truly. Also, I expect that videos of the readings will be posted on YouTube, as they were two years ago, so expect clips and further links to those as they appear.
Having edited Chinese to English translations for the International Poetry Nights‘ Words & the World booklets, I am familiar with all the participating poets who write in Chinese. Still, having a chance to hear Hongkong poet Wong Leung Wo 王良和 read his poems–written in standard Chinese, pronounced as Mandarin in my head–in Cantonese was fascinating for the linguistic disjunctiveness the poems created beneath their poetic smoothness (added to by Canaan Morse‘s excellent English translations, also onscreen behind Wong as he read). But even more exciting for me were the poets I hadn’t had much chance to encounter before; in particular, Mexican poet María Baranda‘s reading from “Cartas a Robinsón” / “Letters to Robinson,” translated by Joshua Edwards in a way that brings out the rolling passion of Baranda’s Spanish, was enthralling, as was Tomaž Šalamun‘s switching back and forth between Slovenian and English as he read (I saw Tomaž being interviewed by Xi Chuan and Chinese poetry critic Tang Xiaodu 唐晓渡, an interview I’ll be sure to link to if it appears online).
The finale for the International Poetry Nights is tonight at 7:00 at the Lee Shau Kee School of Creativity (Multi-Media Theatre, 135 Junction Road, Kowloon), with readings by Paul Muldoon (Ireland / USA), Tian Yuan 田原 (China/Japan), and Yip Fai 葉煇 (Hong Kong).
In addition to the twenty-volume box set I wrote about Friday, the International Poetry Nights (taking place this week from Thursday to Sunday) has also published the Words & the World anthology, which is now back from the printers’:
The anthology features the work of all twenty participating poets, a sampling of what appears in the individual booklets. The Xi Chuan poems included are “I Bury My Tail” 我藏着我的尾巴, “A Song of No Matter” 無關緊要之歌, “A Song of the Corner” 牆角之歌, “Friends” 熟人, “Manes of Yellow” 黃毛, “A Sanskrit Brick from Nanzhao (738 – 937): after a Vietnamese poet” 南詔國梵文磚：仿一位越南詩人, and “Falcons, Swans, and Pearls” 獵鷹、天鵝與珍珠.
The list price is HK$160, but will be sold at half off during the festival.
Words & The World, the twenty-volume box set of multilingual pocket-sized poetry books for this year’s International Poetry Nights in Hong Kong (which will take place from the 10th to 13th this month) has been published. It will be on sale at the festival, and in select Hong Kong bookstores soon. Click on the image below for another press release:
The Xi Chuan volume, A Song of the Corner, is a selection of poems that will appear in the forthcoming Notes on the Mosquito (New Directions, 2012), featuring the following pieces: “Somebody” 某人, “The Neighbors” 鄰居, “I Bury My Tail” 我藏着我的尾巴, “A Song of No Matter” 無關緊要之歌, “A Song of the Corner” 牆角之歌, “Friends” 熟人, “Companion” 伴侶, “My Grandma” 我奶奶, “Manes of Yellow” 黃毛, “Drizzle” 連陰雨, “Six Dynasties Ghosts” 六朝鬼魅, “A Sanskrit Brick from Nanzhao (738 – 937): after a Vietnamese poet” 南詔國梵文磚：仿一位越南詩人, and “Falcons, Swans, and Pearls” 獵鷹、天鵝與珍珠.
The other books, featuring the remaining nineteen participants of the International Poetry Nights, are by María Baranda (Mexico), Régis Bonvicino (Brazil), Arkadii Dragomoshchenko (Russia), Bejan Matur (Turkey), Paul Muldoon (Ireland), Vivek Narayanan (India), Tomaž Šalamun (Slovenia), Silke Scheuermann (Germany), Tanikawa Shuntarō (Japan), C. D. Wright (USA), Chen Ko-hua 陳克華 (Taiwan), Ling Yu 零雨 (Taiwan), Luo Chih Cheng 羅智成 (Taiwan), Tian Yuan 田原 (PRC / Japan), Wong Leung Wo 王良和 (Hongkong), Yao Feng 姚風 (PRC / Macau), Yip Fai 葉煇 (Hongkong), Yu Jian 于堅 (PRC), and Yu Xiang 宇向 (PRC). All books include the original language of composition, plus English and / or Chinese translations.
After the Poetry Nights, each book will sell for HK$25, with the whole set at HK$450. During the festival you can enjoy a 50% discount.