Ravi Shankar, writing at the Mascara Literary Review, reviews Empty Chairsby Liu Xia 刘霞 (widow of Liu Xiaobo 刘晓波), translated by Ming Di and Jennifer Stern (Graywolf):
Yes, she has played an inextricable role in the chronicle of her husband’s imprisonment and his global prominence as a face of Chinese dissidence. She has been his artistic collaborator, one of his few visitors in prison, and, with his death, the bearer of his legacy. But no one should lose sight of her singular status as a fiercely independent advocate, an elegiac storyteller, and an enduring survivor of the seven-year isolation imposed on her by the Chinese government. Liu Xia has been held in unlawful house arrest since October 2010 “… detained without charge or trial, she has been stripped of communication with the outside world and denied adequate medical care.” …
So while her plight has become something of a cause célèbre among writers and intellectuals … her poetry has not been widely read—nor indeed has it been widely available—in the English-speaking world. In part, this might be due to her growing reputation as a visual artist, a sensibility that helps illuminate the stark shape of her poems; but doubtlessly, in large part, it’s also due to the simple fact that she’s a woman. Earlier in her life, she was eclipsed in her marriage by Liu Xiaobo’s fame and persecution; then later in life, she was overtly censored by the State just for having chosen to be with him, even though she insists she is apolitical. In neither case was she given a choice; or a voice.
Drunken Boat has published three poems by Li Shangyin 李商隱 in my translation.
I’ll come is empty talk I’ll go and then no trace
The moon slants over the tower the fifth clack of the bell
The page also includes a note where I explain how my translations “aim to link the opposition to the social order that motivated these poems in the ninth century with an opposition to the social orders relevant to dense and allusive poetry today.”
Thanks to Managing Editor Erica Mena, Translation Editor Anna Rosenwong, and founding editor Ravi Shankar for including my work!
The Winter 2012 issue of Almost Island is finally here, featuring an essay Xi Chuan wrote in English titled “Style Comes as a Reward,” his prose poem “What the Tang Did Not Have” 唐朝所沒有的 in my translation, and my translation of “The Original Way” 原道 by Tang Dynasty man of letters Han Yu 韓愈 (768 – 824), which should be provocative on its own but also provides some historical context for Xi Chuan’s prose poem.