Mazanec on Rouzer’s Hanshan Translations

Tom Mazanec has posted about Paul Rouzer’s new translation of Hanshan 寒山 (Cold Mountain) for de Gruyter’s Library of Chinese Humanities–now available for sale and free download.

As Tom notes, some of the Hanshan corpus was “famously translated by Gary Snyder in 1958 [and] later celebrated by Jack Kerouac in his hit novel The Dharma Bums,” which means this publication lacks the punch de Gruyter landed when publishing Stephen Owen’s complete Du Fu 杜甫:

there are already two complete translations of Hanshan out there, by Robert Henricks and Red Pine (personally, I’m fond of the latter), as well as multiple partial translations by such prominent translators as Arthur Waley, Burton Watson, Peter Hobson and T. H. Barrett, J. P. Seaton, and doubtless others. A close reading will show how these translations each contribute something different to our understanding of this poetic corpus, and this in itself is helpful for teaching and understanding Tang poetry.

Worth noting, though, is that Rouzer’s book also includes poems attributed to Hanshan’s companions, Shide 拾得 and Fenggan 豐干. At any rate,

It’s always good to have more translations of Tang poetry in other languages, and especially translations by someone as knowledgeable as Paul Rouzer … He’s a sensitive reader and a smooth writer, and I’m sure his translations are wonderful (I’ve yet to go through them with a close eye).

Tom also notes the forthcoming titles in the Library of Chinese Humanities, Robert Ashmore’s Li He 李賀 and Stephen Owen and Wendy Swartz’s translation of Ruan Ji  阮籍 and Xi Kang 嵇康.

Click the image above for the full write-up.

Klein on New Premodern Chinese Poetry Translations in LARB

2016-07-15_1030The Los Angeles Review of Books @lareviewofbooks has published “Tribunals of Erudition and Taste: or, Why Translations of Premodern Chinese Poetry Are Having a Moment Right Now,” my take on what looks like something of a resurgence in translation into English.

I use a nineteenth-century debate between Matthew Arnold and Francis Newman to frame a review of Chloe Garcia Roberts’s translation of Li Shangyin 李商隱, David Hinton’s translation of Wang An-shih 王安石, an anthology / travelogue by Red Pine (Bill Porter), and Stephen Owen’s translation of the complete Du Fu 杜甫, alongside Ira Nadel on Ezra Pound and the New Directions re-release of Ezra Pound’s Cathay (and mention of Gary Snyder, Bob Perelman, Paul Kroll, Eliot Weinberger, and more). Here’s how it ends:

The stakes of poetry translation from Chinese are indeed the stakes both of how we understand translation and how we in the English-speaking world understand China. Translation is neither simply a matter for scholars to judge, nor is it something that can be left to the unaccountable imaginings of revelers in poetry — any more than China should be something only specialists or tourists alone can pronounce upon. Rather, bringing expertise and excitement together, translation can help expand our conceptions of poetry and of China, demanding more from ourselves, and more from it. The contentiousness may remain, but it can motivate us to create new and better representations.

So will American poetry turn outward again, and in the process help redefine China as more than a strategic competitor, accused of currency manipulation by presidential candidates, or more than a polluted manufacturer to which we outsource abuses of human rights and labor? Will Chinese literature prove an old repository of poetic presentation from which the United States can both learn and create new beauty? Certainly larger historical and socioeconomic forces will determine the directions our poetry turns, but insofar as what we publish has any role, I see reasons for optimism — and in that optimism, a readiness to engage in the tensions of global and local that inhere in translation.

The recent poetry collections covered in this essay demonstrate a hunger for new ways of understanding and appreciating China, and more are coming soon … With these additions reaching new audiences, we may see premodern Chinese poetry making it new once again.

Click the image for the full article.

Wadland on Red Pine’s Finding them Gone

“Made in China”The new LARB features Justin Wadland on Finding them Gone: Visiting China’s Poets of the Past, a Chinese poetry guide through China by Red Pine, the avatar of Bill Porter. Wadland begins:

IN FINDING THEM GONE, the translator Red Pine, a.k.a. travel writer Bill Porter, calls on more than 40 ancient Chinese poets in 30 days. With three small porcelain cups and a flask of expensive bourbon, he crosses the country in search of places associated with the authors of his most beloved poems: usually their graves, but also former homes, memorial pavilions, and famous landmarks. Once located, regardless of the poet’s station in the literary afterlife, Porter pours his libations into the ground and then sips some himself.

Click the image for the full review.

Han-shan and the Cult of Translation

The Poetry Matters blog has run an article titled “Han-shan and the Cult of Translation,” reading the various translations by Red Pine (Bill Porter), J P Seaton, Gary Snyder, Arthur Waley, and Burton Watson of a poem by medieval recluse poet(s) Cold Mountain / Han-shan 寒山. The poem in question is, in Chinese,

人問寒山道  寒山路不通
夏天冰未釋  日出霧朦朧
似我何由屆  與君心不同
君心若似我  還得到其中

and the article concludes,

This poem, as succinctly as few others, provides the link between these two distinct threads of Han-shan’s journey. It can also be said that, so attractive as a man apart from the world of men, this poem gives voice to Han-shan’s own personal contemplations on the matter, naming, as it were, what he himself felt about his social standing. This insight provides a toehold for those attempting to summit Cold Mountain and commune with its lone inhabitant.

Click the image above for the full piece.

Red Pine / Bill Porter Reviewed in Rain Taxi

Justin Wadland reviews The Mountain Poems of Stonehouse, translated by Red Pine (Copper mountainpoemsCanyon) and Yellow River Odyssey by Bill Porter (Chin Music) for Rain Taxi (author Bill Porter’s nom de guerre as translator is Red Pine). The review begins:

The translator known as Red Pine thinks of translating in terms of dancing. “I see the poet dancing, but dancing to music I can’t hear. Still, I’m sufficiently enthralled by the beauty of the dance that I want to join the poet. And as I do,” he writes. “I try to get close enough to feel the poet’s rhythm, not only the rhythm of the words but also the rhythm of the poet’s heart.” Over a career spanning three decades, yellowriverodysseyRed Pine has danced with many classical Chinese poets and important works of Taoist and Buddhist literature…. Informed by his own Buddhist practice and travels in Asia, Red Pine’s work is consistently characterized by a generosity of spirit that opens up these challenging texts to the English-speaking world.

Click either of the images for the full review.

Red Pine on Journeys, Poets, & Best-Sellerdom in China

Bill Porter is a best-selling author who has also translated over a dozen books of poetry and religious texts.The NYTimes Sinosphere blog has an interview with poetry translator Red Pine, a/k/a Bill Porter. Here’s an excerpt:
Q. Besides your travel books, your translations of some classics, such as the Platform Sutra and the Heart Sutra have been published in Chinese. Most Chinese readers probably don’t care about how you translated the book into English, so what’s of interest to them?
A. They’re interested in my commentaries to the text — how I interpret the meaning.
Q. But your commentaries are based on Chinese sources.
A. I think our educational system makes us perhaps more open to different ideas. The Chinese are more constrained by their history of commentaries. Me, I don’t know what the tradition is. I just read the commentaries and use them to understand how the texts relate to practice. [Mr. Porter is a practicing Buddhist.] So it’s a personal journey and they’re interested in that. By the end of the year, my editions of the Dao De Jing and the Diamond Sutra are coming out in Chinese too.
Click the image above for the full interview.

Bill Porter (Red Pine) in News China

A News China article features Bill Porter, a/k/a Red Pine 赤松. It’s mostly a promo for his “new book, Finding Them Gone, which will also be his final book,” the article says (forthcoming from Copper Canyon). But it ends with significant details and a point about translating classical Chinese poetry. Here’s how:

Having all but wrapped up his upcoming book, Porter, 70, said he felt it was time for him to stop writing, and that his recent visits to graves of some of his favorite poets were a fitting way to bring an end to his publishing career. The collection, which includes the work of 36 poets, spanning pre-modern work by Confucius (551-479 BC) to the writings of Hanshan. It is expected to be published in both English and Chinese in 2015.

“I enjoy reading their poetry and wanted to pay my respect,” he said. “Most foreigners translate Chinese poetry sitting in libraries, but if you don’t go to the place and know nothing of the background, how could you know the meanings of the poems?”

For the full article click the image above.

NYRblog on Red Pine

Ian Johnson at the New York Review of Books’ bloghas a nice piece on Chinese poetry translator Bill Porter (a/k/a Red Pine 赤松) and his second life as a writer for a Chinese audience, in Finding Zen and Book Contracts in Beijing. Here’s a key paragraph, which explains the importance of cross-cultural currents that have allowed non-Chinese scholars of pre-modern China to end up explaining Chinese culture to Chinese people:

In the travel writing that has made him so popular in China, Porter’s tone is not reverential but explanatory, and filled with humorous asides (such as the traveler’s need for a good laxative, or his twenty-year pursuit of a Guggenheim fellowship). His goal is to tell interested foreigners about revealing byways of Chinese culture. Unexpectedly, this approach also works for Chinese, many of whom are about as removed from their culture as Porter’s target audience is in the West. But this means that what is a niche market in western countries—the Chinese culture enthusiast—is a mass market in China. It also helps that Porter is a foreigner. Many wonder how foreigners see this complex culture, which during the 20th century Chinese writers, thinkers, and politicians blamed for their country’s demise.

The article also mentions the plight of the translator, economically speaking: “For most of the past decade, he says, his annual income has hovered around $15,000. Several of his books humorously thank the US Department of Agriculture—for providing food stamps that have kept him and his family going.” And as a Facebook friend of mine, a poet and former publisher who lives near Red Pine in WA, wrote: “Bill Porter spends 20 years in a Taiwanese Zendo studying Chinese classics while Stephen Mitchell spends 20 hours in a library studying what other translators have done with Tao Te Ching. Guess who gets rich in America and who gets by on food stamps.” I should add, though, that if it weren’t for Mitchell’s twenty-some hours, I may not have ended up studying Chinese in the first place.

For some of Red Pine’s thoughts on translating Chinese poetry, here’s a piece I published on CipherJournal, back in the day: Dancing with the Dead: Language, Poetry, and the Art of Translation.

Ron Silliman & Chinese Poetry

Still one of the best go-to spots on the internet for poetry-related news, Ron Silliman’s blog has posted a couple of Chinese-poetry related items in the last couple days. Yesterday on his list of “books received,” he featured–by which I mean of all the books he received, these were two of the three books whose cover images he posted–Red Pine‘s re-release of his Sung Po-jen 宋伯仁 translations (Copper Canyon Press) and a new book titled Chinoiserie by Karen Rigby. I don’t know if Ron’s torqued juxtaposition was intentional or just the product of happenstance simultaneity overdetermined by language (the other book with a pictured cover is Basil Bunting‘s collected translations from the Persian, so it’s hard to think the assertion of “orientalism” is an accident… but at any event, the relationship between title and content in Rigby’s book seems indirect–I haven’t read more than one sample piece, but it’s not about the nineteenth-century representation of Chinese aesthetics; I do note, however, that her bio states that she was born in Panama “to a Chinese mother and a Panamanian-American father”), but it did ring oddly against what Ron posted in his list of Coming Events, pictured above (we all make typos and other mistakes). As you probably know, the poet’s name is Bei Dao 北島, not “Bao Dei.” What you may not know is that this event with Gander, Wright, and Weinberger is at the Poet’s House event at the AWP in Chicago, not in New York.