New Issue of CLEAR

The new issue of Chinese Literature: Essays, Articles, Reviews (CLEAR) is hitting the shelves (or stacks), along with it my article “Indic Echoes: Form, Content, and World Literature in Tang Dynasty Regulated Verse,” Charles Laughlin’s “New Translators & Contemporary Chinese Literature in English,” my review of Jonathan Stalling’s Shi Zhi 食指 translation, and Nick Admussen’s review of Notes on the Mosquito. Here’s an excerpt from his review:

Biography is a crucial dimension of contemporary poetry: the drive to make biography meaningful, to use it as a means of self-expression, is shared by poets not just in China, but all over the world. Klein notes that Xi Chuan read every draft of every translation, and was important to the processes of selection and organization (xii-xiii). Xi Chuan is a scholar and translator of English and American literature. His ability and willingness to be involved in this translation from start to finish makes it valuable and rare in the world of translated literature; in addition to being the transformation of original work by a translator, Notes on the Mosquito is a direct product of the artist himself. For this reason, readers get much more from the book than they might otherwise. Concretely, the narrative of Xi Chuan’s art undergoing transformations in 1989 is one that the poet himself wants to share.

This is, however, still a translated volume, and the hand of the translator is also visible in the English versions of the poems. Perhaps because of his ability to get Xi Chuan’s opinion on his final drafts, Lucas Klein’s translations are unafraid of taking significant risks with the original texts. This feels like the correct — perhaps the only correct — strategy in dealing with these poems. Because his lyric poetry is so syntactically complex, and because his prose work moves between intricate intertextuality and tonally layered vernacular, a bold attempt to render the feeling of a poem into English is almost always preferable to the uninterpretability of a literal translation.

For more information, click the image above.

Birgit Linder on Shi Zhi’s Winter Sun

200Modern Chinese Literature & Culture has published Birgit Linder’s review of Winter Sun: Poems, translated by Jonathan Stalling. Here’s how Linder begins her review:

Winter Sun is a bilingual collection of poetry by one of China’s most widely known contemporary poets. Translated by Jonathan Stalling, it marks the first collection of Shi Zhi’s 食指 poetry in English, and it is an important addition to Chinese literary history and the study of contemporary Chinese poetry in translation. The roughly eighty poems in the book span the years from 1965 to 2005 and give a comprehensive overview of the work and life of a Shi Zhi, who first came to fame as an underground poet during the Cultural Revolution (1966-76) and has continued with his work until now. In addition, the chronologically arranged collection offers a twleve-page introduction by literary scholar Zhang Qinghua 张清华, a “Letter to My American Friends” by the poet, and a “Translator’s Afterword” by Jonathan Stalling that explains his choice of free verse translation over a more formal approach.

Shi Zhi (Index finger), whose real name is Guo Lusheng 郭路生, was born in 1948 in Shandong province. During the Cultural Revolution, Shi Zhi was widely admired for his daring and persistent poetry that, with a few exceptions, circumvented prescribed ideological content and conventional revolutionary imagery. Following his premature retirement from the army in 1971, he experienced a prolonged period of silence and suicidal depression and was finally diagnosed with schizophrenia in 1973. He spent many years in a mental hospital, until he was released in 2005. Shi Zhi lives with his second wife in Beijing and continues to write poetry.

Hua Li reviews Shi Zhi’s Winter Sun

Winter Sun by Shi ZhiHua Li reviews Winter Sun by Shi Zhi 食指, translated by Jonathan Stalling. Here’s how it concludes:

Winter Sun is a long-overdue collection of one of the leading figures in contemporary Chinese poetry. I will close with an excerpt from one of Shi Zhi’s notable poems, “Oh, Nietzsche”: “Through so many sleepless nights he endured the torture of disease / Yet nurtured the poetic longing of solitude and indifference / An infant thought undergoes the trauma of birth / To finally cry out in an earth-shattering voice.”

Tremolo interview with Jonathan Stalling

Jonathan StallingLast month’s Tremolo was the English version of Liu Qian’s 刘倩 interview with Jonathan Stalling, which had previously appeared in Chinese in the Journal of Chuxiong Normal University 楚雄师范学院学报. Here’s the beginning (and bulk) of the interview:

LQ: So you are a scholar, translator, editor, and poet. Which one of these roles is most important to you and how do they relate to one another in your work?

JS: I don’t usually think of the title “poet” “scholar” “translator” “editor” as mutually exclusive, but porous in nature. So I cannot say if one is more important than another as they all come together into the basic components of my life along with being a father, husband, brother, son, friend, teacher etc. These are all just parts of the aggregate. But I think one can see how all of these elements come to fuse in my “work” more generally. For instance, I think of all of my work engaging in linguistic and cultural crossing and mixing. As a scholar I explore the historical crossings between American poets and Chinese philosophy and poetics; as an editor, I work with others to make a space for contemporary Chinese writers and critics to be heard in English; as a translator, I try to make available voices (like the poet Shi Zhi, who we featured in issue #2 of CLT magazine and a book of my translations will come out from Oklahoma University Press early 2012) that have not been heard in English, or to create new poetic techniques to reveal the sound of different languages within our own by bending and fusing languages together, and as a poet, finally, I write poetry in the hopes that I can find a music that enacts new forms of philosophical inquiry and ethics so that we might better attend to otherness without mastering or trying to control it with knowledge, and to re-examine the lyrical voice, the subjective voice, as ultimately arising from a plural being rather than singular one. In this way, one can think of my poetry as drawing heavily on both Neo-Daoism’s anti-ocularcentric epistemology (Guo Xiang) and various Confucian and Neo-Confucian notions of “love” and “self” (single-plural). As a literary scholar of East-West poetics, I try to understand all of the transpacific influences of China on American poetry, but this also allows me to see what has not been done, what influences have not become fully formed, and much of my work seeks to manifest poetry from the here-to-fore unexplored areas of the “transpacific mind.” ‬The next book I am presently working on “Evolving from Embryo/Changing the Bones: English as a Medium for Classical Chinese Poetry” is perhaps the most direct attempt in this regard.

Publication of Shi Zhi’s Winter Sun

OUPress.Data.Entities.ImageAlso in other contemporary Chinese poetry news, Winter Sun, the selected poems of Shi Zhi 食指, translated by Jonathan Stalling, is now available from Oklahoma University Press–the first book in the Chinese Literature Today Book Series.

Shi Zhi was one of the first poets in the PRC to enact a conscious break with orthodox Maoist style, and as such was a precursor not only to the so-called Obscure Poets 朦胧诗人, but to Xi Chuan and his generation of writers as well. The publication of this book in English represents a big step in introducing English-language readers to the intricacies of contemporary Chinese poetry and the literary history of modern China.

Steve Bradbury report on ALTA

On the 17th I posted a link & video about the American Literary Translators Association’s annual convention in Kansas City. I got a letter from my friend Steve Bradbury, translator of Shang Qin 商琴 and Hsia Yu 夏宇 and editor of Full Tilt, about what I missed:

Hey Lucas

Sorry you couldn’t make the ALTA conference this year. It was a good one. I’d never been to Kansas City before and was pleased to find that it’s quite the tourist-friendly town; the accommodations were affordable and just a short walk from both the Nelson Atkins Museum and more bars and restaurants than you can shake a stick at. Silvia Kofler was the conference organizer this year. Paul Vangelisti and Douglas Hofstadter were the plenary speakers. Lisa Rose Bradford, who flew in from Mar del Plata, was this year’s NTA winner, for her stellar version of Between Words: Juan Gelman’s Public Letter.  Lisa also gave readings with sound poet Glenn North at the Jazz Museum and with me at the Writer’s Place, where I read some of my Shang Qin and Hsia Yu translations. The panel she put together on “Re/Creations and ‘Afterpoems,’” with Christian Hawkey, who talked about his Ventrakl volume, and Paul Legault, who gave us a trailer to his forthcoming collected After-Emily Dickenson “translations,” was the most interesting panel I’ve attended in years.

Chinese-language translators were a little thin on the ground this year, but the two besides me who made it did their mothers’ proud.  Your old friend and ALTA first-timer Jonathan Stalling, who drove up from Oklahoma U with his family, gave a marvelous recitation of some personal favorites in his recent collection, Winter Sun: The Poetry of Shi Zhi.  Charles Egan, who was also a first-timer, flew in from San Fran to accept the Lucien Stryk Prize for his Clouds Thick, Whereabouts Unknown: Poems by Zen Monks of China. Although Charles read his acceptance speech instead of speaking off the cuff per ALTA practice, he won the crowd from pretty much the get-go with the disarming admission that the prize was “a wonderful vindication for all the years I struggled in obscurity—I believe I saw many of you there…”

We talked for hours over martinis at the hotel bar. It was such a pleasure to run into a Chinese translator at ALTA who knows his books down to the ground and works by-and-large in fixed rhyme and meter; most of the ALTA regulars who translate Chinese classical verse are free-verse poets who can barely read a word of the language.  That was the subject of my talk on Erica Mena’s “Translating Blind: Working from a Language You Don’t Read” panel. I spoke on Amy Lowell’s and Florence Ayscough’s now largely forgotten 1921 anthology Fir-Flower Tablets, but it was Becka McKay who took the palm, for a fascinating presentation on teaching translation to monolingual students as a way of inspiring interest in literature.  Some of the student projects she showed us, which included a video game based on the Inferno and graphic adaptations of Don Quixote and The Tale of Genji, were amazing.  If Florida Atlantic U, where she teaches, wasn’t 12,000 miles away, I would sign up for her class.

Good news for those who live in or have ties to the Northeast and Great Lakes region: next year’s ALTA conference will be held in early October in Rochester, New York, “John Ashbery country.”  I’m hoping Open Letter editor Chad Post, who will be organizing the conference on behalf of the Translation Studies Program at the University of Rochester and Three Percent, will pursue my suggestion to invite Ashbery to give the keynote address. The poet’s getting on in years, but they say he still has his wits about him and gives a good talk. And he’s certainly got something to talk about: his new version of Rimbaud’s Illuminations is one of those must-read translations that make you want to throw in the towel.

                                                                                                —Steve Bradbury, Taipei

Chinese Names in Push Open the Window

When I first wrote about the Copper Canyon anthology Push Open the Window, I said, “My only quibble with the book so far is that, while everything is printed with Chinese and English en face, for some reason the Chinese characters of none of the poets’ names made it into the book.” Co-translation editor Sylvia Lin has worked to address this, writing in a recent post to the Modern Chinese Literature & Culture email list:

List members may be interested in a new bilingual anthology of contemporary Chinese poetry, Push Open the Window, the third volume in a larger project of bilingual anthologies of contemporary poetry funded by the NEA. The poems were selected by the Chinese editor, Qingping Wang, with Sylvia Li-chun Lin and Howard Goldblatt as translation editors.

Despite our objections, the publisher, Copper Canyon Press, chose not to include the poets’ names in Chinese. We are making them available here; feel free to share the list with other users of the anthology.

Shi Zhi 食指
Mang Ke 芒克
Shu Ting 舒婷
Yu Jian 于坚
Zhai Yongming 翟永明
Wang Xiaoni 王小妮
Sun Wenbo 孙文波
Gu Cheng 顾城
Bai Hua 柏桦
Zhang Shuguang 张曙光
Wang Jiaxin 王家新
Song Lin 宋琳
Xiao Kaiyu 肖开愚
Han Dong 韩东
Chen Dongdong 陈东东
Zhang Zao 张枣
Qing Ping 清平
Sen Zi 森子
Huang Canran 黄灿然
Xi Chuan 西川
Huang Fan 黄梵
Cai Tianxin 蔡天新
Zang Di 臧棣
Hai Zi 海子
Ye Hui 叶辉
Ma Yongbo 马永波
Shu Cai 树才
Yi Sha 伊沙
Yu Nu 余怒
Ge Mai 戈麦
Lan Lan 蓝蓝
Xi Du 西渡
Yang Jian 杨键
Sang Ke 桑克
Chen Xianfa 陈先发
Lin Mu 林木
Zhou Zan 周瓒
Zhu Zhu 朱朱
Jiang Tao 姜涛
Yan Wo 燕窝
Jiang Hao 蒋浩
Ma Hua 马骅
Han Bo 韩博
Leng Shuang 冷霜
Duo Yu 朵渔
Hu Xudong 胡续冬
Qin Xiaoyu 秦晓宇
Shen Muqin 沈木槿*
Wang Ao 王敖

* The book prints this name as Shen Mujin; the character can be pronounced either jǐn or qín.