Eleanor Goodman on Contemporary Chinese Poetry from Zephyr

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As part of Paper Republic‘s series of blogs for Global Literature in Libraries throughout February, Eleanor Goodman writes on Zephyr Press, which she says “has done more to raise the profile of contemporary Chinese poetry in English translation than any other press today”:

Their books are carefully curated, well edited, and beautifully produced. Above all, their translators (here I must profess that I am one of them) tend to be at the top of the field, which is of course essential to the making of a good book in English.

Alongside mentions of their publications of Han Dong 韩冬, Bai Hua 柏桦, Lan Lan 蓝蓝, and Yu Xiang 宇向, Goodman specifically writes about her translation of Wang Xiaoni 王小妮, about Andrea Lingenfelter’s translation of Zhai Yongming 翟永明, Austin Woerner’s translations of Ouyang Jianghe 欧阳江河, Jennifer Feeley’s translation of Hong Kong poet Xi Xi 西西, Steve Bradbury’s translation of Taiwanese poet Hsia Yü 夏宇, and my own forthcoming translations of Mang Ke 芒克.

With with “deep resources of scholarship and natural talent to draw upon,” she writes, it is

this mix of qualities—the best of the contemporary Chinese poetry world combined with translators who are also careful readers and appreciators of poetry—that makes the Zephyr collection so unique and valuable. These books are a labor of love from start to finish, and it shows in the final products. There is simply no better introduction to the contemporary Chinese poetry scene available today.

Click the image above for the full article.

Chinese Poetry in the Lucien Stryk Shortlist

The American Literary Translators Association (ALTA) has announced the 2016 Lucien Stryk Asian Translation Prize shortlist, including two books that are translations from the Chinese, by Hai Zi 海子 and Wang Anshi 王安石:

zi_coverRipened Wheat: Selected Poems of Hai Zi
By Hai Zi
Translated from the Chinese by Ye Chun
(The Bitter Oleander Press)

Hai Zi is one of China’s most beloved poets, whose suicide at the age of 25, just months before the Tiananmen Square protests of 1989, catapulted him to a fame that is almost mythic in proportions. Although his poetic oeuvre is relatively small, his archetypal descriptions of a rural and natural world now virtually extinguished by industrialization, have a lyric intensity that is richly evocative:

Sunlight

Pear flowers
arise along the dirt wall
Cow bells dinging

Auntie brings my nephews over
They stand in front of me
like two charcoal sticks

Sunlight is in fact very strong
Whip and blood for all that grows!

Ye Chun is not the first translator to represent Hai Zi’s poetry in English, but her generous selection of poems and informative preface provide an excellent introduction to this marvelous poet.

and
the_late_poems_of_wang_anshih
The Late Poems of Wang An-Shih

By Wang An-Shih
Translated from the Chinese by David Hinton
(New Directions)

 

David Hinton has long been accepted as one of the premier translators of ancient Chinese texts. He has translated not only collections of the essential poets Li Po, Tu Fu, Wang Wei, Po Chü-i and others, but also given us new interpretations of the I Ching, the Analects, and the Tao Te Ching. In this new translation, Hinton brings us the less well-known Sung poet Wang An-shih, an eccentric figure and brilliant poet.

I can’t see anything of this autumn day,
its last few scraps of yellow in treetops.

Out with my goosefoot staff, I think of
serene fields, but looking find no light.

Hinton captures the Chan Buddhist background of the poet and the freely roaming nature of his later life in finely-wrought language and vivid images. This is an important collection rendered beautifully into English.

This year’s judges are Steve Bradbury, Eleanor Goodman, and Kendall Heitzman. Click either image for the full list.

Mohabir on Bradbury’s Hsia Yu at Jacket2

Rajiv Mohabir reviews Steve Bradbury’s translation of Salsa, by Hsia Yü , for Imaginative Reading at Jacket2:

Translator Steve Bradbury says in his endnotes that this collection can be seen as a post-impressionist Proustian poème-à-clef that lends itself to “imaginative readings.” For Bradbury, the importance of the poem is in its multiple significations and readings. It’s clear Bradbury preserved the musicality of the line, which is a feature of poetry that can be impossible yet imperative to translate given social distance and dissimilarities between linguistic groups. Preserving or transposing the sonorous quality of Taiwanese Chinese into English, Bradbury realizes Yü’s extraordinary wordplay.

Click the image for the full write-up.

Chinese Poetry in Asymptote

The new issue of Asymptote is out, with translations of Ya Shi 哑石 by Nick Admussen, plus a special feature on Hong Kong poetry: Tang Siu Wa 鄧小樺, translated by Canaan Morse; Lok Fung 洛楓, translated by Eleanor Goodman; Yau Ching 游靜, with translations by Steve Bradbury and Chenxin Jiang; Eric Lui 呂永佳, translated by Nicholas Wong; Lau Yee-ching 飲江, translated from the Chinese by Emily Jones and Sophie Smith; and Chung Kwok Keung 鍾國強, translated by Emily Jones and Sophie Smith.

From Chenxin Jiang’s translation of Yau Ching’s “Island Country” 島國:

There’s this island
that used to have many languages now they’ve become
one called English
another called Chinese
you’re not allowed to ever use
your own language
if your name is not an English name
the island will give you one

有這麼一個島
本來有很多語言變成
一種叫英文
一種叫中文
你任何時候都不准
用自己的話語
你的名字如果非英文
島會給你一個

ALTA’s Salsa Blurb for the Stryk Shortlist

The ALTA blog is featuring the shortlisted titles for the Lucien Stryk Prize, and they’ve uploaded the blurb for Steve Bradbury’s translation of Salsa by Hsia Yü 夏宇:

The poems in Salsa feature titles like “Fusion Kitsch,” “The Ripest Rankest Juiciest Summer Ever,” and “She sleeps as deep as a pair of sabot,” and allude to Che Guevara and Jack Kerouac or narrate flash histories of post-impressionist painting. A best-selling 1999 volume by Taiwanese avant-garde poet and pop songwriter Hsia Yü (the edition in Chinese is now in its tenth printing), Salsa is finally available in English by the poet’s longtime translator Steve Bradbury. With the translator’s afterword and notes, the poems of Salsa record a networked island’s end-of-millennium dance.

Click the image to link to the page.

Lucien Stryk Award Shortlist

Stryk CollageALTA has posted the shortlist for this year’s Lucien Stryk Award, which honors book-length translations into English of poetry or Zen Buddhist texts from Hindi, Sanskrit, Tamil, Thai, Vietnamese, Chinese, Japanese, and Korean into English.

The shortlisted titles are:

  • Cat Town by Sakutarō Hagiwara 萩原朔太郎, translated from the Japanese by Hiroaki Sato (New York Review Books)
  • Kalidasa for the 21st Century Reader, translated from the Sanskrit by Mani Rao (Aleph Book Company)
  • Salsa by Hsia Yu 夏宇, translated from the Chinese by Steve Bradbury (Zephyr Press)
  • Something Crosses My Mind by Wang Xiaoni 王小妮, translated from the Chinese by Eleanor Goodman (Zephyr Press)
  • Sorrowtoothpaste Mirrorcream by Kim Hyesoon, translated from the Korean by Don Mee Choi (Action Books)

This year’s judges were Janet Poole, Stephen Snyder, and Lucas Klein.

Morse on Bradbury’s Hsia Yü

At Paper Republic Canaan Morse reviews Salsa by Hsia Yü 夏宇 as translated by Steve Bradbury:

In order to recreate these transformative linguistic effects, Bradbury uses assonances, parallel structures, and rhymes with English words that may not appear in the original. While we obviously cannot claim (as much as critics demand it) that translations be both faithful and independent, Bradbury’s process – engaging a creative, artistic faculty that inhabits an English-language context to create a poem that represents the narrative and receptive structure of a Chinese poem – successfully makes poems that exist both within and outside of his control, which may be a more sound and equitable way to understand these words on these pages.

Click the here to read his review.

Chinese Poetry at Epiphany

The journal Epiphany, with Nick Admussen as poetry editor, has published a suite of contemporary Chinese pieces, including the following:

  • Chun Sue 春树 (translated by Martin Winter)
  • Mu Cao 墓草 (translated by Scott E. Myers)
  • Liu Waitong 廖偉棠 (translated by Audrey Heijins)
  • Xiao Kaiyu 肖开愚 (translated by Christopher Lupke)
  • Haizi 海子 (translated by Nick Kaldis)
  • Sai Sai (Xi Xi) 西西 (translated by Jennifer Feeley)
  • Hsia Yü 夏宇 (translated by Steve Bradbury)
  • Yao Feng 姚风 (translated by Tam Hio Man and Kit Kelen)
  • Han Dong 韩东 (translated by Nicky Harman)
  • Huang Lihai 黄礼孩 (translated by Song Zijiang)

Click the image above for an online sample, including pieces by Mu Cao and Hsia Yü:

He says the world is very big
We should go outside and look around
That’s how one wards off sadness
We should go to a gay bathhouse in Beijing
And experience group sex with a hundred people
Or go to Dongdan Park, or Sanlihe, or Madian
And know a different kind of lust
If I could visit Yellow Crane Tower
I’d have new inspiration for writing poems
He says all the great artists
Were fine comrades like us

Eileen Tabios reviews Bradbury’s Hsia Yü

In one of the most effusive reviews I’ve ever read, Eileen Tabios at Galatea Resurrection #23 engages Salsa by Hsia Yü 夏宇, as translated by Steve Bradbury (Zephyr, 2014). She writes:

I really really like these poems, I began to think after the third poem in the book. Finishing the collection just affirmed: I really really like these poems.

Translations are often reviewed by people who know the source language. Whether they know poetry in the target language much more of a coin-flip. Here, though, the reviewer really knows poetry. I think one of the best paragraphs in the review is where she lays it out:

There’s an is-ness to these poems. It’s an effect facilitated by how many (not all, but many) lines contain individual thoughts. Thus, the effect of Read-a-line: boom, Read-a-line: boom, etc. is perfectly pitched, the boom effect on the reader not elongated onto the next line. For example, these stanzas from “Continuing Our Discussion of Tediousness“ which also serve as ars poetica:

And so we must continue our discussion of tediousness
Tedious things are all so very tedious
And every tedious thing is tedious too
Actually it takes a tedious to be
Tedious
Tediousness doesn’t need to be discovered, its simply there.

Click the image above for the full engagement.