Wolfgang Kubin interviewed at CLT

In the new Chinese Literature Today, editor Jonathan Stalling interviews Wolfgang Kubin about his life and the poets and poetry he’s known.

Zhang Zao and Ouyang Jianghe wanted pure poetry and new vocabulary, whereas the vocabulary of Bei Dao before ’89 is quite conventional and comes close to what the Spanish poets of the ’30s and ’40s made use of. Bei Dao writes short poetry, but the so-called post hermetic poets prefer the longer form and their outlook is quite different. They are not politically naïve anymore; they do know how complicated a society can be. The poetry of Bei Dao or the poetry of the ’80s, however, always believes in a future that will be good and that will be coming tomorrow. You won’t find this kind of naiveté in Ouyang Jianghe … Zhai Yongming’s starting point is so-called hermetic poetry, and her first cycle about women is so complicated that it drives you crazy as a translator. I translated her work into German and published a book of it very early. I translated much more of her poetry, and actually I should have produced another book, but she’s very modest and always asks me to translate others before editing a new volume of her poetry. But before long she left this kind of hermetic poetry. During her second phase, she dealt with a history of women in her mother’s generation in China before and after ’49. She chose a very plain language and she preferred the long poem. The poetry of her second phase is very easy to translate into a foreign language; it’s not complicated at all. During her third phase, when she started criticizing men, when she started making fun of male protagonists, then her language changed again—it was not hermetic, it was not plain, it was something in-between. Nowadays she prefers a very plain language for social critique. This is her fourth phase, so she’s the only Chinese poet about whom we can say that she went through three, no, four phases of different kinds of poetry. Bei Dao has only two phases; Yang Lian, I think you would say he has one phase and has never changed. P. K. Leung the Hong Kong poet—in some respects he’s always good, always the same. Zhang Zao, the same. Ouyang Jianghe has made changes, perhaps with his last long poem. Xi Chuan, he’s riper now, so he’s different, but concerning his form, I do not see much difference. He’s now more philosophical and he’s more sophisticated, he has humor, he makes fun.

Click on the image for the full piece.

Yang Mu wins Newman Prize for Chinese Literature

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Taiwan-born and -raised poet Yang Mu 楊牧 has won the Newman Prize for Chinese Literature from the University of Oklahoma.

Yang was nominated by UC Davis professor Michelle Yeh, co-translator with Lawrence R. Smith of Yang’s collection No Trace of the Gardener (another volume, translated by Joseph Allen, was published as Forbidden Games & Video Poems: The Poetry of Lo Chʻing [羅青]). The other nominees were Hsia Yü 夏宇, Yang Lian 杨炼, Zhai Yongming 翟永明, and Ouyang Jianghe 欧阳江河, nominated by Jennifer Feeley (U. Iowa, USA), Michel Hockx (U. London SOAS, UK), Wolfgang Kubin (Bonn U., Germany), and Zhang Qinghua 张清华 (BNU, PRC), respectively.

Rare for contemporary Chinese poetry, all nominated poets have single-author collections available in English translation. Coincidentally, three of the nominees–Hsia, Zhai, and Ouyang–have had their only books in English published by Zephyr Press.

Hong Kong Book Fair Events

The Hong Kong Book Fair begins tomorrow. You can find the complete list of events here in English and Chinese, but Bruce Humes has narrowed down the topics of interest, which I re-post here:

July 18


Speaker: 紀蔚然 (Taiwanese writer on suspense novels)


Speaker: 資中筠  (Zi Zhongyun, Chinese scholar and translator)


Speaker: 温瑞安 (Malaysian-born wuxia author Wen Jui on martial arts novels and cinema)


July 19


Speaker: 格非 (Novelist Ge Fei: What is literary experience? )


Speaker: 白先勇 (Pai Hsien-yung: My Father and the Republic of China)


July 20


Speaker: 張翠容 (Cheung Chui-yung, HK travel writer)


Speaker: 馬立誠 (Ma Licheng: HK and the MainlandCultural Conflict and Synthesis)


July 21  

Talks on and Multilingual Reading of Leung Ping-kwan’s Poetry

Recitations by西野由希子, Sonia Au(待定), and 也斯, and talk by the always-controversial Professor Wolfgang Kubin


Speaker: 黎紫書  (Lin Baolin, female writer born in Malaysia, on the distance between authors and their homelands)


Speaker: 張曼娟 (Taiwanese novelist Chang Man Chuan)


Speaker: 彭浩翔  (HK author and director: Why question the source of an artist’s inspiration?)


July 22


Speaker: 馮唐 (Feng Tang, Beijing novelist published in French and in Hong Kong (不二), on contemporary literature and writing)


Speaker: 黃春明 (Huang Chunming, Taiwanese short story writer, and author of The Taste of Apples that lampooned the fascination of the island’s modern youth with their former occupiers, the Japanese)


Speaker: 素黑 (Hong Kong female author and columnist)


July 23


Speaker: 馬家輝 (Hong Kong journalist Ma Ka-fai on scum, rubbish and urban writing)


Speaker: 慕容雪村  (Murong Xuecun, controversial Chinese novelist, and author of Absurdities of China’s Censorship System


Speaker: 陳曉蕾 (Chen Xiaolei on “green” reportage)


Speaker: 毛尖 (Mao Jian: Chinese TV Dramas—Fear and Love in our Era)

Chinese Poetry Posters in Germany

Continuing with the theme of Xi Chuan reports in German, here’s an article summarizing some of the concerns and history of contemporary Chinese poetry, springboarding from the Chinese Poetry Poster campaign Xi Chuan organized for German cities a couple years ago.

Again, if you don’t read German, you can find the Google-translated version here. This translation, however, is considerably worse than the machine-translation of Xi Chuan’s interview I posted yesterday, though worse in an at times endearing manner. The “hermetic seal” poetry (German „hermetischen Dichtung“), for instance, is the computerized English version of the German term for menglong shi 朦胧诗, which in English should be Obscure Poetry (often misleadingly translated as “Misty Poetry“), the name of the poetry movement that emerged in China after the Cultural Revolution. And consider how the 我—-不—-相—-信 of Bei Dao 北島 comes out in English via the German: “I tell you, world, / I – think – not!” (for my translation with Clayton Eshleman of this Bei Dao poem, see this or this). I expect Wolfgang Kubin‘s translation sounds better in German: „Ich sage dir, Welt, / ich – glaube – nicht!“