Location: Stern Auditorium
University of Michigan Museum of Art
525 S. State Street, Ann Arbor, MI 48109
6:00pm: Reception ~ UMMA Commons Area
7:00pm: Poetry Reading ~ UMMA Stern Auditorium
Yang Lian will be introduced by Kelly Askew, Director of the African Studies Center, and moderated by Professor San Duanmu, U-M Dept. of Linguistics.
Yang Lian was born in Bern (Switzerland) in 1955, where his parents were in the diplomatic service, and grew up in Beijing…
A recent passion and project of Yang Lian is to encourage the production and translation of poetry written in dialects of Chinese: Sichuan dialect, Shanghainese and Beijing dialect. There is currently no vehicle for writing poetry in these languages since Chinese orthography supports Mandarin only. Yang has been closely involved with a collective of Slovenian poets who, despite the small population of their country, support poetic production in nine Slovene dialects. He is currently working with Kelly Askew (U-M) and a formerly exiled Kenyan poet, Abdilatif Abdalla, on translating poetry composed in various dialects of Swahili into English and from English into dialect forms of Chinese. The idea is ultimately to produce a volume on ‘dialect poetry’, written in the shadows of dominant, politically powerful, languages (Mandarin and Standardized Swahili being but two examples).
Organized by the African Studies Center and co-sponsored by the Center for Chinese Studies, the International Institute, and the Confucius Institute at the University of Michigan.
Modern Chinese Literature & Culture has published Meng Liansu’s review of Jade Ladder: Contemporary Chinese Poetry, edited by Yang Lian 杨炼 and W. N. Herbert, with Brian Holton and Qin Xiaoyu 秦晓宇. Here’s how she begins her piece:
Jade Ladder is a welcome addition to the handful of anthologies of contemporary Chinese poetry in English, and the most comprehensive one to date. Featuring fifty-three poets born in mainland China and nearly 200 poems written between the 1970s and 2010, this anthology introduces the reader to a significantly larger number of excellent poets and poems than its peers and presents a fascinating overview of contemporary Chinese poetry in the past three decades. It is an important resource for general English-language readers interested in poetry and China, as well as for students, teachers and scholars of Chinese literature and culture.
Click the image above for the full review.
C. Derick Varn of Former People: A Journal of Bangs and Whimpers interviewed me with a series of complex questions on modernity and modernism in and about China. And of course, I couldn’t resist talking about Xi Chuan and Chinese and international poetry. Here’s an excerpt:
So that’s the problem. But as I’ve argued in a piece that’s forthcoming, modernism in literature is postmodernist in its philosophical implications … And I don’t think I’ve ever believed in modernism so much as modernisms. An interesting observation is that modernist writers who come from countries that claim an ownership of tradition—modernists from France or Italy or Russia—are often the ones to say, like Marinetti, “Museums, cemeteries!” while the modernists from countries that cannot claim such ownership—Pound and Eliot from the US, Joyce from Ireland—are the ones who want to revivify the ancient amidst the machinations of the modern (this isn’t foolproof, of course: William Carlos Williams and Gertrude Stein stand against such generalizations). As for whether there’s a Chinese modernism, the interesting thing is that after the Cultural Revolution, you get both: those feeling like their country has too much a claim on tradition, and is overwhelmed and stifled by it, as well as those who feel like their country is too displaced from tradition, and needs to re-own it and re-define it. So at any given moment Bei Dao might read like a shrugging off of tradition, and Yang Lian might read like a refitting of it, and Xi Chuan a refitting of that refitting, but they’re also specific responses to the relationship between tradition and modernity as have played out in China in the past hundred years and more.
Click the image above for the full feature.
Jacob Edmond’s A Common Strangeness has been named runner-up for the Association for the Study of the Arts of the Present 2013 Book Prize. ASAP’s citation reads:
In this remarkable book, comparative literature outdoes itself, becoming fully contemporary and transnational: Edmond innovates a genuinely global poetics that discovers the fullest cultural crossings among Chinese, Russian, and U.S. poets. Reading correspondences among Yang Lian, Arkadii Dragomoshchenko, and Lyn Hejinian, Bei Dao, Dmitri Prigov, and Charles Bernstein, among others, Edmond aims to give a field “still shaped by the history and conceptual and political structures of the Cold War” the resources to read the “appositional, transnational, and multicultural poetics of our current era”; its focus is contemporary poetry’s “common commitment to forms of strangeness,” which disallow old assertions of what unites or foreignizes the world’s populations. And its great advantage is a sense of literary culture equally powerful in its three languages, which translates to interpretive insight uniquely adequate to the world today.
Six contemporary Chinese artists (Liu Guofo, Guan Jing Jing, Yang Liming, Liang Qian, He Gong and Wu Jian) will be exhibiting works in an arts project conceived by Chinese poet Yang Lian and Dr Janet McKenzie (Editor: Studio International). The exhibition seeks to open a new page on contemporary Chinese Art, to move forward from the perception in the West of a contemporary Chinese art, based on many artworks that are in the view of Yang and fellow artists and intellectuals who experienced the Cultural Revolution at first hand, largely derivative of Western language and sources and failing to do justice to the diverse work being produced by artists who seek a deeper intellectual and spiritual standard in their work, a canonical basis for Chinese contemporary art.
The words transnational and globalization appear frequently within scholarship on contemporary poetry, but so far there have been few sustained attempts to narrate recent developments across more than two language-groups or geographical regions. … In the present era of pervasive budget cuts, curtailed language instruction, and increased productivity demands, who has the training, time, and resources required to engage in even more broad-based comparative research?
At least one person can now be said to fill the bill. Jacob Edmond’s A Common Strangeness: Contemporary Poetry, Cross-Cultural Encounter, Comparative Literature recounts the history of avant-garde poetry from the late 1960s to the turn of the millennium in the United States, the People’s Republic of China, and the Soviet Union/Russian Federation. Edmond concentrates on six figures: Yang Lian and Bei Dao, menglong shiren (Misty Poets) who defied Cultural Revolution-era restrictions on writerly freedom; Arkadii Dragomoshchenko and Dmitri Prigov, samizdat poets whose careers extend into the post-Soviet period; and Lyn Hejinian and Charles Bernstein, founding members of the avant-garde movement known as Language poetry. Throughout, Edmond shows himself to be thoroughly grounded in the relevant literary traditions, and whether a given poem is written in English, Russian, or Mandarin, he proves able to supply the kind of intensive, patient, erudite textual analysis that one associates with the Yale school back in its heyday.
And Lisa Samuels’s “Bridges Across Silos“:
Jacob Edmond’s refreshing book focuses on concerns common to avant-garde poetry and comparative literature, specifically poetic material produced primarily in the 1980s and 1990s by six writers from China, Russia, and the United States and comparative literature’s interest in negotiating dialectics between self and other. Edmond’s introduction indicates his interest in sighting a ‘third alternative’ to Maurice Blanchot’s 1971 concept of ‘common strangeness’: Edmond wants to write within zones ‘between the common and the co-man, between speaking of others—of exile literature, modernism, or world literature—and speaking to them: responding to how we can know or write about each other in the first place.’ … The book stays true to the dialectical energy promised in its introduction. That energy shifts its sails in relevant directions, and it consistently concerns matters both brought forward and presumed as background to this work.
While many comparative literary studies have used textual and contextual analysis to examine authors and literary movements so as to show commonalities and differences, Edmond employs a different methodology. The domestic political and literary contexts, although a constant presence in the background, are only lightly sketched, and focus is directed on the concerns that have shaped the work of these authors in the world, as members of a transnational poetic community. Translation is yet another diffused activity that touches upon the selected creative and conceptual practices, providing an extra motive for gathering these poets together in this book.
from Kwame Dawes’s blog about Poetry International Rotterdam:
There is a room in which a remarkable online conversation is going on with thinkers and poets in China. A streaming system is in place and we are having these interviews and conversations with folks in China who have read translations of our poems and while it does not feel like it, we are told that thousands are viewing the stream in China. This strikes me as uncanny. I am not sure what I have said. I read a poem by a man whose pen name is Cricket. It is a fine poem. It is a poem that reminds me of something I heard when I was in Hong Kong: that there exists a fascinating genius of transformation in China that makes ancestral worship secular and non-mystical. It must be by fiat. It is also by faith. If we believe that they live among us, as so many in Africa and around the world do, then we are actually engaged in reality. I have not stopped thinking about this.
And here is where I can end in praise of poetry festivals like this one. When poets make their personal lists, and especially if they have had a chance to attend such festivals, their lists may not be myopic, limited by geographies and cultures, but may at last begin to engage writers from around the world. For my part, after this week, Roland Jooris, Liu Waitong, Ester Naomi Perquin, Mustafa Stitou, and Yang Lian will occupy my interest for a while. Not bad, not bad at all.
the international poets sat down one by one with Yang Lian, or Liao Weitang, or Qin Xiaoyu in front of a Skype-connected computer to read their poetry and the Chinese poets’ poetry, and to interact with a faceless, presumably multitudinous online audience. Interpreters and questioners were everywhere; back in a half-lit meeting room in the top floor of a building on the Third Ring Road, a team of ants, armed with laptops, scrambled to turn Chinese into English, English into Chinese, send all of it over QQ to everybody else, then post it to a Tencent microblog stream on which audience members could pose questions to the poets.
Who came? Kwame Dawes, from the Caribbean; James Byrne, British poet and editor of The Wolf; Canadian poet Ken Babstock; Ukrainian-American poet Ilya Kaminsky; Syrian poet Adonis; and several others whom I would name in full, but the site’s server has stopped responding. They were all well-known, well-published poets and editors, and if the medium of their correspondence, which required stop-and-start maintenance along with as many as three translators (in the case of Adonis, who spoke in French, and therefore had to be translated from French to Dutch, to English, to Chinese), hadn’t been such an obstacle, they might have been able to engage in some truly meaningful discussion. Tang Xiaodu moderated the event on the Beijing side, while Yang Lian moderated most of the event on theirs — and “moderate” may itself be too moderate a description, as a lack of audience questions early on prompted YL to take on the interpreter’s and moderator’s mantles himself, which resulted both in interesting leads and a lot of distracting hand-waving.
for the whole piece, click here.
Chinese poetry events at Poetry International Rotterdam:
Dissertation Reviews has posted Brian Skerratt‘s review of my dissertation, Foreign Echoes and Discerning the Soil: Dual Translation, Historiography, and World Literature in Chinese Poetry. Here’s how it begins:
Lucas Klein’s dissertation, Foreign Echoes and Discerning the Soil: Dual Translation, Historiography, and World Literature in Chinese Poetry, is notable both for its ambition and its erudition. In seeking to answer how the “Chineseness” of Chinese poetry, its quality of being or seeming natively Chinese, is produced in and through acts of translation, Klein not only tackles Modernist-inspired poetry from the twentieth century, where “Chineseness” is a salient issue, but also the monolith of the Chinese literary tradition itself, including such ultra-canonical figures as Wang Wei 王維 (692-761) and Du Fu 杜甫 (712-770). In practical terms, this impressive breadth of scope results in a dissertation in two parts: the first featuring studies of modern poet Bian Zhilin 卞之琳 (1910-2000) and contemporary poet Yang Lian 楊煉 (b. 1955), and the second reaching back to Tang Dynasty masters Wang Wei, Du Fu, and Li Shangyin 李商隱 (813-858). By avoiding the urge to arrange his chapters chronologically ― or, at least, by putting the modern before the pre-modern ― Klein refuses to allow “traditional China” or its poetic stand-in, Tang regulated verse, their place as the seat of pure Chineseness, untarnished by contact with the modern West; in fact, one of his goals is to situate the Tang Dynasty back into a global network of cultural interaction and exchange. The arrangement of chapters further serves to illustrate Klein’s methodology, which is to allow the insights of deconstruction, Marxist thought, translation studies, and contemporary avant-garde poetics to illuminate the distant past ― and vice-versa. Klein’s dissertation serves the larger goal of deconstructing the binaries tradition/modernity, native/foreign, textual analysis/high theory, and, most centrally, original/translation.