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

Call for Poetry Translators for Pathlight #4

From Paper Republic:

Chinese content for our next edition of Pathlight: New Chinese Writing has been set in soap, and I’m glad to announce that this issue will include far more poetry than any of the previous issues have. Faced with an abundance of work and a dearth of talented contacts, this is a call for motivated, experienced translators of Chinese poetry to establish a relationship with us. To be featured are Zhu Ling (朱零), Ou Ning (欧宁), Yao Feng (姚风) , Wang Yin (王寅), Wang Xiaolong (王小龙), Yang Zi (杨子), Huang Jinming (黄金明) , Liao Weitang (廖伟棠) and Yang Xiaobin (杨小滨). The deadline is coming up soon; we’ll do our best to assign poems based on their relationship with the translator, and first drafts will be due in mid-September. Compensation is, if I may say so, exceptional for poetry. If interested, please send an email either to or

Writing Across Languages debrief

The “Writing Across Languages” panel yesterday was, I thought, a grand success. As I mentioned in introducing the panel yesterday, the title itself was an act of what it describes, since the Chinese title of “Writing Across Languages” is 跨語際寫作 (“Translingual Writing”), which is the Chinese title of the monograph by Lydia Liu 劉禾 on how early 20th century Chinese literature crafted a new language out of the translations of other concepts and literatures; the title of her book in English–the language it was first written in–is Translingual Practice, a fine example of which is the transformation of the term “Translingual Practice” to 跨語際寫作 to “Writing Across Languages.” Our panel was also interesting in part because our panelists did not share a common language, and so we embodied not only writing across languages, but speaking across languages as well. Many thanks to our tireless simultaneous interpreters, Pan Jun 潘珺 and Wu Hui 吳惠!

All four participants–Bejan Matur (Turkey), Tomaž Šalamun (Slovenia), Tian Yuan 田原(China / Japan), and Yao Feng 姚風 (China / Macau)–had fascinating stories to tell and analyses to provide about their relationships with several languages, and how these languages and relationships helped create their poetry. Amidst Matur’s and Šalamun’s speeches about politically-motivated silencing–of Kurdish in Matur’s Turkey, and of Serbian in the Trieste of Šalamun’smother’s youth–I couldn’t help but think of Paul Celan, and how his writing in German worked to dismantle the language, and thereby cleanse it of its recent historical associations (some have said something similar about Bei Dao‘s search for a clean Chinese).

I think the role of the moderator is to speak little, a difficult task for me since my inclination is also to be a decidedly immoderate moderator. Nevertheless, I will add here a point I raised in response to Xu Xi‘s mention of the imperialism of English: it’s irresponsible–if not impossible–to talk about the spread of English without talking about the spread of American imperialism and all the changes, for the better and for the worse, that that has brought to the world; but the logic of empire is not to admit translations: much was translated out of Sanskrit, but Sanskrit evidently didn’t have a word for translation; Greek was translated into the “barbarian” languages, but what was kept in those languages was not transmitted into Greek; and Latin was translated into the other languages of Europe and North Africa, not the other way around. This model is mirrored in the obvious imbalance of translations into and out of English–much of translation around the world is from English into other languages, whereas translations only account for a notorious 3% of the American book market. To that end, the more we translate into English, the more we we allow English to be one language amongst others, instead of a hegemonic language imposing its logic and worldview on the rest of the world; in short, the more we translate into English, the more we are working against the imperialism of English and American economic and cultural domination.

Two more readings today for the International Poetry Nights, both at the Lee Shau Kee School of Creativity (Multi-Media Theatre, 135 Junction Road, Kowloon): at 3:30 with Vivek Narayanan (India), Silke Scheuermann (Germany), Wong Leung Wo 王良和 (Hong Kong), and Yao Feng (Macau), and then at 7:00 with María Baranda (Mexico), Chen Ko Hua 陳克華 (Taiwan), Tomaž Šalamun (Slovenia), Yu Jian 于堅 (China).

International Poetry Nights

The “Masters & (M)other Tongues” discussion at CUHK yesterday was fascinating, though not in the ways I had expected. I had thought that it would be a discussion about the tension between the two sides of the parenthesis around “(m)other tongues,” and about the models the poets use for their own work from traditions either native or foreign to them. But now that I look at the schedule online again I see that it’s simply “Masters & Mother Tongues,” which creates a different kind of tension; perhaps this accounts for the difference, since all the participants—Liu Wenfei 劉文飛 (the Chinese translator of Arkadii Dragomoshchenko, unable to attend due to  illness), Silke Scheuermann, Vivek Narayanan, and Xi Chuan—ended up discussing “mother tongues” amidst the troubling connotations of the word “master.” And they all ended up talking about their own sense of awkwardness and embarrassment. Xi Chuan, for instance, said that while people from other parts of China used to have to apologize for not speaking Mandarin well, he feels embarrassed about only speaking Mandarin, and only rarely speaking the related, but distinct, Beijing dialect.

The evening’s reading was excellent. Liu Wenfei read Dragomoschenko’s poems in Russian, followed by Ling Yu 零雨 (some of whose pieces I also translated), then C. D. Wright, and then Xi Chuan—with excellent zither 古琴 performances by Yao Gongbai 姚公白 interspersed. During Ling Yu’s reading she was mysteriously moved to tears by the memories her poems called up, which was stunning to witness, not least because my experience translating her work was to be filled with a very different sense of mystery. And Xi Chuan, always gracious, was the only of the poets reading to thank his translator—to which I can only say, my pleasure!

Above and below are two shots I took of Xi Chuan’s reading.

This afternoon at 3:30 at City University (Connie Fan Multi-media Conference Room, 4/F Cheng Yick Chi Building) I’ll be leading a discussion on “Writing Across Languages” with Bejan Matur (Turkey), Tomaž Šalamun (Slovenia), Tian Yuan 田原(China / Japan), and Yao Feng 姚風 (China / Macau). The readers this evening at 7:00 at the Lee Shau Kee School of Creativity (Multi-Media Theatre, 135 Junction Road, Kowloon) are Régis Bonvicino (Brazil), Lo Chih Cheng 羅智成 (Taiwan), Bejan Matur, and Yu Xiang 宇向 (China).

Words & the World Anthology

In addition to the twenty-volume box set I wrote about Friday, the International Poetry Nights (taking place this week from Thursday to Sunday) has also published the Words & the World anthology, which is now back from the printers’:

The anthology features the work of all twenty participating poets, a sampling of what appears in the individual booklets. The Xi Chuan poems included are “I Bury My Tail” 我藏着我的尾巴, “A Song of No Matter” 無關緊要之歌, “A Song of the Corner” 牆角之歌, “Friends” 熟人, “Manes of Yellow” 黃毛, “A Sanskrit Brick from Nanzhao (738 – 937): after a Vietnamese poet” 南詔國梵文磚:仿一位越南詩人, and “Falcons, Swans, and Pearls” 獵鷹、天鵝與珍珠.

The list price is HK$160, but will be sold at half off during the festival.

Words and the World

Words & The World, the twenty-volume box set of multilingual pocket-sized poetry books for this year’s International Poetry Nights in Hong Kong (which will take place from the 10th to 13th this month) has been published. It will be on sale at the festival, and in select Hong Kong bookstores soon. Click on the image below for another press release:

The Xi Chuan volume, A Song of the Corner, is a selection of poems that will appear in the forthcoming Notes on the Mosquito (New Directions, 2012), featuring the following pieces: “Somebody” 某人, “The Neighbors” 鄰居, “I Bury My Tail” 我藏着我的尾巴, “A Song of No Matter” 無關緊要之歌, “A Song of the Corner” 牆角之歌, “Friends” 熟人, “Companion” 伴侶, “My Grandma” 我奶奶, “Manes of Yellow” 黃毛, “Drizzle” 連陰雨, “Six Dynasties Ghosts” 六朝鬼魅, “A Sanskrit Brick from Nanzhao (738 – 937): after a Vietnamese poet” 南詔國梵文磚:仿一位越南詩人, and “Falcons, Swans, and Pearls” 獵鷹、天鵝與珍珠.

The other books, featuring the remaining nineteen participants of the International Poetry Nights, are by María Baranda (Mexico), Régis Bonvicino (Brazil), Arkadii Dragomoshchenko (Russia), Bejan Matur (Turkey), Paul Muldoon (Ireland), Vivek Narayanan (India), Tomaž Šalamun (Slovenia), Silke Scheuermann (Germany), Tanikawa Shuntarō (Japan), C. D. Wright (USA), Chen Ko-hua 陳克華 (Taiwan), Ling Yu 零雨 (Taiwan), Luo Chih Cheng 羅智成 (Taiwan), Tian Yuan 田原 (PRC / Japan), Wong Leung Wo 王良和 (Hongkong), Yao Feng 姚風 (PRC / Macau), Yip Fai 葉煇 (Hongkong), Yu Jian 于堅 (PRC), and Yu Xiang 宇向 (PRC). All books include the original language of composition, plus English and / or Chinese translations.

After the Poetry Nights, each book will sell for HK$25, with the whole set at HK$450. During the festival you can enjoy a 50% discount.