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.