Poetry International has published its interview with poet & Chinese translator Eleanor Goldman, whose responses include a plug for Xi Chuan’s Notes on the Mosquito–she calls it “an example of the work of a mature poet working at the top of his craft”! Here’s how she explains how her interests in Chinese poetry began:
I’m embarrassed to say that when I first lived in China, it was as though Chinese literature didn’t exist. I remember being so starved for something to read that I asked my father to send a box of books, and he mailed by freight a box packed with Gogol, Faulkner, and Dickens. I have no idea how he came up with that list, but it was life-sustaining. At that point, my Chinese wasn’t good enough to read anything but the simplest of texts. But when I got back to the States and started to read as part of my efforts not to forget Chinese, I encountered some wonderful books of poetry. I had brought back a children’s addition of the famous compilation, Three Hundred Tang Poems 唐诗三百首, and I started to go through it systematically. I understood a tiny percentage of the allusions, but I basked in the richness of the imagery and related to the cleverness of language and emotional depth of these little lyrics. I memorized dozens of them and would recite them to myself while taking walks. Then in graduate school at Boston University, I took Rosanna Warren’s amazing translation workshop, and as my final project I translated a selection of Wang Wei poems into English. They were terrible translations, but I didn’t know that at the time. Rosanna encouraged me to send them to the Seneca Review, which published three of them. That was a much nicer welcome than any of my own poems had gotten at that point, so I thought, this is a great racket, I’m going to keep doing this. Several years later, the poet and translator Afaa Michael Weaver asked me to help him put together a contemporary Chinese poetry conference at Simmons College, where he teaches. That was my first introduction to contemporary Chinese poetry and it knocked my socks off.
Click here for the full interview.