Review of Han Dong’s A Phone Call from Dalian

200The Modern Chinese Literature & Culture list has posted my review of A Phone Call from Dalian 来自大连的电话 (Zephyr Press), by Han Dong 韩东, edited by Nicky Harman. Here’s a passage from the middle where I make a point about how having too many anthologies of contemporary Chinese poetry in English has come at the cost of single-author collections, and what that means for how we read and understand the poetry in question:

The situation of Han Dong within a social context is easy enough to assert, but harder to demonstrate in English, which involves an array of political considerations. I count eleven anthologies of contemporary Chinese poetry published in English around the world since 1990, for instance, but not one single-author collection published in English outside of Asia by a poet living in the PRC until 2008 (the single-author collections of Chinese poetry that were published in English were either poets dead by 1990, poets from Taiwan or Hong Kong, or exiles). The overabundance of anthologies would seem like sufficient background within which to place Han Dong, but anthologies necessarily focus on breadth rather than depth, and as a result readers may come away with a sense of motifs common to the poetry as a whole, but not of how individual poets respond either to trends or concerns in poetry or to predicaments in society—which is where style finds definition. In other words, the anthology hides what makes an individual poet individual.

Click on the image above for the whole review.