Translator & poet Sarah Stanton of the Metre Maids blog has posted a write-up of my event with Xi Chuan at the Beijing Bookworm last Thursday night. Comprehensive and enthusiastic, her coverage not only chronicles the event, but some of Xi Chuan’s background as well. Here’s my favorite moment of her piece:
This question came up again during the discussion after the reading, with translator Canaan Morse asking Xi Chuan how he feels when people expect him, as a Chinese writer, to be writing the same sorts of things the Tang poets were writing a thousand years ago. His answer was short and to the point: “I hate it!” Another memorable moment came when he was asked if he thought one had to get angry or upset to write good poetry: he replied to the effect that it’s hard work that creates good poetry, not emotion, and at that point I’m sure I heard millions of emo voices cry out in terror, and be suddenly silenced.
Lucas also discussed at some length the processes that went into creating the book, his own attitudes to translation, and translating Xi Chuan in particular. Once again I was struck by the sheer amount of time and love which had gone into these poems, both in their original language and in their English form. The role of the translator is so often relegated to that of mouthpiece, a faceless channel for the poet’s vision, but in good translation–and in good literature–there is always a sense of partnership. After the talk, I asked both poet and translator to sign my book, and Lucas’ signature sitting neatly below Xi Chuan’s on the title page seems to me a perfect symbol of everything they’re doing right.