Lingnan Symposium on Translation & Modern Chinese Poetry

Moving the Goalposts:
Symposium on Translation and Modern Chinese Poetry


16 June 2017
LBYG06, Lingnan University

Three Reviews of Jacob Edmond’s A Common Strangeness

Three new reviews of Jacob Edmond’s A Common Strangeness have appeared. Brian Reed’s “Chances of Rhyme“:

The words transnational and globalization appear frequently within scholarship on contemporary poetry, but so far there have been few sustained attempts to narrate recent developments across more than two language-groups or geographical regions. … In the present era of pervasive budget cuts, curtailed language instruction, and increased productivity demands, who has the training, time, and resources required to engage in even more broad-based comparative research?

At least one person can now be said to fill the bill. Jacob Edmond’s A Common Strangeness: Contemporary Poetry, Cross-Cultural Encounter, Comparative Literature recounts the history of avant-garde poetry from the late 1960s to the turn of the millennium in the United States, the People’s Republic of China, and the Soviet Union/Russian Federation. Edmond concentrates on six figures: Yang Lian and Bei Dao, menglong shiren (Misty Poets) who defied Cultural Revolution-era restrictions on writerly freedom; Arkadii Dragomoshchenko and Dmitri Prigov, samizdat poets whose careers extend into the post-Soviet period; and Lyn Hejinian and Charles Bernstein, founding members of the avant-garde movement known as Language poetry. Throughout, Edmond shows himself to be thoroughly grounded in the relevant literary traditions, and whether a given poem is written in English, Russian, or Mandarin, he proves able to supply the kind of intensive, patient, erudite textual analysis that one associates with the Yale school back in its heyday.

And Lisa Samuels’s “Bridges Across Silos“:

Jacob Edmond’s refreshing book focuses on concerns common to avant-garde poetry and comparative literature, specifically poetic material produced primarily in the 1980s and 1990s by six writers from China, Russia, and the United States and comparative literature’s interest in negotiating dialectics between self and other. Edmond’s introduction indicates his interest in sighting a ‘third alternative’ to Maurice Blanchot’s 1971 concept of ‘common strangeness’: Edmond wants to write within zones ‘between the common and the co-man, between speaking of others—of exile literature, modernism, or world literature—and speaking to them: responding to how we can know or write about each other in the first place.’ … The book stays true to the dialectical energy promised in its introduction. That energy shifts its sails in relevant directions, and it consistently concerns matters both brought forward and presumed as background to this work.
While many comparative literary studies have used textual and contextual analysis to examine authors and literary movements so as to show commonalities and differences, Edmond employs a different methodology. The domestic political and literary contexts, although a constant presence in the background, are only lightly sketched, and focus is directed on the concerns that have shaped the work of these authors in the world, as members of a transnational poetic community. Translation is yet another diffused activity that touches upon the selected creative and conceptual practices, providing an extra motive for gathering these poets together in this book.

Jacob Edmond on Cosima Bruno on Yang Lian’s Poetry through Translation

from Jacob Edmond’s A Common Strangeness blog:

Bruno_Between–the-linesI’d like to draw your attention to a book published by Cosima Bruno and described below, entitled Between the Lines: Yang Lian’s Poetry through Translation. Bruno’s book makes a case for studying translations as a method of reading poetry. I’m mentioning the book here because I think it may be of interest to readers of this blog but may not otherwise enter into conversations within English-language poetry since it focuses on the work of Chinese poet Yang Lian––about whom I’ve also written in A Common Strangeness.

Cosima Bruno podcast on Translation & the poetry of Yang Lian

On New Books in East Asian Studies, Carla Nappi interviews Cosima Bruno about her new book on translation and the poetry of Yang Lian 杨炼:

Cosima Bruno’s new book asks us to consider a deceptively simple question: what is the relationship between a poem and its translation? In the course of Between the Lines: Yang Lian’s Poetry through Translation (Brill, 2012), Bruno helps us imagine what an answer to that question might look like while guiding us through the sounds and spaces of contemporary Chinese poet Yang Lian. Between the Lines proposes an innovative way to read a poem through and with its translations, using a “triangular comparative analysis” that juxtaposes the original poem with a number of its translations to identify shifts in the lines of the poem that serve as landmarks in the conceptual and textual world of the poet. Bruno uses this translation-focused methodology of reading to reveal fascinating dimensions of time, space, and subjectivity in Yang Lian’s work, and to guide our attention to the performative importance of rhythm, blank space, punctuation, and sound in his verse. Readers who are interested in Chinese poetry will find much to absorb and transport them in these pages, and readers interested in the theory and practice of translation will find a clear articulation of a set of methodological tools that could potentially bear fruit when rendering texts across many different genres and languages. Enjoy!

Click the image above or listen here:

Audio clip: Adobe Flash Player (version 9 or above) is required to play this audio clip. Download the latest version here. You also need to have JavaScript enabled in your browser.