Nogues on Hong Kong poet Liu Waitong

In a piece titled “‘The protests became a poem‘: Liu Waitong’s ‘Wandering Hong Kong with Spirits,'” new on Jacket2, Collier Nogues reviews Wandering Hong Kong with Spirits 和幽靈一起的香港漫遊, by Liu Waitong 廖偉棠, with translations by Enoch Yee-lok Tam, Desmond Sham, Audrey Heijns, Chan Lai-kuen, and Cao Shuying 曹疏影 (Zephyr Press & MCCM Creations). To my knowledge, this is the first time Jacket2 has paid any attention to poetry translated from Chinese.

Nogues asks, “What is it to be a Hong Kong poet writing now?” She answers:

For Liu Waitong, it means to be accompanied always by ghosts. But it means also to seek them out and keep them company in turn — to haunt with them. Working through questions of displacement, citizenship, and competing visions of Hong Kong’s and China’s future, Liu’s poems insist that a careful attention and receptivity can be revolutionary. For Liu, that attention is what we owe our pasts and each other.

She continues:

Christopher Mattison, the director of the Atlas series of translations of Hong Kong Chinese literature into English, points out in his introduction that it would be a mistake to brand Liu primarily as a political poet. Rather, Mattison says, Liu is a careful observer of Hong Kong, and many things in Hong Kong are inherently political. Perhaps it’s just a matter of emphasis, but I’m not certain that I agree with Mattison here; while it’s true that Liu is indeed a “poet of longing,” as Mattison suggests, “of past eras, former loves, lost neighborhoods, and poetic mentors” (xvi), nothing on that list is separable from politics in the poems or in Hong Kong more generally. When Liu elegizes the demolished Central Star Ferry Pier, for example, he is not only lamenting the loss of a familiar landmark, but also pointedly indicting Hong Kong’s real estate market, which incentivizes the replacement of historic sites with new, more profitable development. In Liu’s poem, the pier shakes its head and sings into the cold rain: “It all will finally disappear to become a postcard sold / for ten dollars. This Hong Kong will disappear and become real property / with an unspecified mortgage” (93).

Click on the image above for the full review.

Nin Andrews in Conversation with James Kates of Zephyr Press

Zephyr logo-1

NA:  You translate poetry from around the world including a Chinese, Russian, and Polish series. How do you pick your nationality?

JK: Again, one thing led to another. One of the editors working on an anthology of Polish poetry came to me for advice, based on my experience with the Russian. She thought she had a publisher already for her book; but, when that opportunity fell through, Zephyr picked up the book, Carnivorous Boy Carnivorous Bird, which in turn led to a spin-off of Polish poetry books initially based on the anthology.

Meanwhile, our new managing editor, Cris Mattison, brought with him to Zephyr a knowledge of both Russian and Chinese. His acquaintance with the Chinese poet Bei Dao led us to issue first Fissures, an anthology of contributions to the Chinese journal Jintian; and then a collection of Bei Dao’s essays, Blue House. More Chinese books followed; and, for the past couple of years, Cris has been living in Hong Kong, working with the Jintian Foundation, and finding more Chinese poets for us.

Click the image above for the full interview.

2012 Best Translated Book Award Finalists for Poetry

It’s nearing on old news by now, but I wanted to offer congratulations to my three friends whose translations have been selected among the six finalists for the 2012 Best Translated Book Award for Poetry (follow the link for a full list, including the ten fiction finalists):

Spectacle & Pigsty by Kiwao Nomura
Translated from the Japanese by Kyoko Yoshida and Forrest Gander

A Fireproof Box by Gleb Shulpyakov
Translated from the Russian by Christopher Mattison
(Canarium Books)

False Friends by Uljana Wolf
Translated from the German by Susan Bernofsky
(Ugly Duckling Presse)

Good luck to all of you–I hope for a three-way tie.

Interview with Dung Kai-cheung

The Hong Kong Advanced Institute for Cross-Disciplinary Studies has just posted Cris Mattison’s interview with Hong Kong writer Dung Kai-cheung 董啟章, one of the SAR’s most inventive authors. His novel Atlas: The Archaeology of an Imaginary City 地圖集, which mixes fiction with documentary history to chronicle the city of Hong Kong, will be out this summer in English translation by Bonnie McDougall and Anders Hansson. Here’s an excerpt from the interview where he discusses his work as related to translation and world literature in the broad sense, responding to a critique people have leveled against certain writers of modern Chinese literature for nearly a century (I expect Xi Chuan would give a similar response):

DKC: I said my language is influenced by English because since I studied Comparative Literature at the University of Hong Kong much of my reading has been done in English. The influence is not just in terms of subject matter and literary forms but also of sentence structure and diction. My Chinese has been regarded by some language purists as “Europeanized,” which is meant to be a criticism for not writing in a proper Chinese. It is in this sense that I said the language of Atlas “lends itself to translation.” By this I mean not that it is simple to translate, nor do I mean that it is written with the intention of being translated, and thus gaining international attention.