Duo Duo’s Words as Grain Nominated for PEN Award for Poetry in Translation

Last month PEN announced the longlists for its 2021 awards–and Words as Grain: New and Selected Poems of Duo Duo 多多 (Yale University Press) is in the running for the PEN Award for Poetry in Translation! Click here to see all the longlisted nominees.

Caro Carter, Michael Favala Goldman, Parisa Saranj are the other judges. Among the excellent books of poetry in translation also on the longlist, in Chinese poetry in translation there is also I Name Him Me: Selected Poems of Ma Yan, translated by Stephen Nashef (Ugly Duckling Presse).

John Bradley on Duo Duo’s Words as Grain

The current print issue of Rain Taxi features John Bradley’s review of my translation Words as Grain: New and Selected Poems of Duo Duo 多多 (Yale University Press).

Bradley writes:

Klein does a superb job of keeping the English translations as clear as possible, and when compared to others who have attempted the rigorous challenges of Duo Duo, Klein is more succinct, concise, and poetic. Words as Grain offers Zen koan-like poems that call for rereading and contemplation.

Since it’s in the print issue, here’s a photo of the whole review:

Liang Luo on Duo Duo’s Words as Grain

Over at Cha, Liang Luo’s review of my translation Words as Grain: New and Selected Poems of Duo Duo 多多 (Yale University Press) has been published.

She explains:

Written by one of the most celebrated contemporary Chinese poets Duo Duo 多多 (1951- ) and translated and edited by the award-winning translator Lucas Klein, Words as Grain 词如谷粒 moves from Duo Duo’s most recent poems back to his earliest ones, with four sections, each forming a period of his life’s journeys and taking its title from one of his poems of that period. “The Force of Forging Words (2004-2018)” collects every single poem written upon Duo Duo’s return to China from 15 years of exile abroad. “Amsterdam’s River (1989-2004)” includes selected poems written during the period of his exile, mainly in the Netherlands. “Delusion is the Master of Reality (1982-1988)” highlights selected poems written during China’s “reform and opening up” period of the 1980s. “Instruction (1972-1976),” the last of the four sections, features some of Duo Duo’s earliest collected poems written in his twenties during the Cultural Revolution (1966-1976).

As for her reading of Duo Duo’s poetry, she elaborates:

In this context, “words as grain” emerges in vivid configurations and comes alive as a central metaphor for the forging and remaking of poetry and life, which involves planting seeds, picking weeds, and harvesting grain in the fields, among many more layers of a complex web of meanings. In his poetry over four decades, Duo Duo connects grain, weeds, and fields in his musings on life and death, lonesomeness and expression, speeches and silence, and emptiness and harvest …

Lucas Klein, in his translator’s introduction, asks to what degree contextualisation is useful in reading Duo Duo’s poetry (or any poetry), and arranges his selections and translations to move from present into the past, as he considers the recent poems less culturally situated, hence more accessible, than older poems for the non-Chinese reader …

Klein finds the questions—whether the poems are best read as tied to their contexts or as independent works of the imagination—are the same ones we must ask of translations: whether they are best approached as if tethered to the texts they are representing, or can they take on lives of their own in a new language? He hopes to answer yes to both questions in both cases (xxiii). On the one hand, Klein believes in the potential of poems in translation to take on lives of their own, on the other hand, he also demands accuracy. His goal as both translator and compiler of the poems included in this collection, according to the translator’s introduction, “is to let Duo Duo’s style come through” (xxiv).

As readers, we are fortunate to have Klein’s meticulous work and expert guidance in translating and compiling this excellent volume of Duo Duo’s poems, in close dialogue with and filling important gaps in previous translations and scholarly studies.

Thanks, Luo Liang and Cha for the great review!

Click the image above to read the review in full.

The introduction is also available for download as a .pdf file on Cha.

Drew Calvert on Duo Duo’s Words as Grain

Asymptote has published Drew Calvert’s excellent review of Words as Grain: New and Selected Poems by Duo Duo 多多 (Yale University Press).

Here’s an excerpt:

That bounty is now on full display in English, thanks to Lucas Klein, the translator of Words as Grain: The Poetry of Duo Duo, published by Yale University Press. The volume opens with new work—Duo Duo’s poems last appeared in English twenty years ago, while he was still living abroad—and moves in reverse chronology back to the Cultural Revolution years, which he spent in rural Hebei Province along with other “Misties.” Klein’s introduction helpfully sketches the politics of modern China throughout the poet’s life, but the poems themselves are more concerned with a personal cosmology of memory, desire, and stillness. Many contain explicitly Buddhist references and idioms—“sūtra rivers,” non-self, the “quietude of original dwellings rhetoric abandoned”—as if the poet is forging a new grammar of devotion from his own broken syntax, straying from classical prosody and imagery in a way that recalls—at least for some English readers—the modernists who strayed from Tennyson’s finely cadenced rhetoric into avant-garde mysticism. One might call it modernist Zen: a hunger for unmediated divinity and a deep suspicion of language, with its stale cliches, as a pathway to enlightenment. Ultimately, the impression one gets from the full arc of Duo Duo’s career is that of a poet enraptured by the metaphysics of writing itself.

Click on the image to read the piece in full.

Thanks, Drew Calvert and Asymptote for the great review!

Force of Forging Words: A Translation Conversation

An online launch for Words as Grain: New and Selected Poems by Duo Duo 多多, translated by Lucas Klein, from The Margellos World Republic of Letters by Yale University Press.

Lucas Klein in discussion with Nick Admussen, Chris Song, and Jami Proctor Xu, moderated by Tammy Lai-Ming Ho

In “The Force of Forging Words,” a poem in Words as Grain: New and Selected Poems by premier Chinese poet Duo Duo 多多 (Yale University Press, The Cecile and Theodore Margellos World Republic of Letters series), translated by Lucas Klein, Duo Duo writes: “outside force, continuing on / from enough, is insufficient hallucination // … // this is rationale’s wasteland / but the ethics of poetry.”

What are the ethics of poetry? Is poetry the wasteland of the rationale, or of the rational? Is translation a kind of hallucination, and is it sufficient? What care needs to be taken to translate such poetry? Our speakers will discuss these questions with the translator to celebrate the publication of Words as Grain.
▁▁▁▁

INFORMATION

Zoom: https://bit.ly/3wAgrXA
Meeting ID: 988 5804 6038
Date: Friday/Saturday 9/10 July 2021
Time:
▚ Arizona—Friday 9 July 2021; 6 pm
▚ HK—Saturday 10 July 2021; 9 am
Global Clock: https://bit.ly/2SDuUTR
Facebook Event Page: https://bit.ly/34zNuza

Four Duo Duo Poems in new Paris Review

Paris Review No. 233, Summer 2020 is now available, featuring four poems by Duo Duo 多多 in my translation: “If No Echo, No Monologue” 没有应和就没有独白, “Where Phrase Blooms” 在词语的开花之地, “See the Smoke in the Bottle, the Sail in the Bottle” 看瓶子里的烟, 瓶子里的帆, and “No Home in Words” 词内无家.

Follow the links to read excerpts of them them online, or the link above to order the issue.

New Poetry by Duo Duo in Harvard Review

The Harvard Review has just published my translation of “That Time” 那时, by Duo Duo 多多, a section from his series The Desire of the Rose Now the Same as the Desire of Swords 玫瑰的欲望已经与剑的欲望一致.

In the brief introduction, I write:

The sequence as a whole is about the vicissitudes of memory: its pains but also its joys. The images that end “That Time,” horses and gravestones, are familiar throughout Duo Duo’s oeuvre, but here they are defamiliarized. The whole sequence ends with “remembrance” being the pursuit of “what is ahead,” while “the moment of happiness is the moment of memory.”

Here is how the poem begins:

why does the camel need twin humps to make it through the desert?

I look at you, you only look at yourself
I look there, I only see you

I look at things I cannot see
I see time—that long, long rose

at that time the lion could still think, no flames of fury in the beauty’s eyes
at that time we could still walk into things we could not understand

it’s the heart that creates the invisible, between riddle
and its four walls, letting the parable of life pass through the ring

the way my sunlight might pierce your eyes
to see some even farther place

为什么骆驼需要双峰才能穿越沙漠?

我望着你,你只望着自己
我望着那里,我只望到你

我在看我看不到的事物
我看到了时间——那朵漫长的玫瑰

那时狮子还会思考,美人眼中还没有怒火
那时我们还能走进不可理解的事物

是心灵创造不可见的,在谜
和它强大的四壁之间,容生活的寓言穿过指环

如我的日光能够穿透你的眼睛
就会看到更远的地方

Many thanks to Tammy Lai-ming Ho for her suggestions on my translations!

Click on the link above for the poem in full.

“Tiananmen Thirty Years On” feature at Cha

Announcing the June/July issue of Cha: An Asian Literary Journal, the “Tiananmen Thirty Years On” feature, edited by Tammy Lai-Ming Ho and Lucas Klein, along with a special feature of poems by and in mourning of Meng Lang 孟浪.

The following CONTRIBUTORS have generously allowed us to showcase their work:

❀ REMEMBRANCES
Tammy Lai-Ming Ho, Gregory Lee, Ding Zilin (translated by Kevin Carrico), Andréa Worden, Shuyu Kong (with translations of poems by Colin Hawes), Ai Li Ke, Anna Wang, and Sara Tung

❀ POETRY
Bei Dao (translated by Eliot Weinberger), Duo Duo (translated by Lucas Klein), Liu Xiaobo (translated by Ming Di), Xi Chuan (translated by Lucas Klein), Yang Lian (translated by Brian Holton), Xi Xi (translated by Jennifer Feeley), Meng Lang (translated by Anne Henochowicz), Lin Zhao (translated by Chris Song), Liu Waitong (translated by Lucas Klein), Chan Lai Kuen (translated by Jennifer Feeley), Mei Kwan Ng (translated by the author), Yibing Huang (translated by the author), Ming Di (translated by the author), Anthony Tao, Aiden Heung, Kate Rogers, Ken Chau, Ilaria Maria Sala, Ian Heffernan, Reid Mitchell, Lorenzo Andolfatto, Joseph T. Salazar

❀ ESSAYS
Scott Savitt, Wang Dan (translated by Karl Lund), Hoi Leung, Louisa Lim, Jeff Wasserstrom, Lian-Hee Wee, Jed Lea-Henry, Jason G. Coe, and Guo Ting

❀ INTERVIEW
Han Dongfang and Lucas Klein

❀ FICTION
Boshun Chan (translated by Garfield Chow, Stephanie Leung and Felix Lo) and Christopher New

❀ PHOTOGRAPHY & ART
Daniel Garrett and Anonymous

❀ MENG LANG
Denis Mair, Meng Lang (translated by Denis Mair), Liu Waitong (translated by Lucas Klein), Jacky Yuen (translated by Nick Admussen), Tang Siu Wa (translated by Jennifer Feeley), Kwan Tin Lam (translated by Eleanor Goodman)

Click on the link above to read the issue in full.

Klein’s Duo Duo Receives 2019 PEN/Heim Translation Fund Grants

My translation of the New and Selected poems of Duo Duo 多多, forthcoming from Yale University Press’s Margellos World Republic of Letters series, the working title of which is Words as Grains, has received a 2019 PEN/Heim Translation Fund Grant!

Now in its sixteenth year, the PEN/Heim Translation Fund awards grants to promote the publication and reception of translated world literature in English. It was established in the summer of 2003 by a gift from Priscilla and Michael Henry Heim in response to the dismayingly low number of literary translations appearing in English.

Each project will receive a grant of $3,500 to assist in its completion

This year, the fund’s advisory board consists of John Balcom, Peter Constantine, Katie Dublinski, Ben Moser, Mary Ann Newman, Alta Price, Jenny Wang Medina, Max Weiss, Natasha Wimmer, and Board Chair Samantha Schnee. They have funded 10 projects, spanning 8 different languages, including French, Spanish, Portuguese, Italian, Indonesian, Chinese, Danish, and Hungarian.

About my project, they write:

Duo Duo is one of China’s most important, influential, and interesting contemporary poets. He began writing in the early ’70s and came to prominence in the ’80s, winning the Jintian Poetry Prize in 1988. His early work, like that of other cutting-edge poets who emerged after the Cultural Revolution, was labeled as obscure. He went into exile in 1989 and returned to China in 2004. His work has continued to evolve over the years, “remaking language with remade tools.” Lucas Klein has made a new selection from Duo Duo’s oeuvre, covering the years 1972-2017. Fidelity to the original goes hand-in-hand with an unwavering poetic sensibility in these fine translations.

In their announcement they feature this translation:

“Delusion is the Master of Reality”

and we, we are birds touching lip to lip
in the story of time
undertaking our final division
from man

the key turns in the ear
the shadows have left us
the key keeps turning
birds are reduced to people
people unacquainted with birds

 

妄想是真实的主人

而我们,是嘴唇贴着嘴唇的鸟儿
在时间的故事中
与人
进行最后一次划分

钥匙在耳朵里扭了一下
影子已脱离我们
钥匙不停地扭下去
鸟儿已降低为人
鸟儿一无相识的人

(1982)

Click the banner above for the full list of grantees this year.