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.

Klein’s Duo Duo in the new Asymptote

Asymptote‘s issue 30 is here, and with it my translation of “Promise” 诺言, by Duo Duo 多多.

I love aroused rooms inviting us to lie down as their roof
I love lying on my side, casting a shadow for a straight line
casting a string of villages for a voluptuous body
I want the mole nearest your lip
to know, this is my promise
我爱动情的房屋邀我们躺下作它的顶
我爱侧卧,为一条直线留下投影
为一个丰满的身体留下一串小村庄
我要让离你的唇最近的那颗痣
知道,这就是我的诺言
For the poem in full click the image above.

Return of Pratik features Contemporary Chinese Poetry

After a decade-long hiatus, Pratik, the English-language Nepali literary journal, is resuming publication–and with a feature of contemporary Chinese poetry including Xi Chuan, Duo Duo 多多, Jidi Majia 吉狄马加, Chen Si’an 陈思安, Zheng Xiaoqiong 郑小琼, Yuan Yongping 袁永苹, Li Yawei 李亚伟, and Shen Wei 沈苇.
Translations of Xi Chuan & Duo Duo by Lucas Klein; other translations by Jami Proctor Xu, Eleanor Goodman, Zhou Xiaojing, Tim Hathaway, and Yuyutsu Sharma with Hao Lin.
Pratik is edited by Yuyutsu Sharma.
Click for the report by The Kathmandu Tribune. For the Pratik blog, click the image.

Klein’s Duo Duo in Asian Cha

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The new issue of Cha: An Asian Literary Journal is now live, and with it my translations of two new poems by Duo Duo 多多, “A Fine Breeze Comes” 好风来 and “Light Coming from Before, Sing: Leave” 从前来的光,唱:离去.

tomorrow’s already past
already offered
the past is still unknown
already spokenthe limit belongs to you
nobody can have that name

明天已经过去
已经给予
过去仍是未知的
已经说出 止境属于你
无人能有那名

Also in the issue are Bonnie McDougall’s translations of poems by Ng Mei-kwan 吳美筠, Jennifer Feeley’s translation of fiction by Xi Xi 西西, fiction by Eileen Chang 張愛玲 translated by Jane Weizhen Pan & Martin Merz, and Matt Turner reviewing Paul French and Kaitlin Solimine and Eleanor Goodman reviewing Richard Berengarten.
Click the image above to get to the issue.