Announcing the Ancient Asia issue of Cha

Announcing the Ancient Asia Issue of Cha (December 2013), featuring new translations of Chinese poetry by Xi Chuan, Tao Yuanming 陶淵明, Du Fu 杜甫, He Qifang 何其芳, Xiao Kaiyu 肖开愚, Liu Yong 柳永, the Shijing 詩經, Laozi 老子, Du Mu 杜牧, and Li Shangyin 李商隱, and new work by Eliot Weinberger, Matthew Turner, Eleanor Goodman, Sharmistha Mohanty, and Jonathan Stalling. The full list of contributors:

Translation: Lucas Klein, A.K. Ramanjuan, Reid Mitchell, George Life, Canaan Morse, Michael Gray, Christopher Lupke, Dulal Al Monsur, Nicholas Francis, Michael Farman, Michael O’Hara, Eleanor Goodman, Chloe Garcia Roberts

Poetry: Eliot Weinberger, Matthew Turner, W.F. Lantry, Aditi Rao, Stuart Christie, Luca L., Xiao Pinpin, Kate Rogers, Pey Pey Oh, DeWitt Clinton, Elizabeth Schultz, Stephanie V Sears, Joshua Burns, James Shea, Sean Prentiss, Steven Schroeder, Marjorie Evasco, Arjun Rajendran, Pui Ying Wong, Julia Gordon-Bramer, June Nandy, Janice Ko Luo, Stuart Greenhouse, Barbara Boches, Cathy Bryant, Justin Hill, Eleanor Goodman

Fiction: John Givens,  Xie Shi Min, Sharmistha Mohanty, Zhou Tingfeng, Khanh Ha

Articles: Jonathan Stalling, Michael Tsang

Creative non-fiction: Pavle Radonic

Photography & art: Alvin Pang (cover artist), Adam Aitken

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Jade Mirror: Women Poets of China

Jade Mirror: Women Poets of China, edited by Michael Farman.

The following is from a write-up by George Ovitt:
“Written in a Pavilion Lost in the Mists”
spring flowers, fall’s
full moon:
               the stuff of poems.
cloudless sun. clear
nights. here: mountain
                    spirits, loosed.
no reason I raised
the pearl-sewn blinds.
                won’t lower them.
my couch is moved for good now.
I’ll turn toward these hills
                and sleep.
(Yu Xuanji trans. by Geoffrey Waters)

What I have noticed is that aspiring poets can reproduce the simple description in this form– reminiscent of e.e. cummings–but when it comes to the real point of the poem, where the observing eye moves inward, when the poetic sensibility must construct meaning from the passive moment of watching flowers and moon and mountain–this is where the trouble begins.  Most pastiches of this sort of transparent poetry miss the point right at the line “I’ll turn toward these hills/and sleep.” What? Isn’t the romantic (and it is the easiest thing in the world to think of Chinese and Japanese “nature” poets as “romantics”–maybe not as loquacious as Wordsworth, but with the identical set of feelings) supposed to regard the hills?  Isn’t it rather anti-climactic to fall asleep?  And that’s the way these deceptive poems often work: they take us to the edge of a simple truth and turn it against us–this is the art of disappointment, or of beauty as emptiness rather than fulfillment.

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