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. ▁▁▁▁
Cha: An Asian Literary Journal has published Joanna Krenz’s review of the selected poems of Ya Shi 哑石, Floral Mutter 花的低语, as translated by Nick Admussen (Zephyr and Chinese University Press). Read the epic and erudite review here:
I came across Ya Shi’s works some two or three years ago in Admussen’s renditions on the Lyrikline and Poetry International websites. I was initially attracted by the author’s short bio, identifying a kindred spirit in this practitioner of mathematics and poetry—two disciplines that are particularly dear to my heart—a graduate of Peking University who left the capital to settle in the countryside in his native Sichuan. I gratefully devoured the handful of texts that were available online in English at the time and kept searching for his collections of poetry and essays in Chinese, planning to include Ya Shi in the Polish-language anthology of Chinese poetry I have been working on. One of the first texts I read and translated was “Full Moon Night”, with the “cursed” qingcui in line 8. I was troubled mostly by semantics and not by the tortuous syntax which is quite easy to recreate in highly fusional and structurally flexible Slavic languages. Admussen recalls he tried to retain at least two aspects of qingcui: frailty and clearness-and-melodiousness, but “the superimposition of the two” proved impossible. In Polish there is no perfect solution either, but I was quite satisfied with a near-superimposition, that is an adverb dźwięcznie (‘clearly, sharply, melodiously’) generously prompted by the ghost of the past. The word in question—and this is lucky for me—often happens to be misheard and misrepeated as wdzięcznie (meaning  ‘gracefully’ or  ‘gratefully’), which preserves part of the semantics of frailty, implying delicateness and proneness to destruction. I recalled a popular song often heard in my grandma’s small village church when I was a child, in which “nightingales are singing ah singing in a clear-and-melodious / graceful-or-grateful voice”; half of the congregation persistently sticking to dźwięczny, and the other half to wdzięczny. I still do not know which one is correct, but the memory of the rough, untrained but energetic and unswervingly faithful voices belonging mostly to old women, one of whom was my beloved grandma, proved quite instrumental in dealing with the lines in question. At the same time, it also influenced my reading of the parenthesized line 10, which I interpreted similarly to Admussen. Now when I look at the poem, I think it may well be taken much more literally, simply as a distance from the smooth maroon surface in the place where one keeps one’s elbows to the coarse far end of the desk, but both of us somehow naturally extended the desk to infinity, to undefined “coarse distance”, leaving the poem open to more ghosts.
ZOOM: https://bit.ly/2YHxitE (Meeting ID: 959 2591 8289) Saturday June 13, 11:00 a.m. Hong Kong time (click here to find the date & time for you)
Congratulations to Zephyr Press! They are celebrating their 40th anniversary this year, and “Translators Speak: Translating Chinese Poetry” is part of the celebrations.
“Translators Speak: Translating Chinese Poetry,” co-sponsored by Zephyr Press, features several translators from Zephyr’s Jintian Series of Contemporary Chinese Poetry. Nick Admussen, Lucas Klein, Andrea Lingenfelter, and Jami Proctor Xu will talk about and introduce the poets they translated, the translation process, their views on translating Chinese poetry (as opposed to translating other genres), and advice and suggestions they would give other translators. They will also read from their books and contextualise the poems and their translations. We will have a Q&A session as well. This discussion will take place via Zoom and people from all over the world are welcome to listen in. [Find out what time it will be where you are: https://bit.ly/2W8O57q] Moderated by Cha’s co-editor Tammy Lai-Ming Ho.
TRANSLATORS SPEAK: TRANSLATING CHINESE POETRY Date: Saturday 13 June 2020 Time: 11:00 a.m. – 12:30 p.m. (GMT+8) Platform: Zoom https://bit.ly/2YHxitE (Meeting ID: 959 2591 8289) Languages: English Speakers: Nick Admussen, Lucas Klein, Andrea Lingenfelter, and Jami Proctor Xu Moderator: Tammy Lai-Ming Ho
◓ NICK ADMUSSEN (speaker) Nick Admussen is an associate professor of Chinese literature and culture at Cornell University. He is the author of Recite and Refuse: Contemporary Chinese Prose Poetry, the translator of Ya Shi’s poetry collection Floral Mutter, and a poet whose most recent chapbook is titled Stand Back, Don’t Fear the Change. He was the recipient of a 2017 grant from the PEN/Heim fund for translation, has been anthologized in Best New Poets 2018 and Best Short Fictions 2017, and was a 2018 National Poetry Series finalist.
◓ LUCAS KLEIN (speaker) Lucas Klein (PhD Yale) is a father, writer, and translator. His scholarship and criticism have appeared in the monograph The Organization of Distance: Poetry, Translation, Chineseness (Brill, 2018), as well as in Comparative Literature Studies, LARB, Jacket, CLEAR, PMLA, and other venues. His translation Notes on the Mosquito: Selected Poems of Xi Chuan (New Directions, 2012) won the 2013 Lucien Stryk Prize; other publications include his translations of the poetry of Mang Ke, October Dedications (Zephyr and Chinese University Press, 2018), and contributions to Li Shangyin (New York Review Books, 2018). His translations of the poetry of Duo Duo, forthcoming from Yale University Press, won a PEN/Heim Translation Fund grant, and he co-edited Chinese Poetry and Translation: Rights and Wrongs (2019) with Maghiel van Crevel, downloadable for free from Amsterdam University Press. He is an associate professor in the School of Chinese at the University of Hong Kong.
◓ ANDREA LINGENFELTER (speaker) Andrea Lingenfelter is a writer and translator whose published books include The Changing Room: Selected Poetry of Zhai Yongming (Northern California Book Award winner), Hon Lai Chu’s The Kite Family, (NEA Translation Fellowship grantee), Li Pik-wah’s Farewell My Concubine and The Last Princess of Manchuria, and Candy and Vanishing Act by Mian Mian. Her poetry and prose translations have appeared in Manoa, Granta, Chinese Literature Today, Pathlight, Zoland Poetry Annual, Words Without Borders, Cha: An Asian Literary Journal, Two Lines, Chicago Review, and elsewhere. Her own work has appeared in various publications, including Strix and Cha. Current book-length translation projects include a collection of poems by Wang Yin, Zhai Yongming’s Following Huang Gongwang Through the Fuchun Mountains, and Wang Anyi’s novel Scent of Heaven. She is a contributor to the Los Angeles Review of Books and its affiliated China Channel, and is a two-time Vermont Studio Center Luce Translation Fellowship recipient (with Wang Yin [2017) and Cao Shuying  respectively). Currently based in Northern California, she teaches literary translation and literature and film of the Asia Pacific at the University of San Francisco.
◓ JAMI PROCTOR XU (speaker) Jami Proctor Xu is a poet, mother and translator. She writes in English and Chinese and splits her time between Northern California, Arizona, and China. Her publications include, among others, a Chinese chapbook, Shimmers (EMS, 2013) a Chinese poetry collection Suddenly Starting to Dance (Yi, 2016), an English chapbook, Hummingbird Ignites a Star, the translated collection of Jidi Majia, Words from the Fire (Manoa, 2018), and the translated collection of Song Lin, Sunday Sparrows (Zephyr, 2020). Her current translation projects include translations of poetry collections by Zhao Ye, Xiao Xiao, and Shu Cai. Jami is also editing an anthology of Chinese translations of US poets born in the 1970s as well as anthologies of international poets forthcoming from Beijing Normal University. Since 2016, she has co-organised an annual international poetry exchange at Beijing Normal University’s International Writing Center, and since 2019, she has collaborated with Zolani Mkiva to co-organise international poetry events in South Africa. Jami frequently reads at festivals around the world, and her poetry and translations have been published in anthologies in several languages. She is a recipient of the Zhujiang Poetry Award (2013) and the First Reader Best Poet Award (2016).
◒ TAMMY LAI-MING HO (moderator) Tammy Lai-Ming Ho is the founding co-editor of the first Hong Kong-based international Asia-focused journal, Cha: An Asian Literary Journal, an editor of the academic journals Victorian Network and Hong Kong Studies, and the first English-language Editor of Voice & Verse Poetry Magazine 聲韻詩刊. She is an Associate Professor at Hong Kong Baptist University, where she teaches poetics, fiction, and modern drama. She is also the President of PEN Hong Kong, a Junior Fellow of the Hong Kong Academy of the Humanities, an advisor to the Leeds Centre for New Chinese Writing, and an Associate Director of One City One Book Hong Kong. Tammy’s first collection of poetry is Hula Hooping (Chameleon 2015), for which she won the Young Artist Award in Literary Arts from the Hong Kong Arts Development Council. Her first short story collection Her Name Upon The Strand (Delere Press), her second poetry collection Too Too Too Too (Math Paper Press) and chapbook An Extraterrestrial in Hong Kong (Musical Stone) were published in 2018. Her first academic book is Neo-Victorian Cannibalism (Palgrave, 2019). Tammy edited or co-edited seven literary volumes having a strong focus on Hong Kong, the most recent one being Twin Cities: An Anthology of Twin Cinema from Singapore and Hong Kong (Landmark Books, 2017). She guest-edited a Hong Kong Feature for World Literature Today (Spring 2019) and the Hong Kong special issue of Svenska PEN’s PEN/Opp (formerly “The Dissident Blog”). She is currently editing a Hong Kong chapbook for Cordite Poetry Review and she will be co-editing 2020: A Bilingual Anthology of Hong Kong Poetry with Chris Song. Tammy is also a translator and her literary translations can be found in World Literature Today, Chinese Literature Today, Pathlight: New Chinese Writing, among other places, and International Poetry Nights in Hong Kong (香港國際詩歌之夜) volumes (2015, 2017 and 2019). Her own poems have been translated into a number of languages, including Chinese, French, German, Latvian and Vietnamese.
Nick Admussen’s translation of Floral Mutter 花的低语, by Ya Shi 哑石, is now out from Zephyr and Chinese University Presses, and to announce the publication the Cornell Chronicle has published an article under the headline “Translation opens a thriving world of Chinese poetry“, by Kate Blackwood. She writes:
Now, Ya Shi – a pen name meaning “mute stone” – teaches university-level mathematics in his home province, Sichuan, but he is also an award-winning poet. Nick Admussen, associate professor of Asian studies in the College of Arts and Sciences, has translated into English selections of Ya Shi’s poetry in the newly published “Floral Mutter.” Admussen’s research and teaching center around contemporary Chinese literature, and he is also a published poet.
For English readers, the book is an introduction to this unique poetic voice and a glimpse into Sichuan’s vibrant poetry scene.
“The arrangement of Ya Shi’s work in this volume is a tiny fraction of his writing, intended to foreground his intellectual restlessness and independence,” Admussen wrote in the introduction. “I have seen no other contemporary poet think so deeply and patiently about the intellectual uses of wild space in China today.”
The article ends with Admussen quoted as saying:
“If you want to have interesting and exciting poetry, you need to be moving between cultural traditions,” he said. “It’s true in music, it’s true in fiction. It’s true in all the other arts, too.”
Click on the link above to read the article in full.
International Poetry Nights in Hong Kong – 10th Anniversary Celebration Speech and Silence November 19-24, 2019
Nearly every other festival, public lecture, and concert in Hong Kong seems to have been canceled, but International Poetry Nights in Hong Kong will take place as scheduled! (though at a different venue than earlier planned)
Join thirty international poets, plus musicians and esteemed literary translators, for a festival of poetry (and the resilience of culture in Hong Kong), on the theme “Speech and Silence.”
Events will take place at the Jao Tsung-I Academy 饒宗頤文化館, 800 Castle Peak Road, Lai Chi Kok, Kowloon.
Readings are from 6:30 – 8:30 p.m., with music concerts following. For times and information on panel discussions on themes such as “Genre and Gender,” “The State of Resistance,” “Poetry, Translation, Hong Kong,” and “AI, Translating the Mother Tongue of Poetry,” check the full schedule.
Here is the list of participating poets and their places of origin:
Tamim AL-BARGHOUTI (Palestine) Martin SOLOTRUK (Slovakia) TÓTH Krisztina (Hungary) Anastassis VISTONITIS (Greece) Ana BLANDIANA (Romania) Ana RISTOVIĆ (Serbia) Derek CHUNG 鍾國強 (Hong Kong) Forrest GANDER (United States) Miłosz BIEDRZYCKI (Poland) Renato Sandoval BACIGALUPO (Peru) MATHURA (Estonia) Louise DUPRÉ (Canada) Ana Luísa AMARAL (Portugal) HWANG Yu Won (South Korea) Jen BERVIN (United States) Abbas BEYDOUN (Lebanon) Maxim AMELIN (Russia) Sergio RAIMONDI (Argentina) K. SATCHIDANANDAN (India) MAOZI 毛子 (PRC) ZHENG Xiaoqiong 鄭小瓊 (PRC) Ijeoma UMEBINYUO (Nigeria) Aleš ŠTEGER (Slovenia) Jan WAGNER (Germany) Ernest WICHNER (Germany) YANG Chia-Hsien 楊佳嫻 (Taiwan) Yasuhiro YOTSUMOTO (Japan) YU Youyou 余幼幼 (PRC) ZHOU Yunpeng 周雲蓬 (PRC) Maria STEPANOVA (Russia)
And here the list of special guests, including translators and AI poets:
Nick Admussen John Cayley Johannes Göransson David Jhave Johnston Andrea Lingenfelter Yara El-Masri Jennifer Feeley Eleanor Goodman Ting Guo 郭婷 Tammy Ho 何麗明 Viorica Patea Lea Schneider Ulrich Schreiber Zhao Si 趙四 Jordan A. Y. Smith
The main feature of the issue is of Newman Prize Laureate, the Hong Kong writer Xi Xi 西西, with introductions, appreciations, interviews, and new translations by Jennifer Feeley, Tammy Ho, Ho Fuk Yan 何福仁, Steve Bradbury, Wei Yang Menkus, and others.
The issue also features an appreciation of scholar Maghiel van Crevel, of Leiden University, with an interview with Jonathan Stalling and an appreciation by Nick Admussen, as well as an article by van Crevel about migrant worker poetry in China.
There is also a suite of contemporary Chinese poetry, by Wang Jiaxin 王家新 (translated by Diana Shi & George O’Connell), Che Qianzi 车前子 (translated by Yang Liping & Jeffrey Twitchell-Waas), Li Dewu 李德武 (translated by Jenny Chen & Jeffrey Twitchell-Waas), Hu Jiujiu 胡赳赳 (translated by Matt Turner & Haiying Weng), Mi Jialu 米家路 (with translations by Lucas Klein, Michael Day, and Matt Turner & Haiying Weng), Huang Chunming 黃春明 (translated by Tze-lan Sang), and Chen Li 陳黎(translated by Elaine Wong).
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.
In honor of the passing of Meng Lang 孟浪 (1961 – 2018) on December 12 in Hong Kong, Cha: An Asian Literary Journal has published a commemorative piece by Denis Mair, his friend and translator:
All these details are just the outer lineaments of Meng Lang’s life, but his true story—his true biography–lies in the trajectory of his poems. He was a poet who found his own unique path to write about the social, political realities of his country in the language of modern, avant-garde thought. As a poet he always faced political realities, never going down a rabbit hole of metaphysics or aestheticism, yet each poem demonstrates his powerful artistic sensibility. I reaped tremendous reward by translating over a hundred of his poems, and I am proud that he trusted me with his beautiful creations.
Later this month Cha will publish a feature on Meng Lang and his place in poetry, with poems by Meng translated by Mair, as well as poems by Hong Kong writers Tang Siu Wa 鄧小樺, Jacky Yuen 熒惑, Kwan Tin-Lam 關天林, and Liu Waitong 廖偉棠 remembering Meng–as translated by Jennifer Feeley, Nick Admussen, Eleanor Goodman, and Lucas Klein.
Shanghai-born poet Meng Lang 孟浪, co-founder of Independent Chinese PEN, passed away following a battle with cancer on December 12 in Hong Kong.
The New York Times has run an article on his life, mentioning a few friends of this blog:
Meng Lang was born in Shanghai in 1961 and participated in several unofficial poetry movements in China throughout the 1980s, according a short biographical sketch published by Cha: An Asian Literary Journal, where Ms. [Tammy] Ho is a founding editor.
He later helped edit the book “A Compendium of Modern Chinese Poerty, 1986-1988,” and was a writer in residence at Brown University from 1995 to 1998, according to the sketch. Professor Huang [Yibing] of Connecticut College said that Mr. Meng moved to Hong Kong from the United States in 2006, and to Taiwan in 2015.
Mr. Meng “played an important, fearless role in championing an unorthodox, experimental and free-spirited poetry in China back in the 1980s,” Professor Huang, who is also a poet, said in an email.
The article also quotes lines from a poem of Meng’s, as translated by Anne Henochowicz:
Broadcast the death of a nation Broadcast the death of a country Hallelujah, only he is coming back to life. Who stopped his resurrection This nation has no murderer This country has no bloodstain.
He had also managed an Archive of Chinese Underground Literature and Exile Literature after moving to the democratic island of Taiwan.
According to Taiwan poet Hung Hung, Meng always felt he was in exile after moving to Taiwan and Hong Kong to live with his Taiwan-born wife, Tu Chia-chi [杜家祁].
“He would say that it’s hard for trees to uproot and move somewhere else, and that he was forced into exile as a Chinese,” Hung Hung [鴻鴻] said. “This exile was thrust upon him, and it was particularly hard for him.”
“His last poem, about a fallen leaf finally blowing back home, is very beautiful and moving,” Hung said. “I think now he has passed away, the fallen leaf has finally returned home.”
Nick Admussen tweeted with links to more of his poems in English translation.
There has been an outpouring of affection and remembrances of Meng Lang on his Facebook page, and there is a reading in his memory in Hong Kong tomorrow night (Tuesday, December 18).