Queen Mob’s Teahouse now features Greg Bem’s review of Lost Wax, poems by Jonathan Stalling with Chinese and English re-translations by Zhou Yu, Yao Benbiao, Nick Admussen, Jennifer Feeley, Jami Proctor-Xu, Eleanor Goodman, Andrea Lingenfelter, and me. Here’s how it ends:
Moving from poem to poem, curiosity strikes me: is the primary goal of this book to bring us toward an understanding of the nuances of multilingual and multi-personal translation? Is this just an editor’s paradise to see how the process of a significant body of learned, engaged writers see the shape of a work? If there some collective meaning across the pages? By the end of the book, I hoped for commentary. I hope for more “meta.” An afterward from or an interview between the technicians. But in its absence, I was left with my own thoughts and theories (and a drive to learn some Chinese) in hopes of getting towards an understanding of what the core meaning of “lost wax” really is.
At the Boston Review, Nick Admussen writes about the language of John Ashbery and Mang Ke 芒克–especially in “Sunflower in the Sun” 阳光中的向日葵 as translated by Jonathan Stalling and Huang Yibing (and forthcoming in my October Dedications from Zephyr and Chinese University Press)–in light of recent political protests.
One cannot always feel the mark of past violence in poems written later, during a time of relative peace, but such feeling is evident in the work of the poet Mang Ke, who lived and wrote through that intense moment of transition when the organized and disorganized political violence of Maoist China gave way to the uncertain openness of the early Deng era … It is possible to read this complex tableau through familiar psychological categories: PTSD, the epidemiology of violence, the mirror neuron. But I prefer to understand the poem as an aesthetic rather than deterministic reaction: we make decisions about how to construct our lives around the violence in our history. The stories we tell and the relationships we draw are like works of art, escapist, realist, obscure, lyrical, or haunted, all tethered to but not defined by the experience of the creation of pain in others.
And on Ashbery, he sees “some small proportion of Ashbery’s late poems as having a thereness-but-not-presence, an abstract understanding of a distant and unsensual truth.”
The new issue of Asymptote is out, with translations of Ya Shi 哑石 by Nick Admussen, plus a special feature on Hong Kong poetry: Tang Siu Wa 鄧小樺, translated by Canaan Morse; Lok Fung 洛楓, translated by Eleanor Goodman; Yau Ching 游靜, with translations by Steve Bradbury and Chenxin Jiang; Eric Lui 呂永佳, translated by Nicholas Wong; Lau Yee-ching 飲江, translated from the Chinese by Emily Jones and Sophie Smith; and Chung Kwok Keung 鍾國強, translated by Emily Jones and Sophie Smith.
From Chenxin Jiang’s translation of Yau Ching’s “Island Country” 島國:
There’s this island
that used to have many languages now they’ve become
one called English
another called Chinese
you’re not allowed to ever use
your own language
if your name is not an English name
the island will give you one
The current issue of the New England Reviewfeatures poetry translations of Ya Shi 哑石 by Nick Admussen, Xiao Kaiyu 萧开愚 by Chris Lupke, and Yin Lichuan 尹丽川 by Fiona Sze-Lorrain–as well as prose translations of Wei An 苇岸 by Tom Moran.
Unfortunately, the NER has made none of these available online, but click on the image for ordering information, along with the full table of contents.
In his editorial statement for ep;phany, Nick Admussen writes on translation:
Either during the translation or as a result of the translation, something happens between the artist and their translator, and for a moment there seems to be a very simple, bilateral relationship, one that feels far distant from the shared stage of the final piece of art. The translator is trying to understand the poet, and also to please them; to learn something from them, and then to make something out of what they’ve learned. The poet is trying to provoke feelings and ideas in the translator (and in all readers), and is checking their poem’s effect against their intent. This is a relationship; it’s a conversation. It is hidden from the final English text, but it’s necessary for it.
The book presents Stalling’s sequence of poems about his wife Amy’s work as a sculptor. These poems are translated into Chinese and back into English by members of a “workshop” of eight fellow translators–Zhou Yu, Yao Benbiao, Nick Admussen, Jami Proctor-Xu, Jennifer Feeley, Eleanor Goodman, Lucas Klein, and Andrea Lingenfelter–then re-amalgamated by Stalling into a new final. Each poem is then presented in a) the original; b) the Chinese; c) the new English version. An additional workshop page illustrates choices made by translators on both sides of the English/Chinese divide.
The clay is the past
The wax inherits
As its own
The conditions, but not the only source
Of her arising
陶泥成为过去 石蜡也有了自己的 传承， 条件，不仅仅是她 出现 的唯一来源。
Clay becomes the past
Paraffin has its own
This condition is not her only
Source of coming into being
Click on the image for more, including ordering information.
The journal Epiphany, with Nick Admussen as poetry editor, has published a suite of contemporary Chinese pieces, including the following:
Chun Sue 春树 (translated by Martin Winter)
Mu Cao 墓草 (translated by Scott E. Myers)
Liu Waitong 廖偉棠 (translated by Audrey Heijins)
Xiao Kaiyu 肖开愚 (translated by Christopher Lupke)
Haizi 海子 (translated by Nick Kaldis)
Sai Sai (Xi Xi) 西西 (translated by Jennifer Feeley)
Hsia Yü 夏宇 (translated by Steve Bradbury)
Yao Feng 姚风 (translated by Tam Hio Man and Kit Kelen)
Han Dong 韩东 (translated by Nicky Harman)
Huang Lihai 黄礼孩 (translated by Song Zijiang)
Click the image above for an online sample, including pieces by Mu Cao and Hsia Yü:
He says the world is very big
We should go outside and look around
That’s how one wards off sadness
We should go to a gay bathhouse in Beijing
And experience group sex with a hundred people
Or go to Dongdan Park, or Sanlihe, or Madian
And know a different kind of lust
If I could visit Yellow Crane Tower
I’d have new inspiration for writing poems
He says all the great artists
Were fine comrades like us
Dissertation Reviews has posted Nick Admussen’s Talking Shop article “Parallel Publications: Translation Banks, Little Magazines, Online Venues.” Here’s how it begins:
Many scholars of East Asian Studies who are preparing dissertations based on archival research encounter, sooner rather than later, occasions for translation. Historians, political scientists, and literature scholars who are publishing outside their research language can rarely depend on prior work—Western-language communities simply have not translated a sufficient amount of material to allow for dissertations and monographs that exclusively cite previously completed translations. Some projects only require the scholar to summarize a few documents, or translate a sentence or two. Others translate so copiously that they serve as anthologies… This Talking Shop piece will give some options writers might consider, both during dissertation research and after, to make as much as possible out of the contribution that translation represents—even for those who don’t consider translation a stand-alone part of their intellectual or academic profile.