Krenz on Chinese Poetic Modernisms edited by Lupke and Manfredi

MCLC has published Joanna Krenz’s review of Chinese Poetic Modernisms (Brill, 2019), edited by Paul Manfredi and Christopher Lupke, which includes my chapter “Annotating Aporias of History: the ‘International Style’, Chinese Modernism, and World Literature in Xi Chuan’s Poetry.”

She writes:

one need only read a few paragraphs of the Introduction, by editors Paul Manfredi and Christopher Lupke, to see that the formula of “Chinese poetic modernisms” is anything but conventional. Each of its three main conceptual components—Chineseness, poeticness, and modernism(s)—alone can provoke endless discussion and debate, not to mention the plethora of contested terms associated with these concepts and their multiple configurations and contextualizations. The fourteen scholars whose contributions are included in the book confront the idea of Chinese poetic modernisms from various, sometimes radically different angles, which add up to a dynamic, multidimensional picture of modernist practice in Chinese poetry.

She has some criticisms of my disagreement with Michelle Yeh about how to handle “Chineseness” as a topic of academic discussion, but she does wrap it up with some praise:

In any event, Klein, who recently published a monograph that demonstrates how Chineseness has been consistently constructed through translation, is definitely not a person who would want to strip Chinese poetry of its complexity, and his chapter on Xi Chuan confirms this. He refers extensively to the International Style in architecture, taking it as a starting point for his reflection on (Chinese) “modernism [which] is already broadly postmodernist from the get-go” (319). Both modernism and postmodernism, he proposes, are in reality “two steps in the same historical movement of post-Romanticism” (319). Following Eliot Weinberger, he calls for inclusive understanding of modernism as a notion rooted in history and embracing specific cultural geographies without detracting from their uniqueness. Klein’s familiarity with Chinese literature at large and with the evolution of Xi Chuan’s poetry is exceptional, as is his “negotiating the relationship between local and universal logic” (335), to borrow from his own description of Xi Chuan.

Follow the link above to see the whole review, which is exemplary as a way to engage an edited volume with breadth and with depth.

Manfredi on Admussen’s Recite and Refuse

The MCLC Resource Center has published Paul Manfredi’s review of Nick Admussen’s monograph, Recite and Refuse: Contemporary Chinese Prose Poetry (University of Hawaii Press, 2016).

Manfredi summarizes:

Orthodox prose poetry is exemplified for Admussen by the writings of Ke Lan [柯蓝 ] and Guo Feng [郭风], semi-orthodox prose poetry by Liu Zaifu 刘再复 (b. 1941), and the works of Ouyang Jianghe [欧阳江河] (b. 1956 ) and Xi Chuan (b. 1963) represent the unorthodox tradition in Chinese prose poetry. A through line in Admussen’s identification and exploration of the three sub-genres is the critical question of voice, and the vocal attribute most essential to Admussen’s analysis is a kind of ventriloquism that characterizes the prose poetic voice. This ventriloquist feature best substantiates Admussen’s argument, because it is as compellingly present in leftist oriented work as it is in more ideologically independent or experimental poetry. Indeed, the entire question of ideological underpinning, other than being responsible for the relative scarcity of prose poetry from about 1963 through the late 1970s, is refreshingly recast in this book. Admussen’s description of Chinese prose poetry manages to rise above left/right, free/constrained dichotomies.

Beyond the summary, Manfredi writes:

While the previous chapters are full of insights and useful information, one feels that Admussen is really working up to his final chapter, which addresses the work of Ouyang Jianghe and Xi Chuan. Ouyang Jianghe’s “Hanging Coffin” is the focus of the first part of the chapter. “Hanging Coffin,” however, is too long to quote at the outset, as he does with the poems opening the other chapters. Instead—and most creatively and ambitiously—Admussen advances his own condensation of Ouyang’s massive work in a single sentence: “Hanging Coffin is an epic manifestation of the evacuation of history” (134). He then proceeds to unpack that sentence, word by word, until a full reading of Ouyang Jianghe’s poem emerges. That reading details the incredible sweep of Ouyang’s work, but also the ways in which the poet endeavors to close the door on his own chapter of prose-poetic composition. By contrast, shifting finally to Xi Chuan, Admussen arrives at a very compelling summary of some of his key concepts as manifested in Xi Chuan’s work:

This is a basically ventriloquistic and pluralist ideology, one that calls into question the position of the speaker as a maxim-producing creator of wisdom; the poem recasts that speaker as a channeller of wisdom, a collector whose task implicitly denies the existence of a single set of universal truths. (153)

Manfredi concludes: “Admussen’s work is a rare combination of breezy and substantive, and certainly well worth the read.”

Click the image above for the review in full.

Manfredi on the Poetic Survivors’ Paintings

Mang KePaul Manfredi at China Avantgarde writes about the exhibition of the paintings of the Poetic Survivors. He explains:

This exhibition, title The Poetic Survivors 诗意的幸存者 , is on a larger scale than many iterations past, with some new members in the line-up. In particular is the calligraphy of Tang Xiaodu 唐晓渡, long-time critic and cultural figure whose visual art I had never seen before this collection emerged. Also notable is the preface to the exhibition written by Yang Lian, who is not often so closely engaged with goings-on inside China. The funding will carry this exhibition through numerous cities over the next 12 months, among them and besides Shanghai where the operation kicked off in November, will be Beijing, Shenyang, and Dalian.

The seven-person lineup this time rather different from previous “Poets Group” (诗派) of painters, with only Mang Ke 芒克, and Yan Li 严力 the constant members. They are here joined by Tang Xiaodu 唐晓渡, as mentioned, but also You You 友友, Guo Changhong 郭长虹, Li Li 李笠 and Jie Wei 解危.

Click the image above of the painting by Mang Ke for Manfredi’s write-up, and Yang Lian’s intro in Chinese (the English of which I translated for the exhibition brochure).

Video of Ouyang Jianghe reading from Phoenix

The write-up from Paul Manfredi’s China Avantgarde blog:

Ouyang Jianghe’s 欧阳江河 poem was inspired by a sculptural work of the same title by Xu Bing 徐冰. Xu Bing’s sculpture, actually two sculptures–a male “feng” 鳳 and female “huang” – is comprised almost entirely of objects found on worksites in Beijing … Ouyang’s poem was also a two-year project, extending between 2010 when he saw Xu’s sculpture in New York, and 2012, when the work of 19 stanzas was finally published. At roughly 400 lines, the poem was first published in 2012 by Oxford (Hong Kong), and then re-published by Chinacitic Press this past July. The recording of the poem in the video took place on July 5, at the Central Academy for Fine Arts in Beijing where Chinacitic was promoting Ouyang’s book…  Xu Bing was also present at the event.

As Manfredi’s first feature in his Visual Poets series, the reading is preceded by close-ups of Ouyang Jianghe’s calligraphy of poetry by Bei Dao 北島 in different styles. Subtitled translation by Austin Woerner. Available for order from mccm creations.

van Crevel Reviews Manfredi’s Modern Poetry in China

200Modern Chinese Literature & Culture has published Maghiel van Crevel’s review of Modern Poetry in China: A Visual-Verbal Dynamic, by Paul Manfredi. Here’s how it begins:

How does one “see” a poem? Is seeing a poem like reading a painting, a friendly metaphor that brings together various perspectives on literature and art? As such, are there any poems that can not be seen, apart from those that commit the unforgivable sin of speaking in abstractions? If not, can the metaphor succeed in capturing a particular set of texts, rather than the genre in its entirety?

Click on the image above for the full review.


Paul Manfredi’s Modern Poetry in China

Theology, Disability, and Spiritual Transformation: Learning from the Communities of L'ArcheModern Poetry in China: A Visual-Verbal Dynamic
by Paul Manfredi

Chinese poetry, along with many other art forms in China, underwent a highly self-conscious transformation in the first decades of the twentieth century. Poetry, perhaps more than any other art form, did so under the heavy burden of a voluminous literary precedent, a precedent which was in its very format of patterned words inscribed on scrolls––a mark of the Chinese literati tradition. Turning away from this tradition seemed necessary in the context of a political, social, and cultural reform movement (which was designed to strengthen China in the face of increasing international pressure as well as domestic breakdown). At the same time, reforming a poetic tradition which had served as a principal touchstone of aesthetic accomplishment––from its role in Confucian canon as object of contemplation for correct action, to its function as a test of candidate’s qualifications to govern through the civil service examination, to its function as national past-time in all manner of social gathering––was a major challenge.

The result of such a predicament for poets throughout the twentieth century has been the compulsion to discover a poetic style which resonates with the modern world and yet is rooted in Chinese cultural experience. One way in which poets have been able to accomplish this is by relying on poetry’s visuality, be it in the graphic properties of the writing system itself, the visual context of the presentation of the poetic texts, or the acute image details in the poems.

Click the image above for more information.

Paul Manfredi on Xi Chuan

At the china Avant-garde blog Paul Manfredi has posted his notes to the intro for Xi Chuan he gave at last week’s Seattle Public Library reading. I particularly liked this paragraph:

To be influential in this context means more than finding a way to cause other poets to follow one’s example in style or substance. It is a matter of literally finding a viable language in which to speak. Viability in terms of poetry relates to some form of authenticity, which means some form of “truth,” a fact which separates literature generally but poetry in particular from other realms of linguistic experience. Think politics, where the opposite is the case—Chinese politics in particular (though recent debates in the United States makes one think of this country as well): here we experience language not as something predicated on viability (it needs no such bolstering) or authenticity. Political language in China is not truth to power, it is power to truth.

Follow the links above for the whole piece.

Xi Chuan in Seattle

Under the title “American Poetry Culture & Chinese Culture,” Seattle-based cultural figure Paul Nelson (who earlier interviewed Xi Chuan) has a write-up of Xi Chuan’s reactions to Seattle & American poetry, and his recent reading at the Seattle Central Library with Paul Manfredi. I particularly liked Nelson’s description of the following:

The Q & A session after the reading was remarkable due to Xi Chuan’s thoughts about contemporary Chinese culture, saying that tourists want to visit the “old China”, that it has been part of Chinese culture for a long time to bulldoze most of the buildings of previous dynasties and that there is a symmetry issue with adding cars and roads, but leaving pre-auto landscapes. He said modern American cities like New York, Chicago and Seattle had been the model for China’s building spree, but now it is Paris and London. He kept saying “it’s complicated” a negative capability reflected in his poetry, a quality I appreciate. He also answered a question about memorizing old poetry, but gave a long chunk of an old poem that, even in the Chinese, did not seem easy to memorize and recite. He knows his stuff and related well to the older Chinese man who asked the question. The library event was after a long tour of Seattle that I took him on. He was able to recognize the Lenin statue from the back and was honored to see the graves of Bruce Lee and Denise Levertov.

Follow the link for the rest of the write-up and more pictures of Xi Chuan in Seattle.