Narayanan on Bei Dao at Poetry Daily

Poetry Daily has published Vivek Narayanan on “a Poem’s Re-Entering History,” looking at Bei Dao’s 北岛 famous poem from the seventies, “The Reply” 回答 (elsewhere “The Answer”).

“I personally like to read multiple translations against each other,” he writes:

both as a way to see and triangulate what the translator is doing and to think/feel my way into what the source poem could be like. Read the translation on our site, by Clayton Eshleman and Lucas Klein, with its clear lyrical growl, to my ear more explicit in its political echoes, against this one by Bonnie S. McDougall, a little stilted in its language but also perhaps more indirect. If you can, read the version co-authored by Donald Finkel, a seemingly “free”-er version with surprising results. And do read this fourth—unattributed—translation on a “Learn Chinese” site, also very useful, despite what will feel to some like a mildly alienated idiom. Finally, listen to the dramatic recitation of the original Chinese linked on the “Learn Chinese” site above and consider to the extent possible, without fear, the transliterated Chinese. (Tip: also try hovering your mouse over the original Chinese characters!) 

If we look at just the first two lines—

bēibǐ shì bēibǐ zhě de tōngxíngzhèng 
gāoshàng shì gāoshàng zhě de mù zhì míng

—we see that the key lies in repetition—bēibǐ (“contempt,” “debasement,” “shabbiness”) in the first line and gāoshàng (“gravitas,” “nobility,” “refined,” “lofty”, etc.) in the second. This is no simple repetition, however. The translators show us how the word in each case is being turned against itself, in a visceral struggle for personal existence and for language to have any meaning or purpose at all. From this point, the poem should start to emerge. The line “I-do-not-believe”—four stark characters isolated by dashes, like cries from deep within—continues to resonate even in the moment from which I write, thinking of the protestors in Hong Kong, the silencing of Kashmir, or the current American era, with a head of state whose every utterance stokes disbelief. 

(links to the translations and the “Learn Chinese” site in the article).

“But it would be glib to stop there, because we have not yet grappled with the poem’s final paradox: between internal and external, public and private,” Narayanan continues. Click here to read more.

The 2019 Lucien Stryk Asian Translation Prize Shortlist

https://i1.wp.com/static.wixstatic.com/media/7a2274_49fac7dde9d94d07a5c5bb2d41126342~mv2_d_1791_2394_s_2.jpg/v1/fill/w_749,h_998,al_c,q_85,usm_0.66_1.00_0.01/7a2274_49fac7dde9d94d07a5c5bb2d41126342~mv2_d_1791_2394_s_2.webp?resize=352%2C476&ssl=1
October Dedications, shortlisted for the 2019 Lucien Stryk Asian Translation Prize

October Dedications, the selected poetry of Mang Ke 芒克 (Zephyr Press), translated from the Chinese by Lucas Klein with Jonathan Stalling and Huang Yibing, has been shortlisted for the 2019 Lucien Stryk Asian Translation Prize, administered by the American Literary Translators Association (ALTA)!

Days When I Hide My Corpse in a Cardboard Box, poems by Lok Fung 洛楓 (Zephyr) translated by Eleanor Goodman, is the other book of poems translated from Chinese to make the shortlist.

Books by Kim Hyesoon translated from the Korean by Don Mee Choi, by Shrinivas Vaidya translated from the Kannada by Maithreyi Karnoor, and by Jin Eun-young translated from the Korean by Daniel T. Parker and YoungShil Ji, have also made the shortlist. This year’s judges are Chenxin Jiang, Vivek Narayanan, and Hai-Dang Phan.

Click here for the full descriptions of the shortlisted books.

Dialogue between Chinese and Indian Writers

portraits

The Dialogue between Chinese and Indian Writers is organized by Hong Kong Poetry Festival Foundation and two prominent literary magazines—Today from China and Almost Island from India. The Dialogue will be held in Hong Kong on 13-14 October 2018 at the University Museum and Art Gallery, The University of Hong Kong.

Today and Almost Island have been convening contemporary Chinese and Indian writers, critics, musicians and artists for international cultural exchange since 2009. Their ongoing discussions cover a wide range of topics—literature, music and art, as well as culture, politics and history, in company with poetry recitals, fiction readings and music performances.

After the events in Hong Kong, they will further their conversations in Hangzhou, Mainland China.

Chinese Writers and Artists
Bei Dao 北島, Li Tuo 李陀, Ge Fei 格非, Ouyang Jianghe 歐陽江河, Lydia H. Liu 劉禾, Zhai Yongming 翟永明, Bao Kun 鮑昆, Han Shaogong 韓少功

Indian Writers and Artists
Ashis NandyIrwin Allan SealyK. SatchidanandanKabir MohantyMohi Baha’ud-din DagarSharmistha MohantyVivek Narayanan

Date: 13-14 October 2018
Venue: University Museum and Art Gallery, The University of Hong Kong
Address: 90 Bonham Road, Pokfulam, Hong Kong

Organizers
Hong Kong Poetry Festival Foundation
Today《今天》
Almost Island

Co-organizers
University Museum and Art Gallery, The University of Hong Kong
Shuyu Coffee 舒羽咖啡

Xi Chuan at Almost Island

In their new issue, south-Asian journal Almost Island has published a transcription Xi Chuan gave with Vivek Almost IslandNarayanan in New Delhi in December, 2013 (along with some excerpts read from Notes on the Mosquito), titled “Doubting Yourself and the World at Once.” Here’s a passage:

I think, to be creative you need to at least be symmetrical to the surroundings. You may get your language from others, from previous writers, but maybe there is another possibility–that is, you can get your language from reality itself, from society itself. And I wrote an essay some years ago in which I talked about the Chinese oxymorons, social oxymorons. So, before, when I wanted to be a new poet, I tried to be a surrealist, or a symbolist, or a futurist, and now I don’t care about all these terms, and I feel that I need to be honest to myself, and I need to be honest to my awkwardness in this society, my embarrassment in this society. And once you admit that you are embarrassed, then maybe, maybe you can go on with your writing.

Click the image above for the full article, which can also be downloaded as a .pdf file.

Almost Island Dialogues

Almost Island is a space for literature that threatens, confronts, or bypasses the marketplace. The space began with an online journal, then expanded to an international writers dialogue, held every year. The seventh edition of the Almost Island Dialogues will be held at the India International Centre, New Delhi, from December 19th to 22nd, 2013.
The discussions centre on issues of craft, form, and content as well as the context of writing in different cultures. Unlike a literary festival, Almost Island likes to keep the Dialogues small, rigorous, and intimate. These conversations are concerned with process, with how things are learnt, explored, created, and created again. This year we plan to continue with some singular writers. The mornings and afternoons are kept for intense, extended, freewheeling talks and discussions; the evenings, for readings and performances.
The readings are open to all, but to attend the day discussions pre-registration is needed. For pre-registration and any other queries, please write to Rahul Soni at almostisland.edit@gmail.com.

SCHEDULE
Evening Readings / Performances on the IIC Annexe Lawns (All Are Welcome.)

Thursday, December 19, 6:30 pm
Baha’ud-din Dagar

Friday, December 20, 10.30 am to 1 pm and 2.30 pm to 5 pm László Krasznahorkai / Xi Chuan

Saturday, December 21, 10.30 am to 1 pm Ashis Nandy / Baha ud-din Dagar

Sunday, December 22, 10.30 am to 1 pm and 2.30 pm to 5 pm Arvind Krishna Mehrotra / Renee Gladman

Panels and Discussion at Conference Room 1, IIC Main Centre (NB: panels are also open to all who wish to come, but

pre-registration is required. Contact Rahul Soni at
almostisland.edit@gmail.com for more details.)

Friday, December 20, 10.30 am to 1 pm and 2.30 pm to 5 pm
László Krasznahorkai / Xi Chuan

Saturday, December 21, 10.30 am to 1 pm
Ashis Nandy / Baha ud-din Dagar

Sunday, December 22, 10.30 am to 1 pm and 2.30 pm to 5pm
Arvind Krishna Mehrotra / Renee Gladman

Download the .pdf for more information.

Review of Words & the World

Kevin Carollo’s review of Words & the World, the publication from the 2011 International Poetry Nights in Hong Kong, has just appeared at Rain Taxi online. Carollo writes:

Enter Words & the World, the material result of 2011’s International Poetry Nights in Hong Kong. A white box roughly 7 x 11 x 2.5 inches in dimension houses a collection of twenty chapbooks, black ink on white paper, with at least two languages guaranteed in each chapbook (Chinese and English). The collection “begins” with the younger generation Mexican poet María Baranda (b. 1962), and “ends” with Chinese writer Yu Xiang (b. 1970), integrating them with better-known or longer-standing international versifiers, including Irish trickster Paul Muldoon, American spiritualist C.D Wright, Japanese lyric master Shuntaro Tanikawa, and Slovenian dynamo Tomaz Salamun. The box-set effect encourages reading at cross-cultural purposes, to be sure, and a nice leveling effect emerges between poets, poems, and languages. The work inside is generally stunning, strange, and vibrant, in no small part due to having crossed so many borders to appear before your very eyes.

Today’s English speaker is more than likely aware of the myriad forms of English informing the polyphonic Anglo poetry world, and the inclusion of such diverse poets as Muldoon, Wright, and Indian Vivek Narayanan intimates as much. Perhaps because the “West” often conveniently forgets that a billion people speak the language, Words & The World importantly underscores the heterogeneous nature of living and writing in Chinese by showcasing writers from mainland China, Hong Kong, and Taiwan. All of them seem engaged in some form of epic conversation with a “West” that is far from predictable or uniform in its concerns or manifestations. The addition of poets like Brazilian Régis Bonvicino (writing in Portuguese, despite his French-Italian name) and German-born Russian poet Arkadii Dragomoshchenko further reinforces the sense of a grandiloquent, irreverent dialogue occurring across the seven seas. Bonvicino’s chapbook includes an untitled poem dedicated to Dragomoshchencko, which begins: “Almost no one sees / what I see in the words / byzantine iconoclasm / the clock reads midnight or mid-day?” (56). Indeed, the byzantine iconoclasm of this box set is what astonishes most of all, the overriding and often overwhelming sense that, night or day, it is high time for all of us to wake up.

Click on the image above for the full review.

Poem Flow: The Other Side of the River

I still want to give updates on my trips to New Zealand and India (including my brief visit in Delhi with Xi Chuan’s friend and mine, poet Vivek Narayanan), but first, there’s this amazing bit of poetic application, from Poem Flow and the American Academy of Poets, my translation of Xi Chuan’s “The Other Side of the River” 在河的那一边 (click the image to see the poem in action):

More on the India-China Writers Dialogues

While I expect it will be some time until the participants of the India-China Writers Dialogues publish anything about the event–these writers want to be thorough and accurate to both reality and emotion–I did come across another press report, from Express India. It begins discussing the germ of the idea with Sharmistha Mohanty and Bei Dao, and moving on toward the following detail:

Since the beginning of the dialogue two years ago, the participants have been the same group of writers, and Mohanty believes this has been a very important aspect. “With the same group of writers meeting each time, we have become good friends and learnt a lot from each other,” she says. Besides the speakers for the panel discussion, the participants include Allan Sealy, Rukmini Bhaya Nair, Adil Jussawalla, Vivek Narayanan and K Satchidanandan from India and Ge Fei, Xi Chuan, Zhai Yongming and Ouyang Jianghe from China.

These discussions are not limited to analysing writing styles and such. In the course of these two years, the participants have exchanged a great deal about their histories and cultures, too. “We talk about a variety of things,” says Mohanty. “For instance, what does tradition mean to us? How is it represented in our lives and works? Or how a writer wrestles with his past when he is writing. We discuss whether he rejects that long past or embraces it, and so on.”

Almost Island

In honor of the upcoming China – India Writers Dialogues, I wanted to point out the journal Almost Island, whose editors Sharmistha Mohanty and Vivek Narayanan have been organizing the Dialogues.

See also the Almost Island publication of Mohanty’s essay on her experiences in China, “Mountains and Rivers“; Xi Chuan only gets the briefest of mentions (Bei Dao 北岛, Ouyang Jianghe 欧阳江河, and Li Tuo 李陀 get fuller discussions), but it’s a grand take on one writer’s considerations of China and its contrasts with India. Also the prose poem “Editorial Sutras,” which offers Mohanty’s impressions of the first Chinese – Indian Writers’ Dialogue, in 2009.

India-China Writers Dialogues

Xi Chuan will be traveling to Mumbai soon for the India-China Writers Dialogues. Here is a press release along with a schedule of speakers:

The online literature journal Almost Island, founded and edited by novelist Sharmistha Mohanty along with poet Vivek Narayanan, has begun a dialogue with mainland Chinese writers. The first such dialogue, led on the Chinese side by the great contemporary poet Bei Dao and the seminal journal Jintian (Today), was held in 2009 in New Delhi. This was possibly the first unofficial dialogue between Indian and Chinese writers in recent times. The second was held in China, in Beijing and Shanghai. This Mumbai meet is the third chapter of the dialogues. It brings together some of China’s and India’s leading writers. Ashis Nandy who has been part of these dialogues, has called it “historical”. He has said, “This is not a meeting between two countries, but an encounter between two civilisations.” The two evenings of readings will be rich with poets and novelists from both countries reading from their exceptional works.

Dec 19:
Zhai Yongming 翟永明
Allan Sealy
Xi Chuan 西川
Rukmini Bhaya Nair
Ge Fei 格非
K.Satchidanandan

Dec 20:
Ouyang Jianghe 欧阳江河
Sharmistha Mohanty
Adil Jussawalla
Han Shanogong 韩少功
Vivek Narayanan
Bei Dao 北岛