I met Zhu Zhu for the first time two years ago when he came to the US for a joint residency with me in Vermont. We established our trust over a long trans-Pacific phone call that lasted an entire night. Then it dawned on us that such trust could be extended to a book. Since then, I have read every poem he has written and selected with him a collection that encapsulates what this distinguished poet has achieved in the past decade.
This past decade has seen a Chinese economic boom, and many poets have abandoned poetry for lucrative businesses. Zhu Zhu took to the arts and makes a living by writing art criticism and curating art exhibitions in China and overseas. He has made a name for himself in the new field. It was the literariness of his words that first drew attention from a group of well-known artists. His art criticism does not distract Zhu Zhu from his poetry, however. Instead, it heightens his sensibility to the diverse emotional modes of expression inherent in artistic composition.
Though revered in poetry circles, Zhu Zhu remains on the periphery and his work in the art world gives him certain advantages in keeping his distance from the occasional riots within poetry circles. Zhu Zhu writes quietly. His paced poems weave slowly through personal and larger histories. The poems do not surprise for surprise’s sake; rather, they give the reader a painterly view at each and every turn. His smooth lines unfold like a scroll of painting and accrue meaning. Zhu Zhu’s poetry illuminates and sets the reader adrift in meditations, yet the poems are sharp as crystals that cut into the interiority of the mind.
– Dong Li
Not long ago, a few poems surfaced from the Dun Huang archives–five short poems that are attributed to Xuanzang. Prior to the rediscovery of these poems, Xuanzang’s literary reputation primarily rested on his status as a hero of legend in the pages of Journey to the West, where his pilgrimage to India provides the narrative thread for Wu Cheng En’s great epic tale. Xuanzang has also been highly regarded as an author in his own right. In the seventh-century travel narrative entitled The Great Tang Record of the Western Territories, he provides a no less remarkable account of his journey traversing countless mountain passes, encountering peoples of more than a hundred different tribal nations, finding holy scriptures, and visiting stupas that glowed with mysterious light all along the way.
The rediscovery of these five poems rounds out our picture of Xuanzang as a poet, too. We now can understand Xuanzang’s journey as real, legendary, and metaphorical all at the same time, an inner and outer voyage for enlightenment that’s fully described in these lines.
“The Adventures of Monkey King” comprises the first seven chapters of Journey to the West, the great epic of pre-modern China. The book was first published anonymously in the late 16th century during the waning years of the Ming Dynasty, but the story of Monkey is based on folk legend and a much older oral tradition. Wu Cheng En, a poet who published during his lifetime under the pen name “She Yang Hermit,” is generally credited as the author.
Since the 1980s, Yi Lu has established herself as one of the most widely-read female poets in contemporary China. Born in 1956, she has authored four books of poetry, including the award-winning titles See (2004) and Using Two Seas (2009). Known for an elegant and distilled lyrical voice, her poems are at once meditative and vibrant. Recent national honors include the Hundred Flowers Award and the Distinguished Literary Prize from the Fujian Province. Serving as an active theatre design artist at the People’s Art Theatre in Fujian, Yi Lu is also ranked as China’s preeminent national scenographer and stage designer.
Bai Hua is considered to be the central literary figure of the post-Misty Poetry movement during the 1980s. Born in 1956 in Chongqing, he read English literature at Guangzhou Foreign Language Institute before graduating with a master’s degree in Western literary history from Sichuan University. His first collection of poems, Expression (1988), found immediate critical acclaim. A highly demanding writer, Bai Hua has a small but selective poetic output: in the past thirty years he’s written approximately ninety poems, most of which command a large audience in his nation today. After a silence of more than a decade, he began writing poetry again in 2007. That same year, his work garnered the prestigious Rougang Poetry Award. A prolific writer of critical prose and hybrid texts, Bai Hua is also a recipient of the Anne Kao Poetry Prize. Currently living in Chengdu, Sichuan, he teaches at the Southwestern Transportation University.
Award-winning poet Lan Lan is one of China’s most well-loved female writers today. Her lyrical writings contain a sensual yet profound simplicity that often explores a specific emotion both in its purity and complexity. Considered one of the few contemporary women poets who’ve invented a new genre of romance poetry, she transcends the sentimental via a poetic imagination of dialogues between emotions, energies, and specific moments. Also known for their intriguing observations of nature and social realities, each of Lan Lan’s poems are crafted in a specific architecture–both linguistic and temporal–that either dramatizes or challenges the contextual significance of the work. In addition to her poetry, Lan Lan’s bestselling work includes children’s literature and lyrical prose. Here we present a sampling of five poems–“Inside Eternity…,” “Vérité,” “Wind,” “Wild Sunflowers,” and “Untitled”–from Selected Works of Lan Lan, published in honor of her literary prize, the Poetry & People Award in 2009.
Born in Anhui Province in 1967, Yang Jian worked as a factory laborer for thirteen years. A practising Buddhist and scholar of Chinese traditional culture, he began writing poetry during the mid-’80s. Laureate of the first Yiu Li’an Poetry Award (1995), the ninth Rougang Poetry Award (2000), the first Yulong Poetry Award (2006), and the prestigious Chinese Media Literature Award (2008), his books of poetry include Dusk (2003), which was rated as one of the ten best books of the year, Old Bridge (2007), and Remorse (2009). Yang Jian also paints with ink and brush. He now lives in Ma’anshan, Anhui.
Yang Zi (1963- ), an acclaimed contemporary Chinese poet, is the author of a dozen books including Border Fast Train (1994), Gray Eyes (2000), and Rouge (2007). After his university studies in Chinese literature, he lived in Xinjiang Uygur Autonomous Region for nine years and co-founded the literary journal Big Bird. In 1990, he was appointed Vice Alderman of Tahaqi Village. Since 1993, he has lived in the southern coastal city Guangzhou and now works as the Associate Chief Editor of the Nanfang People Weekly. Also known as a poetry translator, he has introduced the works of Osip Mandelstam, Paul Celan, Fernando Pessoa, Gary Snyder, Charles Simic, and other Western poets to Chinese readers.
Additional translations of Bei Dao’s poetry by Clayton Eshleman and Lucas Klein may be found in Bookslut (September 2009); Jacket (Issue 38); and Jerome Rothenberg’s Poems and Poetics blog (October 2, 2009). A set also will appear in a forthcoming issue of New American Writing.
All of the poems have been translated and published with the permission of the author.
Earlier translations of the four poems presented here appear in Landscape Over Zero (New Directions, 1996; translated by David Hinton and Yanbing Chen).
The Brooklyn Rail welcomes you to our web-exclusive section InTranslation, where we feature unpublished translations of fiction, nonfiction, poetry, and dramatic writing. Published since April 2007, InTranslation is a venue for outstanding work in translation and a resource for translators, authors, editors, and publishers seeking to collaborate.
We seek exceptional unpublished English translations from all languages.
Fiction, Nonfiction, and Poetry: Manuscripts of no longer than 20 pages (double-spaced).
Plays: Manuscripts of no longer than 30 pages (in left-justified format).