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Anthology of Contemporary Chinese Poetry Reviewed
There are comparable excitements to be experienced throughout Jade Ladder, which samples the work of over 50 poets – ranging from internationally well-known figures such as Bei Dao and Yang Lian to writers still in their 30s. WN Herbert’s informative and witty preface rightly urges readers simply to hurl themselves into the poems, but while many will be glad of work that lives up to the bracing injunction to stop making sense, it’s helpful to have some idea of what the points of departure are, and to read Yang Lian’s introduction and the various accompanying essays by the poet-critic Qin Xiayou on lyric, narrative and so on, as well as Brian Holton’s engagingly irascible closing essay on the opportunities and pitfalls facing the translator.
In Herbert’s view, one urgent question was: “What do Chinese writers feel about their representation in translation in the west?” As far as possible, he and his colleagues have sought to work directly with the poets, treating translation as a form of dialogue rather than taking the most immediately appealing or recognisable or portable elements of the poetry into English. Only by this means, the editors suggest, can non-readers of Chinese acquire a sense of the complex relationship of contemporary poets to the long but often contested traditions of Chinese poetry, to the public world, to the frequently censorious and punitive state, and to poetry beyond China.
Read the rest here.