Two Anthologies of Chinese Poetry

edited by Ming Di
New Cathay: Contemporary Chinese Poetry – Tupelo Press, 2013
New Poetry from China: 1917–2017 – Black Square Editions, 2019

New CathwayNew Poetry from China

 

New Cathay: Contemporary Chinese Poetry showcases the achievement of Chinese poetry in the last twenty years, a time of tremendous literary ferment in the country, and focuses on a diverse group of poets, including Duo Duo and Liao Yiwu, as well as lesser-known poets such as Zang Di, Xiao Kaiyu, Jiang Tao, and Lu Yue. The anthology also includes eight interviews with the poets. (Adapted from publisher’s description)

New Poetry from China: 1917–2017 consists of poems chosen by poet and translator Ming Di, and features one hundred Chinese poems by writers of many ethnicities such as Yi, Manchu, Tibetan, Mongolian, and others. According to Ming Di, the New Poetry Movement was begun in Beijing in 1917 by Hu Shi, with the goal of changing the literary landscape in China. Ming writes: “Apparently influenced by the Modernist art in New York City and Anglo-American free verse while he was a student at Columbia University, [Hu Shi] wrote a long free verse poem in 1916 as an argument during the fierce and lengthy debate he had with his fellow Chinese students regarding free verse vs. classical poetry, and this obscure poem because the first free verse in vernacular language in the history of Chinese literature. and we are still writing in his shadow today.” Nearly a dozen translators have contributed their work. (Adapted from publisher’s description)

Ming Di (pen name of Mindy Zhang) is a Chinese poet and translator who now lives in the United States. She co-founded Poetry East West journal. Some of her books in translation include River Merchant’s Wife, The Book of Cranes, and Empty Chairs—Poems by Liu Xia.

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Some Unquenchable Desire

by Bhartrihari
translation by Andrew Schelling
Shambhala Publications, 2018

schelling1schelling2Although little is known about his life, the Indian poet Bhartrihari’s poetry shows himself “torn between sexual desire and a hunger to be free of failed love affairs and turbulent karma.” Bhartrihari was a linguist, courtier, and hermit, and he used poetry to look at themes of love, desire, impermanence, despair, anger, and fear. Some Unquenchable Desire covers themes of love, sex, and disappointment, as well as Hindu mythology, and Buddhist philosophical concepts to recall ancient India through the voice of one of its most celebrated poets.

Schelling has also translated Erotic Love Poems from India: 101 Classics on Desire and Passion. The poems in this collection were compiled in the eighth century, and it offers different perspectives of erotic love that range from graceful to playful and intensely passionate while hinting at divine transcendence. (Adapted from publisher’s description)

Andrew Schelling is poet, translator, essay writer, and editor. He edited for a samizdat literary journal and studied Sanskrit and Zen Buddhism. His translation for Dropping the Bow: Poems from Ancient India received the Academy of American Poets award in translation in 1992. Schelling teaches at Naropa University.

Woman of March: Poems

TSUMURA-YUMIKO

by Yumiko Tsumura
Finishing Line Press, 2016

Woman of March gives us a glimpse of Yumiko Tsumura’s childhood Pacific War memories of Japan as well as her life in the US, rich with intimate perceptions, invested with transformative powers, and depicting a life path of discoveries, losses, and reaffirmations. Her power of observation is clearly seen through her  precision in these autobiographical poems.

Today again
the young men died
believing in
mountain climbing

Tsumura’s poems are not haiku but haiku-like, emerging as epiphanies upon white paper. They are a testimony to a life lived in specific, deep consciousness. (Adapted from publisher’s description)

Yumiko Tsumura was born and educated in Japan and has an MFA in poetry and translation from the University of Iowa. She has taught at universities both in Japan and the US.  Her books of translation include Kazuko Shiraishi’s poetry collections from New Directions.

Inheriting the War: Poetry and Prose by Descendants of Vietnam Veterans and Refugees

980bc04e50f7eba0586b67f750fe2c01edited Laren McClung
foreword by Yusef Komunyakaa
W.W. Norton & Company, 2018

Inheriting the War: Poetry and Prose by Descendants of Vietnam Veterans and Refugees answers questions that have remained unanswered for over fifty years: what is the difference between history and the past, how do people come to terms to what they have inherited, who is given a voice and who remains silent, and what resolutions result from examining the past. This anthology by descendants of Vietnam veterans and refugees―American, Vietnamese, Vietnamese Diaspora, Hmong, Australian, and others―confronts war and its aftermath. It is an affecting portrait of the effects of war and family―an intercultural, generational dialogue on silence, memory, landscape, imagination, Agent Orange, displacement, postwar trauma, and the severe realities that are carried home.

While Inheriting the War depicts the burdens of the war, and refuses to deny brutal realities, it presents literature that unifies. It crosses cultural and generational boundaries, and connects veterans, writers, and readers. (Adapted from publisher’s description and press release)

Laren McClung teaches at New York University, and is a poet and the author of Between Here and Monkey Mountain. Her father served one tour in Vietnam (1968-1969) deployed with the 173rd Airborne. Her poetry has appeared in several journals and reviews, and she has been the recipient of a Teachers & Writers Collaborative Van Lier Fellowship, an Iraq and Afghanistan Veteran Workshop Teaching Fellowship, and has led workshops in poetry at Goldwater Hospital on Roosevelt Island in the Creative Writing Program at New York University.

On Not Losing My Father’s Ashes in the Flood

OnNotLosingMyFather'sAshesintheFloodby Richard Harrison
Wolsak & Wynn Publishers, 2016

In 2013, Richard Harrison feared that his father’s ashes were lost in the flood that had devastated Alberta.

Using elements of memoir, elegy, lyrical essay, and personal correspondence, as well as showing his appreciation for haiku and comic books, Harrison has written a book of mourning for his father. Despite dementia, Harrison’s father died without forgetting the poems that he had memorized as a student and taught his son. (Adapted from publisher’s description)

A Canadian writer and professor at Calgary’s Mount Royal University, Harrison is the author of seven books of poetry, including Big Breath of a Wish, a volume about his daughter’s acquisition of language, and Hero of the Play, the first collection of poetry launched at the Hockey Hall of Fame. His poetry has been translated into French, Spanish, Portuguese, and Arabic.

The Conference of the Birds

51fzz9mvysl-_sx329_bo1204203200_Translated by Sholeh Wolpé
W. W. Norton & Company, 2017

Considered by Rumi to be “the master” of Sufi mystic poetry, Attar is best known for his epic poem The Conference of the Birds, an allegorical tale about the soul’s search for meaning. The poem recounts the perilous journey of the world’s birds to the faraway peaks of Mount Qaf―a mythical mountain that wraps around the earth―in search of the mysterious Simurgh, their king. Attar’s beguiling anecdotes and humor intermingle the sublime with the mundane, the spiritual with the worldly, and the religious with the metaphysical. Reflecting the entire evolution of Sufi mystic tradition, Attar’s poem models the soul’s escape from the mind’s rational embrace. (Publisher’s Description)

Sholeh Wolpé is an Iranian-American poet and writer. She is the recipient of the PEN/Heim Grant, the Midwest Book Award, and the Lois Roth Persian Translation Prize, among others.

Year of Reversible Loss

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by Norma Farber
El León Literary Arts, 2012

Year of Reversible Loss is a cornucopia of meditative insight and poetry, pondering the trajectory of grief and capturing its changing rhythms through gemlike poetry and sustained passages of remembrance and reflection. Norma Farber traces the turning of the seasons as a deeply felt metaphor for the journey of the grieving heart in this journal of the year following the death of her husband, Sidney Farber, dedicated pioneer in the field of pediatric oncology.

Where once a leaf clung,
the ashtree wears a scar,
a moon halted at half.

Her observations of the natural world as well as the hidden recesses of the heart are startling, fresh, at once keenly personal and transcendent.

Sign your name on the wind.
Then I’ll know which way
to follow you.

Reviewed by Lillian Howan, author of The Charm Buyers.