Saturday, August 31, 2013

China Daily: Translators need to strike a balance

 Translators need to strike a balance
Nobel Prize laureate Mo Yan explores with Syrian-born poet Adonis the significant role of translation in today's literary world. Gong Lei / Xinhua
Cultural identity, the spirit of introspection and writers' mission are among the topics that Syrian-born poet Adonis explored with Nobel Prize winner Mo Yan and other Chinese writers, in a recent talk organized by Beijing Normal University International Writing Center.
Both Adonis and Mo Yan, who have an increasing international readership, concluded that the one factor which facilitates and hinders their efforts is translation.
Having nearly all his novels published in French and at least six in English, Mo Yan says he admires Adonis, a fluent speaker of Arabic and French, because he is involved in the translation himself, guaranteeing precision.
Mo Yan says today, Chinese writers' writing is frequently influenced by the increasing possibility of overseas publication.
It often leads to the subconscious sacrifice of the diversity of dialects, the uniqueness of cultural expressions and the smoothness of writing itself, simply to facilitate the translation, he adds.
"From the perspective of literature and art, it's undoubtedly a huge loss. My attitude is, forget the translators when you write. Care not about whether they feel happy to translate. The real talented translators aren't afraid of difficulties," he says.
"It's not right either to require translators to be completely faithful because the search of a linguistic counterpart is a creation itself, full of imagination. I tend to be open-minded with the translators. I think we should allow them to trim the book appropriately on condition that it doesn't affect the gist as a whole."
Adonis agrees, adding it's even more difficult to translate a poem.
Poetry is more than a structure of language, he says, but also that of thinking and emotions. In terms of the relationship between concept, language and object, he adds, no two languages are on an equal footing.
"Therefore, translators of poems must break the original relationship between language and object, and establish a similar relationship and structure applicable to the translator's mother language," he says.
"In this case, translating poems means betrayal. But sometimes the translator has to betray (the original language) to be faithful to readers of his mother tongue. In other words, betrayal is part of loyalty."
As difficult as it is, translation of foreign literature and poetry, in Adonis' opinion, is a way to explore the mentality of "the others" at a deep level. The importance of translation is, he says, to serve as "the most fundamental element of world culture in the future".
"The importance also lies in the language that a translator uses, especially one that he uses while translating poems. It can enrich his mother tongue. To some extent, it can change the structure of his mother language," Adonis says.

Friday, August 30, 2013

A Hammer With Which to Shape Reality: Kit Kelen Launches ‘It Comes from All Directions: New and Selected Poems’ by Rae Desmond Jones.

raeWell firstly, Happy Birthday to Rae. (All sing ‘Happy Birthday’)
Singing to the arid stars!
I’m honoured to have the opportunity to praise this book today – and when Rae asked me to do the honours, it wasn’t so much that I relished getting onto the encomium mill, it was that I thought ‘I get to read lines of Rae’s that I like and I get to read them the way I like’, so that’s what I’ll mainly do.
Rae and I go back a long way; in fact, Rae, I believe, holds the record for holding one of my poems (juvenilia naturally) the longest before publishing (somewhere between five and ten years). I have considered forgiving him – not for holding it but for publishing it – but I’ve thought better of this. The time is not right. We are, after all, both still alive.
So to read a few favourites and favoured fragments. First ‘The Poets’ – words of the seventies as true today as they will be tomorrow.
The Poets
they speak to a vast audience
consisting mainly of one another
all of whom nervously shuffle
manuscripts & wait their turn
meantime the masses who are
as usual blind deaf & stupid
just keep walking to the bus or
into the office reading newspapers
& quite obviously don’t give a fuck,
& who can blame them?
for of course they have real
problems, the problems of carrying
on the business of carefully
& unselfconsciously
living & dying & paying off the
telly getting tired disillusioned
& old but nonetheless keeping
the nose to the grindstone etc.,
but if one should by some incredible
mischance happen to actually read
one of the poems published
as an occasional cultural piece
but not too prominently
in the corner of the review page
of one of our Saturday morning papers,
he nods, baffled, & turns back to
the real problem he has of the second
mortgage or thinks about his wife
swollen with the third
or the legs of the office girl
so tightly clenched he thinks
her pussy must almost pucker &
blow him kisses
but rarely he might think
at how unreal the world has
become & how beautiful & how
soon he must leave it which is
also beautiful & how time
passes but in any case perhaps
just for a minute he thinks
poetry & knows himself
dwarfish, blind & ugly &
returns once again to the real.
Elsewhere Rae tells us the poets are the ones with the little knives hidden in the pages of their manuscripts. Homer, Rae tells us, was this blind old fart wandering about singing and banging on a garbage tin lid. And what is poetry? For Rae, it’s Brecht’s not the mirror held up to reality but the hammer with which to shape reality. Thinking of different realities, of the différend between them, I’d like to read Rae’s ‘Decline and Fall’ – title poem of a recent book and the ultimate high school teacher’s poem, which, Leunig-like, I know, with the aid of magnet, adorned many a teacher’s fridge, especially in the later eighties.
Decline and Fall
i hate them
the truth is out! & they hate me.
them, the barbarians in baseball hats,
twisting in chairs lined up in artificial order,
and carving their loathing on the tabletops.
do you know why the roman empire fell? i ask.
who cares? a boy giggles.
that is the reason, i say.
you are old & fat, they say.
they are young & fat, I don’t say.
because i don’t want them to get healthy.
they can stay ugly and stupid so i can despise them.
why envy the awkward root they didn’t have
or their perfect wet dreams pearling
……….on the television screen?
outside the aluminium rimmed window
a crow strops his beak against a tree trunk
so that it will be sharp to dig
soft white worms from the dark earth.
i yearn for that brutal freedom.
the students resist my will although their heads bow,
broken for a second.
the room constricts us all.
i almost say get out.
go back to your bad videos & your hopeless dreams:
be unemployable.
daub graffiti on trains
& put as many needles in your arms as you want.
die if it seems romantic.
let there be war between us.
Sharks on King Street trawl past indifferent in their steel bodies. In Darlinghurst they tap for ambulances. Now if I were a Summer Hillian I’d be able to wax on about the local content and the post-mayoral revisioning thereof in the Rae oeuvre. In fact I do myself have two Summer Hill connections; one is with the Table Tennis Centre in the early seventies (ah, nobody remembers), the other is with the now IGA supermarket just behind here, the shelves of which I was helping to stack I think in 1979 or 1980, before it first opened, and where I learned a lot from first hand accounts of sexual abuse of students in Hunter Valley schools by Catholic clergy, but that as they say is another story… complete non sequitur in fact, yet part of the temporal fabric we’re tearing through here… One is struck coming here at how much – how unusually much – of this suburb is intact – I mean has not been wrecked by developers and much of this is down to Rae! I mean Mayor Jones. It looks better than it did in 1979 because it’s all been painted and some tiles have been replaced and now there are trees.
rae 2
Rae Desmond Jones reading from It Comes from All Directions – New and Selected Poems
In Rae’s work there’s frequently the embarrassment of the gritty corporeal and from all directions. You were my first between two fences off a lane in Darlinghurst. From Rae one gets that awkward feeling and that sweet tease built into the hip structure is still effective at 71 and 72 (and beyond?) naked in the dancing synapses of the Rae brain. You (the reader) find yourself preparing to cringe and then you think ‘fuck it, this is real’ because there was a time when I could have been you and I am truly but I’m going there.
I readily admit I haven’t read all of the new poems and that’s because I wanted the pleasure of reading a new poem when I finally got hold of a hard copy of the book in my hands – as in, from this time on. Still, I have read enough to say that in Rae’s book singing to the arid stars turns out to be something we might ourselves not be able to do. After all, we homo sapiens are saps and this lonely night we got it coming. And again, the multiplying universes are happier now because they are recognized as they give birth to subtle gods.
And so it is with pleasure I introduce to you – Mayor Jones, R.D.J., birthday boy, survivor of the siege of Bundanon, sometime acknowledged legislator, now lost somewhere between Parnassus and Helicon, with ever a backward Eurydical glance. When he speaks – a waterfall in sunlight, nothin’ but fire rockin’ in meat. The grim bloke looking anxiously for the tuba – Rae!
- Kit Kelen
Christopher (Kit) Kelen is a poet, scholar and visual artist, who shuttles between his home at Markwell via Bulahdelah and a position as Professor of English at the University of Macau in south China. Over the last five years Kit has been bringing Chinese poets and translators to Australia to translate Australian poets. So far five large scale anthologies have been published as a result. Over the last twenty years a dozen books of Kit’s poetry have been published in English and volumes of his poetry have also been published in Chinese, Portuguese, Italian, Swedish and Filipino. His next volume of poems Scavenger’s Season will be published by Puncher and Wattman in Australia in 2014.
It Comes from All Directions – New and Selected Poems can be obtained by contacting Grand Poets at

Phil Hall reading from The Small Nouns Crying Faith

The first word in this new collection by Phil Hall is "raw" and the last word is "blurtip." Between these, many nouns cry faith within a hook-less framework that sings in chorus while undermining such standard forms & tropes as "the memoir," "genealogy" and "the shepherd's calendar." With a rural pen, these poems talk frogs, carrots, local noises, partial words, remnants, dirt roads, deep breath & hope.

Ed: A brilliant book, imho.

Tuesday, August 27, 2013



1. Writing is not mysterious to them, so they will not romanticize, mythologize, or idealize what you do.

2. You will not as easily be able to get out of things because you need to write. (And you should be able to. You should be able say “I can’t go to the movie tonight like I said I would, because I got this idea and I have to write it down, otherwise I’ll lose momentum.” It’s a legitimate excuse.Paradoxically, non-writers are much more understanding about these things than writers.)

3. Reading and/or critiquing each other’s work is terribly awkward and fraught with nuance. It may result in the laying of emotional landmines.

4. If you are more successful than they are, they will, at least on some level, be jealous. 

5. If they are more successful than you, you will, at least on some level, be jealous.

6. One person using the relationship as material is problematic enough. Both people using it is like CatDog trying to eat itself.

7. You will be poor.

If not other writers, though, then who? Readers, of course.

Monday, August 26, 2013

The Melbourne launch of NOTES FOR THE TRANSLATORS

The Melbourne launch of NOTES FOR THE TRANSLATORS is at 
The Boyd - Assembly Hall -- 207 - 227 City Rd, Southbank, 3006.
on Saturday 28th September - 3.30 for 4.00pm

Poets reading include:

Alex Skovron
Chris Wallace-crabbe
Jennifer Compton
Grant Caldwell
Michael Farrell
Patricia Sykes
Phillip Salom

Please get in touch with Patricia Sykes 
if you would like to be included on
the readers' list:

Saturday, August 24, 2013

from Wagga Wagga Library -

'The WRITE CLUB is bare-knuckled literature.' Chicago

Poetry off the Shelf
The WRITE CLUB: Poetry Versus…
Wednesday, September 25, 7 pm
Poetry Foundation
Free admission

The WRITE CLUB is bare-knuckled literature.

Two writers argue two opposing ideas, and each has seven minutes, no more, to throw their best punches.

Writers compete for cash, which goes to a charity of their choosing, and the audience picks the winners.

Hosted by Ian Belknap, and featuring a rotating lineup of Chicago’s most audacious and fearsome writers and performers, all of the bouts in this Write Club will involve poetry in some way—page contesting stage, perhaps, or free against form, or maybe prose vs. verse.

Brace yourselves and help pick the winners.

Ed: Thanks to Max Richards for this item.

PEN Atlas: new dispatch from Adam Thirwell

Emma Cleave Posted  by  & filed under Translation.
Translation and mutation: Adam Thirlwell takes us through the utopian goals and surprising results of Multiples, an experiment in translation. Charting dozens of countries, languages and authors, this anthology is playful yet subversive, questioning the purpose of translation, the idea of style and the future of the novel.

Ed: Sounds very interesting for all of us!

Friday, August 23, 2013

Note book pages

when we are coming into Melbourne from Seymour
cows raise their heads in wonder
lambs jump on the back of fashinistas

tracks take the weather
in their stride

now landscapes green at
this wet end of a long winter

in the carriage women
talk of babies as their babies cry
and a litter of nine pups
five died - "Why'd they die?"
"Dunno. Maybe she rolled
over on them. It was
her first litter."

my mother always said, "You're either
Catholic or careless - and I
was both!" I tell this to the girl
next to me - as strangers
we're discussing our families
and why we live in small country towns.

it is difficult to picture
Melbourne being born
its lean-tos and humpies
its wattle and daub
rising up on the muddy earth
like single cell amoebas
from the Yarra River
the first colonial women
in their London dresses and bonnets
baby grands full of seagulls
wilde winds playing aeolian tunes
in the dunes ...

'Next stop, Broadmeadows'

{return journey}

back on the Vline
on to Shepparton
four pensioners sit
across the aisle from me
and share their political wisdom -
straight off the telly
and the popular press

"I been in Queensland recently and I talked to people, hundreds, I talked to hundreds of people - and none of them, absolutely none, not one, were for Labor. And, and they weren't your Yuppies, nothing like that, just everyday people - none of them for Labor! It's gunna be a landslide! a landslide! Believe me, I tell ya ..."

after half an hour of this
i look out my window
where kids scamper
after a nanny goat in
a green meadow.
such joy! such delight!


home again

the dog runs circles

Wednesday, August 21, 2013

Out of Office

I'm away for two days, so talk amongst yourselves, won't you :-) I may take photos but don't hold yr breath.

Tuesday, August 20, 2013

from The Wilderness Society: Court rules James Price Point approval unlawful.

Campaigner - Real actions. Real outcomes. - The Wilderness
Society WA
Share this message Share to Facebook Share to Twitter Share via Email

Dear Andrew,
I have some exciting news to share with you.
In December last year, the Wilderness Society with Walmadan (James Price Point) Traditional Owner, Richard Hunter, took the Western Australian Environmental Protection Agency to the Supreme Court over their approval process of the proposed gas plant at James Price Point.
Today, we received confirmation that our case was successful!
The development at James Price Point is now dead and buried.
Firstly, I need to let you know that we could not have achieved this without your support. We received countless generous donations that funded this ambitious case, and today we stand shoulder to shoulder with the people of James Price Point, Broome, the Kimberley and Australia who opposed this destructive project – vindicated and elated.
The court found that the Western Australian Environment Minister and the Western Australian Environmental Protection Authority had acted unlawfully in the assessment and approval process.
As a result, a precedent for future approval processes in Australia has been well and truly set.
A strong and clear message has been sent to any future federal government that plans to hand final environmental approval powers to the states. Tony Abbott has made his party’s position clear that they intend to do this if elected.
As seen today, all this will achieve is years of prolonged and tangled up legal action while eroding business confidence and creating a nightmare for investment in our country.
Without federal powers to override the irresponsible decisions of the states, the Great Barrier Reef, the Franklin River, the Daintree Rainforest and Fraser Island would all have been destroyed by now.
To the Walmadan people, James Price Point has been home and an irreplaceable cultural resource for thousands of years. Today, they have shown that they will not be bullied into a corner by a money-hungry state government.
And of course, the incredible wildlife that defines the Kimberley that would have suffered at the hands of this outrageous development can now continue to exist in peace:
  • Humpback whales that make the yearly pilgrimage to the waters off James Price Point will not be disturbed by dredging and supertanker ships barging through the middle of their sanctuary
  • Endangered bilbies won’t become truck roadkill or have their habitat cleared by bulldozers
This is a victory for all of us who stood up for James Price Point and its people and wildlife.
This is a victory for the people of Broome and the Traditional Custodians who bravely opposed the Western Australian Government and some of the world’s biggest resource companies and won.
But most of all, this is a victory for nature.
Thank you.
For Wilderness,
Lyndon Schneiders
National Campaign Director 

We are very sad to report that the poet John Hollander died Saturday in Brandford, Conn. He was 83.

Knopf had a long and rewarding association with John, and his distinguished volumes are a proud part of our poetry program. His final work, published in 2008, was A DRAFT OF LIGHT, from which the poem below is taken.

October 28, 1929 - August 17, 2013

Some Playthings

A trembling brown bird
standing in the high grass turns
out to be a blown

oakleaf after all.
Was the leaf playing bird, or
was it "just" the wind

playing with the leaf?
Was my very noticing
itself at play with

an irregular
frail patch of brown in the cold
April afternoon?

These questions that hang
motionless in the now-stilled
air: what of their

frailty, in the light
of even the most fragile
of problematic

substances like all
these momentary playthings
of recognition?

Questions that are asked
of questions: no less weighty
and lingeringly

dark than the riddles
posed by any apparent
bird or leaf or breath

of wind, instruments
probing what we feel we know
for some kind of truth.

Excerpt from A DRAFT OF LIGHT. Copyright © 2008 by John Hollander. Excerpted by permission of Alfred A. Knopf, a division of Random House, Inc. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.

Six Aussie poets feature

The Editor's Circle for Summer 2013 at US online magazine features Australian poets David Barnes, Jason Constantine Ford, Jackson, Mardi May, Mal McKimmie and Rob Walker.

Sunday, August 18, 2013

The Living Beauty - Yeats poem

The Living Beauty
I'll say and maybe dream I have drawn content--
Seeing that time has frozen up the blood,
The wick of youth being burned and the oil spent--
From beauty that is cast out of a mould
In bronze, or that in dazzling marble appears,
Appears, but when we have gone is gone again,
Being more indifferent to our solitude
Than 'twere an apparition. O heart, we are old,
The living beauty is for younger men,
We cannot pay its tribute of wild tears. 

PS: The reason I put two different banners up there is because they thoughtfully put seasonal banners, but I'd like to cover both hemispheres when we can.

Friday, August 16, 2013

Maybe the Ed Minister ought to have a peek at what they do in Finland

Bukowski collection at UB looks at poet's early years

Hard-living poet Charles Bukowski, once described by Time magazine as the “laureate of American lowlife,” is known for writing about alcohol, turbulent relationships and the slums of Los Angeles.
Yet Bukowski, born 93 years ago tomorrow (Aug. 16, 1920), didn’t look much like an anti-hero during high school.
Photos from a classmate’s yearbook on display in UB’s prized Poetry Collection show him clean-shaven, wearing a jacket and tie, and, perhaps more surprising, as an ROTC sergeant. The man who would be portrayed on film by Mickey Rourke and Matt Dillon professed a fondness for fishing and noted his plan to attend Los Angeles City College.

read on HERE

Thursday, August 15, 2013

Amazing list of American Poetry advocates

Seth Abramson


The Top 200 Advocates for American Poetry (2013)

Posted: 08/13/2013 3:42 pm

With more than 75,000 poets in the United States alone, and more than 20,000 books of poetry published in America each decade, lists of "top poets" have increasingly become anachronistic. The poets favored by one reader will invariably not be the poets favored by another; in fact, it's getting harder and harder to find two readers whose reading interests or even reading lists exhibit much overlap at all. Too many such lists, such as the widely- and justly-panned one recently published by Flavorwire, exhibit obvious age, race, ethnicity, and (particularly) geographic biases.

Rae Desmond Jones’ ‘When a man ages’

 He drinks more
& thinks less

He dreams of lost
Days chasing a ball
With the Sun
On his back

He walks on the beach
Watching young women
Stretching on towels
& feels silly

He talks too much
& when other men leave
He feels ashamed

He watches his death
Rise over the rim
Of the world & hears
It whisper in his ear
Be brave my son
Be brave

- at   Go there now for oodles of good poetry.

Wednesday, August 14, 2013

American Life in Poetry: Column 438 BY TED KOOSER, U.S. POET LAUREATE

One of the first things an aspiring writer must learn is to pay attention, to look intently at what is going on. Here’s a good example of a poem by Gabriel Spera, a Californian, that wouldn’t have been possible without close observation.


The jay’s up early, and attacks the lawn
with something of that fervor and despair
of one whose keys are not where they always are,
checking the same spots over and again
till something new or overlooked appears—
an armored pillbug, or a husk of grain.
He flits with it home, where his mate beds down,
her stern tail feathers jutting from the nest
like a spoon handle from a breakfast bowl.
The quickest lover’s peck, and he’s paroled
again to stalk the sodgrass, cockheaded, obsessed.
He must get something from his selfless work—
joy, or reprieve, or a satisfying sense
of obligation dutifully dispensed.
Unless, of course, he’s just a bird, with beaks—
too many beaks—to fill, in no way possessed
of traits or demons humans might devise,
his dark not filled with could-have-beens and whys.

American Life in Poetry is made possible by The Poetry Foundation (, publisher of Poetry magazine. It is also supported by the Department of English at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln. Poem copyright ©2012 by Gabriel Spera from his most recent book of poems, The Rigid Body, Ashland Poetry Press, 2012. Poem reprinted by permission of Gabriel Spera and the publisher. Introduction copyright © 2013 by The Poetry Foundation. The introduction's author, Ted Kooser, served as United States Poet Laureate Consultant in Poetry to the Library of Congress from 2004-2006. We do not accept unsolicited manuscripts.

Tuesday, August 13, 2013

Guardian's Poem of the week: Lock Me Away by Clive James

An unsettling meditation on the mental disarrangements of encroaching senility manages a rare balancing of poetry and comedy.

Lock Me Away

In the NHS psychiatric test
For classifying the mentally ill
You have to spell 'world' backwards.
Since I heard this, I can't stop doing it.
The first time I tried pronouncing the results
I got a sudden flaring picture
Of Danny La Rue in short pants
With his mouth full of marshmallows.
He was giving his initial and surname
To a new schoolteacher.
Now every time I read the Guardian
I find its columns populated
By a thousand mumbling drag queens.
Why, though, do I never think
Of a French film composer
(Georges Delerue, pupil of
Darius Milhaud, composed the waltz
In Hiroshima, Mon Amour)
Identifying himself to a policeman
After being beaten up?
But can I truly say I never think of it
After I've just thought of it?
Maybe I'm going stun:
Dam, dab and dangerous to wonk.
You realise this ward you've led me into
Spelled backwards is the cloudy draw
Of the ghost-riders in the sky?
Listen to this palindrome
And tell me that it's not my ticket out.
Able was I ere I saw Elba.
Do you know who I am, Dr La Rue?
- Clive James

Reasons not to date a small publisher ...

Note: this list refers to the traditional male small press publisher. In the case of the new generation of female small press publishers, change He to She and delete clause one.

  1. He will have a beard
  2. He will be broke
  3. He will not want to go on holiday
  4. When he goes on holiday he will visit every bookshop within fifty miles
  5. He will already have a partner, better off than himself
  6. He will talk non-stop about how terrible Waterstones is
  7. Apart from when complaining about Amazon
  8. Or moaning about the Arts Council
  9. He will have friends who are poets
  10. He might be a poet
  11. At launch parties everyone will ignore you unless you are a writer
  12. He will start work at 6.30am
  13. His idea of fun is a book launch 200 miles away
  14. His idea of nice wine is Kwiksave BOGOFF, left over from a book launch
  15. He will not own a car, and can't drive
  16. He will ask for lifts in your car, without knowing he is doing it
  17. His office will be very untidy, spilling over with unsaleable books
  18. It will not be clean
  19. On principle he will only publish books that lose money
  20. He believes in the creative economy while contributing nothing to it
  21. He resents successful small presses
  22. He will not have a pension plan
  23. Other than you are his pension plan
  24. He will never retire
  25. His share of the phone bill will be 80%, but he will pay only 50%
  26. He will have authors staying who have travelled 250 miles to read for twenty minutes to an audience of seventeen
  27. You will have seen the same seventeen people at every reading for thirty years
  28. 50% of his income will go on buying books
  29. He will talk to you at length about the book he is editing
  30. He will ignore your advice when you suggest changes or wonder who would buy such a book
    31. He knows the names of every book reviewer in the UK. None of them know his name
    32. He anxiously scans the review pages of the Guardian every Saturday even though his last book review in any broadsheet was in 1992
    33. He mutters