January 23, 2013
Interview for the Next Big Thing
What is your working title of your book (or story)?
A number of books are forthcoming from Tupelo, including a collection of poetry translations, Doubled Radiance: Poetry & Prose of Li Qingzhao.
Where did the idea come from for the book?
In girlhood, I knew about the Tang Dynasty male poet Li Bai or Li Po, whose famous poem on moonlight I memorized and recited. I was new to a woman poet named Li. As I mentioned in my translator’s preface for Circumference, Li Qingzhao’s poetry first caught my eye when I saw her last name and mine were the same: 李
What genre does your book fall under?
Doubled Radiance is classical Chinese poetry translated into modern English.
Which actors would you choose to play your characters in a movie rendition?
What an extraordinary question for a collection of poetry translations ~ I love this. Let us see, now…. I was awed by Yoon Jeong-hee’s performance in the award-winning film, Poetry (2010), directed by Lee Chang-Dong. I suppose Zhao Wei or Gong Li would play the young Li Qingzhao. I would cast Yoon Jeong-hee for Li Qingzhao’s post-war years after the catastrophic fall of the northern capital.
If the translator must take a role in this film, I would not play myself! I am camera-shy and rather dislike having my photograph taken ~ acting on-screen, to this end, would be rather nightmarish. A better thought ~ ask the poet-divas from Kundiman to consider any of the aforementioned roles on the silver screen. As a matter of fact, I would favor active involvement by poets at all levels of acting, directing, and production.
What is the one-sentence synopsis of your book?
Love, war, exile in the life of a Song Dynasty woman.
How long did it take you to write the first draft of your manuscript?
Translation is an arduous labor. In other words, a long time ~ about one year, working weekly, to complete a draft, with a second year to fine-tune it.
Who or what inspired you to write this book?
A labor of love. I was inspired by Dorothy Disse’s digital archive, Other Women’s Voices, housing translations of women’s writing before 1700. Moreover, a desire to highlight another Asian woman’s work in the world, daring to reach across space and time to circulate her poetry ~ I’ve also translated poems by the contemporary Taiwanese woman poet, Hsia Yü, for Poetry Magazine. Currently, I am studying the writings of Bing Xin for another translation project. My time is so fragmentary in this season, however. This task will be in the future.
Christina Pugh, the Consulting Editor of Poetry Magazine, “tagged” me this week, as well! Read Christina’s lovely interview on Daniel Bosch’s blog, and her new collection, Grains of the Voice, from Northwestern University Press / TriQuarterly Books. Not only is Christina’s poetry erudite & gorgeous, the poet herself shines w/ a heart of gold!
January 11, 2012
For more information or an invitation to read, please click here.
May 15, 2011
In collaboration with Broadsided: Putting Literature & Art on the Streets, Yuko Adachi designed a broadside to raise funds for disaster relief in Japan.
This one is called, “Love Heals Japan.”
Praise: Many thanks to “New Pages” for sharing the word!
May 13, 2011
In the month of May, after Baccalaureate festivities are over, when I walk between our little chapel and one of our academic departments, hundreds of star-jasmines blooming along the walkway are, in a word, intoxicating.
Peace: I am blessed to walk the long way around our little campus just to mingle with jasmine-soaked wind. I think God is in the wind: the Holy Spirit.
Prayer: Healing for a man’s eyes, a woman who awaits birth (sent me a sonogram), and a woman who waits for a miracle.
May 10, 2011
Among the google search terms used to find this blog: “prayer stones love.”
Yes, this Penguin anthology is coming to bookstores in September… and I’m in it for the first time, thanks to the two wonderful Philips – much gratitude to Philip and Philip for their generosity!
Prayer: Psalm 150…”Let everything that has breath praise the Lord.”
April 23, 2011
A reason why I love the neighborhood…
Overheard at the hairdresser’s this weekend, one Nepalese esthetician said to her younger sister, a Nepalese cosmetologist (no, I don’t know the difference between an esthetician and a cosmetologist: I only know their titles from reading the licenses on the wall. I do know the difference between a cosmetologist and a cosmologist, will give myself credit for that) –
“The doctor said I can’t have any sugar.”
“What can you eat, then?” (Clicking noises for sympathy.)
“No rice… no potatoes… no corn, especially not corn, the doctor said, and no tortillas… no fruit… no oranges, no strawberries, no pineapples… if I have an apple, only half… no juice… no cookies… no sodas… no cupcakes…. no pancakes… nothing.”
My kind & patient hairdresser, a self-described “African woman in a Mexican mujer/cuerpo” b/c her great-grandmother was an African woman from Africa who lived in Mexico and married a Mexican, echoed, “¡Eh! What can you eat?”
“Spicy peanuts. I can eat spicy peanuts.”
Cacahuates picante! Ah, the little graces in our lives. I actually think a Nepalese diet would be a vast improvement (smoked fish, black soybeans, pumpkin vine tips, lentils) over traditional American fare, but I also understand love for cakes.
Prayer: For the women in my neighborhood who see me at the market or hairdresser & ask if I’m Filipina, or Vietnamese, or Thai, or Japanese, and I wish my response were all of the above y la Mexicana.
When the women ask me what I do for a living, I say, soy maestra.
I am a teacher.
April 20, 2011
“There were feathers and the light that passed through feathers.
There were birds that made the feathers and the sun that made the light.
The feathers of the birds made the air soft, softer
than the quiet in a cocoon waiting for wings…”
from “A Book Said Dream and I Do”
by Barbara Ras
April 11, 2011
A week of poet-delights! Restoration arrived in the mail, a surprise gift from heart-of-gold poet Christina Pugh. Then I attended a reading by Louise Glück, whose A Village Life sold out within minutes after her question & answer session ended.
From morning until late afternoon, I sat under a grapefruit tree reading psalms… one after another… until rust-colored hummingbirds shrieked at me in hummingbird language: “Eeeeeee!”
I wasn’t even reading aloud.
The last time I presented a threat to hummingbirds, I was using my power drill to uproot an old satellite dish my association deemed unsightly.
How do you say, “Peace. I mean no harm,” in hummingbird language?
My little English department sponsored a regional conference, where I enjoyed fellowshipping with over 90 attendees. We hosted 25 panel sessions with approximately 75 presenters. “Just add mini-cheesecakes, fresh fruit, and cucumber sandwiches,” I said. ”Presto! Now we have instant Bloomsbury… within budget.”
So, all that’s left for the rest of the semester are registration week, two annual assessment meetings, one assessment report, one action plan for next year, a smattering of committee work with “next steps,” one year-end internal budget review, appreciations to the adjunct instructors, capstone portfolios to evaluate, papers to grade, final catalog edits, one survey monkey (pas de jokes ’bout survey zebras or survey giraffes or survey elephants, s’il vous plaît), and other quixotic miscellania.
God will carve out quiet spaces for me to review my notes for a lecture at Cal State and a reading at the Los Angeles Times Festival of Books, both later this month.
None of this goes forward without prayer… we are nothing without grace.
I had fallen
asleep in the sunlit
room the only sunny
room in the house
and I dreamed
you were talking:
Well, and don’t
you see, your voice
rising as in clear
is the sweetest
dream) your hands
in transport to drape a large
book an atlas
its jacket as an ocean
–from Restoration (TriQuarterly Books 2008)
by Christina Pugh
March 29, 2011
This past week, I was honored to meet Sara Slawnik, Program Director for the Ellen Stone Belic Institute for the Study of Women and Gender in the Arts & Media at Columbia College Chicago.
Sara led three of us on a special guided tour of “Off the Beaten Path: Violence, Women, and Art,” an exhibition at the Chicago Cultural Center.
Our small group included Jillian Sandell, Chair of Women’s Studies at SFSU. Jillian actually remembered me from our days at Berkeley, since she was in the doctoral program at the same time I was… I was just starting, though, while Jillian was already ABD.
Many *stunning* art exhibits are worthy of mention, a few spotlighted here.
“Tsumugi, Estelle, and Kwanyi”
Miwa Yanaga asked Japanese women what they would dream of doing 50 years from now. One example: “The sounds I play are not for human ears. / In late winter the plucking of the koto welcomes the spring./ With a tap it reverberates, shaking the earth; / the mountains awaken.”
As Sara observed, the young Japanese women described solitary creative pursuits such as playing a koto in a beautiful forest or writing in a house of one’s own. Question, then: Why not play the koto… or write in your own house now?
India ink drawn on paper
Extremely powerful installation against ritual bridal burning. Using India ink, Maimuna drew contours of women and wedding dresses and wrote “no” all over them, i.e. “no no NO no NO NO no no no.” I absolutely loved it.
“Cut Piece” – Videos
March 21, 1965 at Carnegie Hall
September 2003 in Paris, France
Yes, the 1965 performance by Yoko Ono is well-known. Audience members approach Yoko and snip off little pieces of her black dress as a camera circles around her, shot-reverse-shot of scissors, dress, Yoko’s terrified eyes.
I felt angry & helpless watching this public harassment of Yoko. I felt confined to role of ”silent witness” who is complicit. Although this happened to Yoko in the past, I wanted to write “no NO NO no no NO” in permanent marker all over the place.
In the 2003 performance, an older & famous Yoko is stoic, even defiant as little pieces of her dress are snipped off by audience members. The camera, as Sara pointed out, is completely still in this video – no circling or shot-reverse-shots.
Both are powerful performance pieces about the objectification and violation of women. The physical act of picking up a pair of scissors and snipping away a piece of a woman’s protective covering is not that much different than the male spectator gaze – power, control, domination that renders her a voiceless object w/o dignity or agency.
This is a sculpture installation… ten small floating dresses crafted from feathers, coral, boar’s teeth, other natural “found” materials. Cecilia is a Peruvian-born photo-performance artist and sculptor. I loved the way the small floating dresses, suspended on fine wires, turned quietly in the stillness of the room, each its own eloquent poem among sister-poems.