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The New Directions Anthology of Classical Chinese Poetry

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A rich compendium of translations, The New Directions Anthology of Classical Chinese Poetry is the first collection to look at Chinese poetry through its enormous influence on American poetry. Weinberger begins with Ezra Pound's Cathay (1915), and includes translations by three other major U.S. poets -- William Carlos Williams, Kenneth Rexroth, Gary Snyder -- and an import A rich compendium of translations, The New Directions Anthology of Classical Chinese Poetry is the first collection to look at Chinese poetry through its enormous influence on American poetry. Weinberger begins with Ezra Pound's Cathay (1915), and includes translations by three other major U.S. poets -- William Carlos Williams, Kenneth Rexroth, Gary Snyder -- and an important poet-translator-scholar, David Hinton, all of whom have long been associated with New Directions. Moreover, it is the first general anthology ever to consider the process of translation by presenting different versions of the same poem by various translators, as well as examples of the translators rewriting themselves. The collection, at once playful and instructive, serves as an excellent introduction to the art and tradition of Chinese poetry, gathering some 250 poems by nearly 40 poets. The anthology also includes previously uncollected translations by Pound; a selection of essays on Chinese poetry by all five translators, some never published before in book form; Lu Chi's famous "Rhymeprose on Literature" translated by Achilles Fang; biographical notes that are a collage of poems and comments by both the American translators and the Chinese poets themselves; and also Weinberger's excellent introduction that historically contextualizes the influence Chinese poetry has had on the work of American poets.


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A rich compendium of translations, The New Directions Anthology of Classical Chinese Poetry is the first collection to look at Chinese poetry through its enormous influence on American poetry. Weinberger begins with Ezra Pound's Cathay (1915), and includes translations by three other major U.S. poets -- William Carlos Williams, Kenneth Rexroth, Gary Snyder -- and an import A rich compendium of translations, The New Directions Anthology of Classical Chinese Poetry is the first collection to look at Chinese poetry through its enormous influence on American poetry. Weinberger begins with Ezra Pound's Cathay (1915), and includes translations by three other major U.S. poets -- William Carlos Williams, Kenneth Rexroth, Gary Snyder -- and an important poet-translator-scholar, David Hinton, all of whom have long been associated with New Directions. Moreover, it is the first general anthology ever to consider the process of translation by presenting different versions of the same poem by various translators, as well as examples of the translators rewriting themselves. The collection, at once playful and instructive, serves as an excellent introduction to the art and tradition of Chinese poetry, gathering some 250 poems by nearly 40 poets. The anthology also includes previously uncollected translations by Pound; a selection of essays on Chinese poetry by all five translators, some never published before in book form; Lu Chi's famous "Rhymeprose on Literature" translated by Achilles Fang; biographical notes that are a collage of poems and comments by both the American translators and the Chinese poets themselves; and also Weinberger's excellent introduction that historically contextualizes the influence Chinese poetry has had on the work of American poets.

30 review for The New Directions Anthology of Classical Chinese Poetry

  1. 4 out of 5

    Steve

    On the one hand, The New Directions Anthology of Classical Chinese Poetry is a manifestation of greed, collecting together portions of books of translated Chinese poetry which have already appeared under the New Directions imprint (there are a few exceptions), with the apparent intent of drumming up business for the books from which the selection was made, much like the samplers produced by the record companies. (Though these samplers are usually priced so low as to be a giveaway, unlike this bo On the one hand, The New Directions Anthology of Classical Chinese Poetry is a manifestation of greed, collecting together portions of books of translated Chinese poetry which have already appeared under the New Directions imprint (there are a few exceptions), with the apparent intent of drumming up business for the books from which the selection was made, much like the samplers produced by the record companies. (Though these samplers are usually priced so low as to be a giveaway, unlike this book at full price.) On the other, it is a perfectly lovely collection of translations of classic Chinese poetry made by no less than Ezra Pound, William Carlos Williams, Kenneth Rexroth, Gary Snyder and David Hinton, preceded by an excellent little introduction by Eliot Weinberger and supplemented by some fine essays on Chinese poetry that one would have a hard time putting one's hands on.(*) These essays include Lu Chi's (261-303) classic and influential "Rhymeprose on Literature." Alright, I bought the book, even though I already had on my shelves most of the books from which the selection is made. I held my nose and bought it. And a fine book it is, too. In the unfortunately all too brief introduction, Weinberger gives an overview of Chinese-to-English translation of poetry, as well as of the remarkable eccentrics who were drawn to making such translations. Would you like a sample? This is Weinberger on David Rafael Wang, who collaborated with Williams on the translation of 37 poems. Wang, also known as David Happell Hsin-fu Wand, was born in China...escaped to the U.S. after the revolution, and became surely the only Chinese-American who was both a pseudo-Nazi white supremacist (and a member of the seedier circles around Pound in St. Elizabeth's) and a Black Panther (in Oakland in the 1960s). Among other things, he was also a stodgy professor, active in the academic bureaucracy; a bisexual martial arts fanatic; a poet ("in the Greco-Sino-Samurai-African tradition") and a friend of many of the Beat and Black Mountain poets, who had long talks about poetry with Muhammad Ali; a translator of Hawaiian and Samoan oral poetries...; and a possible suicide (at a MLA convention) who some people believe was murdered. I confess that Wang is the most eccentric of the lot, but there are some close seconds. A special Elliot Weinberger touch, along the lines of his 19 Ways of Looking at Wang Wei, which I review here https://www.goodreads.com/review/show... is to offer multiple translations of the same poem (he does this for more than 20 poems but not for most), though here he shows us no more than three versions of any single poem. I personally find this kind of direct comparison to be revealing of the original poem, of the difficult process of translation of classic Chinese poetry into modern English and of the styles of the individual translators. So I like this touch, though I can understand that some readers would have other reactions. As a brief example, here is a poem by Meng Hao-jan (Mèng Hàorán ; 689-740), one of the great "hermit" poets of the T'ang dynasty, in three versions: (William Carlos Williams) Steering my little boat towards a misty islet, I watch the sun descend while my sorrows grow: In the vast night the sky hangs lower than the treetops, But in the blue lake the moon is coming close. (Kenneth Rexroth) We anchor the boat alongside a hazy island. As the sun sets I am overwhelmed with nostalgia. The plain stretches away without limit. The sky is just above the tree tops. The river flows quietly by. The moon comes down amongst men. (Gary Snyder) The boat rocks at anchor by the misty island. Sunset, my loneliness comes again. In these vast wilds the sky arches down to the trees. In the clear river water, the moon draws near. The collected poems date from the 12th century BCE through the 13th century CE with an emphasis on the T'ang and Sung dynasties. Weinberger provides brief endnotes about each poet. (*) What are the chances of finding an issue of the New Mexico Quarterly from 1952? Rating http://leopard.booklikes.com/post/807...

  2. 4 out of 5

    Deborah Pickstone

    Some very beautiful poetry here. I especially liked the poems that dealt with ageing - though some of the word patterns everywhere through this little book are......like words painted with colour. The editors address the difficulties of translation (on the back cover, for instance, we see 3 completely different translations of the same few lines), especially complex going from characters to a sound-form alphabet, I think. The real gem in this, for me, was a short section called Rhymeprose On Lit Some very beautiful poetry here. I especially liked the poems that dealt with ageing - though some of the word patterns everywhere through this little book are......like words painted with colour. The editors address the difficulties of translation (on the back cover, for instance, we see 3 completely different translations of the same few lines), especially complex going from characters to a sound-form alphabet, I think. The real gem in this, for me, was a short section called Rhymeprose On Literature - about the process of writing - which was fascinating and some of the best descriptions I have seen of the creative process, or aspects of it - pertaining to writing but applicable to any act of creation.

  3. 4 out of 5

    Jim Coughenour

    This is an anthology I always pull off my shelf with gratitude, an collection of classical Chinese poems as translated by a quintet of exceptional American poets over the course of the 20th century -- Ezra Pound, William Carlos Williams, Kenneth Rexroth, Gary Snyder and David Hinton. Often the same poem appears in two or three translations, which (to someone like me, who can't read Chinese) only increases the mystery. Any poetry lover has come across with Ezra Pound's superb version of Li Po's "T This is an anthology I always pull off my shelf with gratitude, an collection of classical Chinese poems as translated by a quintet of exceptional American poets over the course of the 20th century -- Ezra Pound, William Carlos Williams, Kenneth Rexroth, Gary Snyder and David Hinton. Often the same poem appears in two or three translations, which (to someone like me, who can't read Chinese) only increases the mystery. Any poetry lover has come across with Ezra Pound's superb version of Li Po's "The River Merchant's Wife: A Letter." Fewer (I suspect) are familiar with these other translations. I'm embarrassed to admit that I'd never read Kenneth Rexroth's One Hundred Poems from the Chinese, which is an homage to the originals, a landmark of austere artistry and poetic imagination. I live in San Francisco, a city haunted by fog and desire, a perfect setting for disappearing into these poems. Here's Rexroth's translation of one of Tu Fu's gems that I first read on one of our cold summer nights: Snow Storm Tumult, weeping, many new ghosts. Heartbroken, aging, alone, I sing To myself. Ragged mist settles In the spreading dusk. Snow skurries In the coiling wind. The wineglass Is spilled. The bottle is empty. The fire has gone out on the stove. Everywhere men speak in whispers. I brood on the uselessness of letters.

  4. 4 out of 5

    Shane

    This anthology of classical Chinese poetry takes the reader from antiquity to the Yuan dynasty, paying special attention to the Tang and Song poets. For the most part, the selections are well chosen, providing many poems from both established and more obscure Chinese poets. The translations of those poems can be questionable at times, specifically those of Erza Pound. This is apparent when looking at multiple different translations of the same poem. Pound’s translations of poems have come under This anthology of classical Chinese poetry takes the reader from antiquity to the Yuan dynasty, paying special attention to the Tang and Song poets. For the most part, the selections are well chosen, providing many poems from both established and more obscure Chinese poets. The translations of those poems can be questionable at times, specifically those of Erza Pound. This is apparent when looking at multiple different translations of the same poem. Pound’s translations of poems have come under heavy criticism for not being true to their source material. The book acknowledges this, and therefore has 4 other translators that range from good to excellent. The best thing about this book is how it functions as an introduction to Chinese poetry in general. It is accessible, and works as a good foundation for Song and Tang poetry. However, some poems are better skipped due to Erza Pound’s abysmal translations.

  5. 5 out of 5

    Dave H

    A treasure. If you read much poetry or like to stop and smell the roses or stop for a moment, check this out.

  6. 5 out of 5

    Lyana Rodriguez

    As my first-ever reading of Chinese poetry, this book is fascinating, and its various translations and contributions certainly opened my eyes to some great poems. I didn't realize there was a notes section until after I read the books however which left me to generally interpret the poems for myself. I often got the feeling I was missing what certain images are supposed to imply since I'm not Chinese myself, but the emotions they gave me tended to stay true to what the poets conveyed. The essays As my first-ever reading of Chinese poetry, this book is fascinating, and its various translations and contributions certainly opened my eyes to some great poems. I didn't realize there was a notes section until after I read the books however which left me to generally interpret the poems for myself. I often got the feeling I was missing what certain images are supposed to imply since I'm not Chinese myself, but the emotions they gave me tended to stay true to what the poets conveyed. The essays provided here helped extremely and definitely deepened my appreciation for the artistry of poets like Li Po, Po Chü-i, and Tu Fu. Nevertheless, I have to take one star away because this book is extremely, and I mean extremely, male-centric. I think only two of the poets are women, unfortunately. The essays, too, are written entirely by men, leading to such a "great" line from WCW that "we know women can be bitches. You don't need to be a homosexual to know that." Ugh. Fuck that. Nevertheless, I am deeply interested in looking into more Chinese literature and generally expanding my knowledge of Asian literature as a whole (Eastern, Southern, Southeastern, Southwestern, Middle East, etc). Hopefully, I'll continue to be able to locate some great poetry in the Chinese tradition soon.

  7. 4 out of 5

    Diana Wilder

    This book interested me. I had read some examples of translations from the Chinese to English contained in K. C. Graham's classic and indispensable book Poems of the Late T'ang (New York Review Books Classics). The preliminary sections where he discusses the difficulties and joys of translating Chinese poetry is fascinating, and I enjoyed his discussion of the various translations of the same poem done by two different poets. This book is a collection of translations by Ezra Pound, William Carlos This book interested me. I had read some examples of translations from the Chinese to English contained in K. C. Graham's classic and indispensable book Poems of the Late T'ang (New York Review Books Classics). The preliminary sections where he discusses the difficulties and joys of translating Chinese poetry is fascinating, and I enjoyed his discussion of the various translations of the same poem done by two different poets. This book is a collection of translations by Ezra Pound, William Carlos Williams, and some others, most poets of repute and skill. While I don't necessarily think, personally, that the translations were the best ever done, the attraction of this book, for me, was the way the poetry was filtered through the translators. Very interesting. Starting on page 191 is a series of articles, monographs - various - by the various contributors. (For example, CHINESE POETRY AND THE AMERICAN IMAGINATION is found on page 209 is from a symposium held in 1977). Interesting book. I'd say it's a keeper

  8. 5 out of 5

    Liz

    the main attraction of this book is that it's not actually a broad anthology. it focuses on a limited number of poets and a limited number of translators, many of whom were also influential US poets, which is kind of interesting but I didn't get the sense that the point of the anthology was just to analyse the influence of classical Chinese poetry on some Americans, as the blurb suggests. anyway, often you'll find two or three wildly divergent translations of the same poem in this book. apparent the main attraction of this book is that it's not actually a broad anthology. it focuses on a limited number of poets and a limited number of translators, many of whom were also influential US poets, which is kind of interesting but I didn't get the sense that the point of the anthology was just to analyse the influence of classical Chinese poetry on some Americans, as the blurb suggests. anyway, often you'll find two or three wildly divergent translations of the same poem in this book. apparently translating from classical Chinese poetry presents special difficulties, but whatever the source, reading multiple versions is probably the best way to read poetry in translation, approximating the layered meaning of the original.

  9. 4 out of 5

    John Kelly

    Perhaps too eliptical for me. Most translations by a single poet and, as you might know, translations sometime 'work' and sometimes....not so much. The latter part of the book has some very nice translations that were re-translated later by the english poet translator. Only by the comparative translation was the richer understanding of the text evident to me. Again, probably over my head. Perhaps too eliptical for me. Most translations by a single poet and, as you might know, translations sometime 'work' and sometimes....not so much. The latter part of the book has some very nice translations that were re-translated later by the english poet translator. Only by the comparative translation was the richer understanding of the text evident to me. Again, probably over my head.

  10. 5 out of 5

    Leah

    In brief: It could do without the David Hinton translations, but it includes many from Ezra Pound. Kenneth Rexroth is the one to read for translations of Li Ching-Chao.

  11. 4 out of 5

    Randy Cauthen

    Disappointing; not great translations.

  12. 4 out of 5

    Rachel

    Most of these poems are really good. I like the ones about saying goodbye. Several of them reminded me of Rumi. The intro and back matter are as great as the poems themselves, which is rare.

  13. 4 out of 5

    Simona

    a gorgeous anthology. a comprehensive look at chinese poets from different dynasties. read the poem The seller of flowers.

  14. 5 out of 5

    Tim

    Rereading, awesome book.

  15. 5 out of 5

    John

  16. 4 out of 5

    Marcos Aguilar

  17. 5 out of 5

    Février

  18. 4 out of 5

    Liquidlasagna

  19. 5 out of 5

    Billy

  20. 5 out of 5

    Pete

  21. 5 out of 5

    Aaron

  22. 5 out of 5

    Carolina

  23. 4 out of 5

    Carolyn Mayes

  24. 4 out of 5

    Greg Ridge

  25. 4 out of 5

    Eddie Watkins

  26. 5 out of 5

    Amelia

  27. 4 out of 5

    Wrangler Gunter

  28. 5 out of 5

    Angie

  29. 5 out of 5

    Diana

  30. 4 out of 5

    Mark

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