Thursday, June 2, 2011

Seven Feet

Seven Feet
Su Shaolian
   t. Rob Voigt

Mom brought home seven feet of cloth from the market, and I sighed a deep regret. Why hadn’t I gone myself? I tell her, “Ma, seven feet of cloth isn’t enough to make my pants, we need at least eight!” She replies, “Seven feet was good enough before, have you really grown again?” I don’t respond, and she feels herself shrink a bit shorter.

On that piece of cloth, the same old size, mom paints a version of me, then gently with scissors she clips and trims, and gently I cry out, ah!

She cuts me down, cuts me open, then with needles stiches me up, patches me… and makes me grow up.

Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Jay Hopler

Here's one that's a bit backwards - my first attempt at a translation into Chinese, rather than from it. A relatively simple poem by Jay Hopler, I feel like I more or less got it across. Artfully? Who knows. Anywho.

, 無斑點的悲戚
著 / Jay Hopler 
譯 / Rob Voigt 

看著她們--; 就像流血.

她們. 我看橄欖樹上棲息
某種古老的東西 (大約是教堂吧)
後面的月亮上漲, 前幾個昏星--. 從我書齋窗, 可以

那棟房子. 我要知道他那夜晚
在想著什麼 他首次

夜晚; 要知道是否有什麼

O, the Sadness Immaculate
Jay Hopler

The women in Rome are so beautiful,
It's like being beaten to death in slow motion,
Looking at them—; it's like bleeding.

So I don't look
At them. I look at the parrots nesting
In the olive trees,

The moon rising behind some ancient
Something-or-other (a church, probably), the first few stars—. From my study
    window, I can
See the house where Galileo invented

The telescope. I wonder what he was
Thinking about that night—that night
He first searched

Heaven; I wonder what it was he was
Trying not to see.

Monday, May 23, 2011

Chen Kehua Returns

Well, yay! I'm now working on a large set of translations for Chen Kehua (陳克華), and have met with him a couple of times so far. He's a really interesting guy and I like his work a great deal. I'm aiming to have the set completed by October so we can submit it for the Taipei City Gov't fund that could help with publishing costs. Exciting stuff.

I also noticed that my earlier post on him is now the #1 result for an English search for "Chen Kehua" on the Taiwan Google. Hoho! Not that anyone ever searches that. Anyway here's another of his that I quite like:

Loneliness – Autopsy

What is this loneliness? Each night
I raise my knife to perform a self-dissection,
dreaming that in some corner of the body
I might find that hidden locus of infection.

In the small room, a rigid corpse
flat upon the disordered bed, saliva and vomited foodstuffs,
all filth sprinkled on an unclean bedsheet.
Slicing through the ribs, opening fine lines inward
I find the viscera still in good order
but lacking a waxy luster – I probe with my fingertips
and as expected find they have long since frozen, hardened.

It must be glandular, what with these intolerable
periodic eruptions, physiological phenomena
in the blood, or in the thick green bile -
I discover an entire cavity soaked in some kind of rare
and strange hormone, draw it out
and concentrate it, and inject the guinea pigs
to make observations.

(What is this loneliness?)

In the end those small rodents begin to know
and die one by one. I mark down:
In that narrow, crowded cage
they trampled upon one another; they could not see
their own path of reluctant corpses

And so I reach a conclusion. When I
suture up the wounds, return the organs,
daybreak outside the window, crowd of birds chattering in the trees,
in the corner of the lab the myna bird raises an anxious echo,
fiercely beating itself against the bars of its cage.

“Are you lonely?” I go to feed him,
offering up my entrails.

Thursday, May 5, 2011


in transparent veins,
green blood cells swim…
May is just this kind of living thing.

May strolls naked through the streets.
In the hills, it breathes in golden hairs.
In the wilderness, it sings in silver light.
Just so, May wanders unseen.

Zhan Bing (詹冰)

Wednesday, March 9, 2011

Chen Kehua

Saw Chen Kehua (陳克華) at a lecture at Shida recently. He's an interesting fellow, relatively young, a doctor by profession, and openly gay. I won't try to describe the lecture, 'cause I think it'd be hard to describe well why I liked it. Basically though, he was extremely blunt, about many things (including that few in the class had read his work) and it was great. He has a website that is Web 1.0 in the best way. Here's a quick shot at a poem. Though it's relatively simple, I found it pretty hard to translate actually, and the original I think is not quite as "floofy" or "out-there" as maybe my translation is. Does that make any sense? Related notes, the "unbright" in the title has some pretty strong Buddhist implications in the original, and in fact is literally the translation of the word Avidya. Hopefully that factoid will be somewhat enlightening. Okay.


活著 忽而有淚
像與夢有約 但夢終究缺席
我可以遺忘那夢 但失落仍在
我懷抱這失落 於人間求其次
再其次其次其次 其次--活著
就忽而有淚 但忘了淚的理由
像隱隱明白生 生的侷限與徒然
又毫不明白生 身在此生的茫然與盲點
只是忽而有淚 人間之淚
落在夢的夜空 比黑暗更虛無

unbright tears

alive          and suddenly with tears
image and dream arrange to meet          but dream doesn’t show
I can forget that dream          but loss still remains
I cherish, I hold this loss          as the human world seeks the next
and the next the next the next          the next  -- alive
so, suddenly with tears          but tears’ cause forgotten
as though faintly understanding life          life’s boundary and futility
then understanding not at all          body in this life’s vast and blind spot
just suddenly with tears          tears of the human world
falling in dream’s night sky         than darkness more empty
than starlight more

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

throwin' her voice

Well, here I am, back to the blog after quite a long silence, caused by, in succession: illness, graduate school applications, reading a ton of theoretical whatnots, a trip to japan, more grad school apps, and the Fulbright midyear conference. The second half of my grant will be much more focused on actually producing translations than was the first, and I'm going to tie myself to this blog for some accountability. It'll be great.

Today's poet is Xia Yu (夏宇), the pen name of Huang Qingqi (黃慶綺), born in 1956, still living, and one of Taiwan's great post-modernist poets. I was recommended to read her in close succession by both a Taiwanese friend and the Fulbright Taiwan director, so I figured it must be done. I picked up her 1990 book "Ventriloquy" the other day and have been really enjoying it so far, so below are relatively quick attempts at the first three poems in the book. They are definitely tough to understand in the original, so translation is not a straightforward task, but hey, might as well give it a shot. She's quickly found her way onto my list of Taiwan favorites, and I'm excited to read/translate more. Hmm.


在牆壁唯一的隙縫中, 我看見
她捧著花, 儀式,
許諾, 親吻
背著它: 命運, 我苦苦練就的腹語術
(舌頭那匹溫暖的水獸  馴養地
在小小的水族箱中  蠕動)
那獸說: 是的, 我願意.


I went to the wrong room
and missed my own wedding.
through the only crack in the wall, I see
it all march on perfectly.   he wears a white tux
she carries flowers; ceremony,
promises, a kiss
carrying it: destiny, my hard-practiced ventriloquy
(tongue that warm water-beast   trained
in its tiny aquarium   squirming)
that beast speaks:  yes, I do.



在她的國度, 一張
她暗中畫著虛線, 無限
一座分類詳盡的失物博物館, 好極了.
另外呢, 就是那些命運以及
她草擬了秋天的徒步計劃 (目的不明

the hidden empress and her unseen city

in her kingdom, one flat
map strains for interpretation.
a fleeing bronze statue, unfinished
deathbed notes and pitfalls seen through promises
mixed up clues and vanishing fingerprints, along with
all the lost glasses, umbrellas, and so on
these compose the kingdom.
in secret she paints dotted lines, a limitless
expanding territory.
a thoroughly catalogued Museum of Lost Things, wonderful.
besides, isn’t it all just the fates and
yet-unseen ciphers of history
she’s drawn up plans for the walking of autumn  (goals unclear
but will at every crossroads turn right)
written a light opera
fed the cat
scrawled the note
and tied up a butterfly knot
on this never-repenting heart



(有人贊成壓抑) 至於噴嚏, 她說:
神氣 (不知那些餅由何製成以及為何
帶餅而來) 然後我們就和好之類了
, 的光, 的光

details overlooked in the detective novel

some people like to cough some people even more like at a concert
to cough especially if it’s a concerto especially in the 2nd movement some people just hold back
(some people approve of oppression) as for sneezing, she says:
whenever entering a new place sit down atop the one chair nearest the main
entrance to first compress the air in the space between seat cushion and
seat cushion and then with slightly restless posture vibrate against the chairback
I from my heart-bottom’s deep place send out a birdcry crowd of ming ba ba ba ming
ba ba ba melodies if at this time there are some cookies he just will
carrying cookies enter wearing a kind of completely ingenuous
expression (unknowing where those cookies were produced and why
he came bearing cookies) and then we just are reconciled like so
and in 3D quoting the leftovers of my own admonitions
still fiercely becoming within a hundred meters seven wearing baseball caps
amidst them one he unimpeded declares all sorts of
unexpectedly brought expressions of
the rift of intimacy I from my heart-bottom’s deep place send out
honk honk hoot hoot nonsense static from my deep place heart-bottom’s deep place
complete we mutually each other watch then from all directions emits a faint
light, a light, a light
a light in the air starts the most mysterious undercurrent and then with
an extremely deep modest posture arrives stirring up three to four sneezes

Thursday, October 21, 2010

Gosh-darn Earth, Always Spinning and Whatnot

Haven't posted in too long! Been busy with many fun things - including starting to study the Taiwanese dialect. Superawesomefun. Anyway, here's a poem from Shen Zhifang, currently a professor in the Chinese department at Tunghai University in Taichung, Taiwan. Kind of a light-hearted poem, neat idea, bumped into it today and figured I'd give it a go. I'm not head-over-heels for this one, but I'm definitely interested in checking out more of his stuff. 不敢入睡的原因 對,一切都是因為 地球自轉的關係 先是我好疲倦的躺在床上,床好疲倦的躺在 地球上,我們一起準備入睡。因為地球自轉 的關係,月光開始一寸一寸把我推醒 推我向地球那頭,一寸一寸,滑落 地球就翻過來睡在床上,床就翻過來睡在我 敏感單薄的背上,壓得脊椎與聲帶咯咯作響 ……我不敢吵醒別人 我不敢入睡。我怕啊我怕一不小心睡著了 地球和床和我將立刻向無底的宇宙墜落 --那,那所有的連續劇怎麼辦? 等待繼續曝光的各種內幕怎麼辦? 已經高價買進的大筆股票怎麼辦怎麼辦? 我不敢入睡。為了所有人美麗的明天 趴在床上奮力支撐地球的重量,直到 唉天亮 一切絕對是 該死的,地球自轉的關係 -沈志方 Why I Won't Sleep Yes, it’s all because of the earth’s turning. First I, exhausted, lay atop the bed – the bed, exhausted, lays atop the earth, and together we prepare for sleep. Because of the earth’s turning, the moonlight starts to inch by inch shake me awake, pushing me towards the earth, inch by inch, slipping, until the earth turns to sleep atop the bed, the bed turns to sleep atop my frail, sensitive back, pressing out creaking cracks from my spine and throat …but I musn’t wake the others. I will not sleep. I fear, ah, I fear if I fall asleep, carelessly, earth and bed and I will fall out into that bottomless universe --and, and then what would become of the soap operas? What of all the news stories waiting to break? What of all the high-priced stocks, yet unsold? I will not sleep. For everyone’s beautiful tomorrow, I’ll press against my bed and prop up the weight of this earth, until (oh!) daybreak. It’s definitely all because of the earth’s goddamned turning. -Shen Zhifang, t. Rob Voigt