To begin ...

As the twentieth century fades out
the nineteenth begins
it is as if nothing happened
though those who lived it thought
that everything was happening
enough to name a world for & a time
to hold it in your hand
unlimited.......the last delusion
like the perfect mask of death

Saturday, September 24, 2016

Hiromi Ito’s transcreation of The Heart Sutra


Translated from Japanese by Jeffrey Angles

While looking freely and without effort at the world
While walking with people, searching for the path
In his spiritual quest to discern based on deep wisdom
Avalokiteshvara arrived at a certain thought.
The self is.  All sorts of things are. 
I sense that
I recognize that
I think about that
And it is the case that
In all things we discern
We are ourselves.
However, that means

Those things do not exist
I have understood that clearly
And I have escaped
All suffering and trouble.
Listen to this, Shariputra.

Being is not any different than non-being.
Non-being is not any different than being.

Things we think are really are not.
If we think of something as non-being that leads to being.

Those things too are just as they are.

Listen to this, Shariputra.

All things that are, are not. 
There is also no living or dying.
There is also no dirty or clean.
There is also no increasing or decreasing.

To put it another away
In non-being
There is no being.
There is also no sensing, no recognizing
Also no thinking, no discerning.
There are also no eyes, no ears, no noses, no tongues
Also no bodies, no hearts.
There are also no colors, no shapes, no voices, no scents, no flavors,
Also no tangible things, no thought-provoking things.
There is also no world that can be seen with the eyes.
There is also no world that can be sensed by the heart.
There are various things that arise from the workings of the human
Ranging from the world that can be seen with the eyes
To the world that can be sensed by the heart
But none of those exist,
Yet neither do those workings go away. 

There is also no suffering of not knowing.
Nor does the suffering of not knowing go away.
There is also no aging, dying, and suffering
Nor does aging, dying, and suffering go away
Because people do not know
There are kinds of various kinds of suffering as grow old and die
But none of those exist
Yet neither do those sufferings go away.

There is also no suffering in living. 
There is also no confusion that creates suffering.
There is also no hope our suffering and our confusion
Will one day go away
Yet neither is there any effort to rid ourselves
Of suffering and confusion.

There is no knowing.
There is no gaining.

In other words, we cannot gain.
Those who search for the way
Follow this wisdom.
And then.
The things our hearts dwell upon go away.

All things we dwell upon go away.
Fear will go away.
All confusion will grow distant,
And the heart free of suffering will grow clear.
Present, past, future
All awakened ones always follow this wisdom
They have lived by it and will live by it.
And then.
It is clearly possible to awaken. 
Know this wisdom that will carry you to the far shore. 
This is a powerful incantation.
This is a powerful incantation that you will hear clearly. 
This is the ultimate incantation. 
This is an incantation that knows no equal.
All suffering will leave you immediately.
This is the truth.  This is not a false claim.

I will tell you this wise incantation.
Here, I will tell you.  This is how it goes. 

Pāra gate
Pāra samgate
Bodhi svāhā

This has been the Heart Sutra.

[Translator’s note: In the 1980s, Hiromi Ito emerged as one of Japan’s foremost poets, thanks to her powerful and dramatic writing about motherhood, childrearing, and sexual desire. In recent years, she has been writing more about aging, suffering, and the impermanency of life—a theme brought home first by the death of her parents, then her dog, and then her partner the British-American artist Harold Cohen. Although Buddhism has been an important element in her work since at least the mid-1980s, recent years have seen her returning to the Buddhist classics more frequently as she reflects on what they say about life, death, and the nature of being.
            In 2010, she published The Heart Sutra Explained (Yomitoki han’nya shingyō), in which she provides essays, personal reflections, and modern contemporary poetic translations of well-known Buddhist texts. The poem included here comes from that book and is Ito’s modern Japanese translation of The Heart Sutra (Hannya shingyō), one of the best-known Buddhist texts. The original consists of a monologue delivered by the enlightened bodhisattva Avalokitesvara to Shariputra, a disciple who is seeking wisdom. In this terse and poetic monologue, Avalokitesvara explains the fundamental Buddhist insight that all things are empty and illusory, including form, feeling, volition, perception, and consciousness (what the Buddhist philosophers call the five skandha or “aggregates”). In translating Ito’s text, instead of returning back to the original Chinese, I have relied on her contemporary Japanese translation in order to showcase her individual interpretation. The text concludes with the mantra, which if read in Sanskrit goes “Gyate gyate pāragate pārasamgyate bodhi svāhā,” and means something like “Gone, gone, to the other shore, gone, reach, accomplish enlightenment.”]

Reprinted from Poems of Hiromi Ito, Tashiko Hirata & Takako Arai, with translations by Jeffrey Angles, Vagabond Press / Asia Pacific Series, 2016

Thursday, September 22, 2016

Outside-in / Inside-out Schedule

The following is the schedule for the major festival of “outside & subterranean poetry,” which takes as its point of departure Barbaric Vast & Wild, the anthology/assemblage co-edited by Jerome Rothenberg & John Bloomberg-Rissman.  The total Outside-in / Inside-out festival, as announced, will take place at venues across the City of Glasgow from September to November 2016. 

4th October – 8th October 2016
Glasgow, Scotland 

Tuesday 4th October
MANY Studios, 3 Ross St, Glasgow G1 5AR

5-7pm             Opening of Palimpsest Exhibition & drinks reception
                        Welcoming Remarks
                        Readings: John Bloomberg-Rissman, Nuala Watt, and Nat Raha

Wednesday 5th October
5th floor Alwyn Williams Building, Lilybank Gardens, University of Glasgow

9.30 am           Registration open; tea & coffee
10-10.15          Welcome remarks: Vassiliki Kolocotroni, Jeffrey Robinson, Colin Herd, Nuala Watt, nick-e Melville 
10.15-11.45     Introductory Panel 
10.15-10.30: Andrea Brady – Inside Lyric: Poetry in Prison
10.30-10.45: Sarah Hepworth – Glasgow University’s Special Collections of the Literary Outside
10.45-11.00: Sandeep Parmar – Coterie, Community and Censure: UK Poetry and Race
11.00-11.15: Jeffrey Robinson – Outside-in / Inside-out: An Overview
11.15-11.45: Discussion
11.45-1.30       Break for lunch (self-catered)
1.30-3              Parallel Panel Sessions A and B

Panel A: Propriety and Legitimacy - 5th Floor Alwyn Williams Building

1.30-1.45:  Elizabeth Marie Young – Obscenity and Poetic Propriety in Latin Priapic Verse
1.45-2:  Kirstie Blair – Working Class, 19th Century Newspaper Poetry
2-2.15:  Nicholas Karavatos – Echo Location: John Giorno Performs the Culture Industry
2.15-2.30: Isabel Waidner – Gaudy Bauble
2:30-3:  Discussion

Panel B: Identity and the Body - Edwin Morgan Room, 5 University Gardens

1.30-1.45: Ed Luker – ‘things don’t represent’: Fred Moten’s fugitive surface
1.45-2: Rebecca Tamas – WITCH: A Poem of Female Strangeness
2-2.15: Nisha Ramayaa – Moving Devotion, Moving Displacement: Decolonising Responses to Mirabai and Bhanu Kapil
2.15-2.30: Eric Eisner – Keats in Drag: Mark Doty, Cockney Poetics and Queer Excess
2.30-3: Discussion
3-3.30              Break for tea & coffee - 5th floor Alwyn Williams
3.30-5              Parallel Panel Sessions C and D

Panel C:  The Space of the Page - 5th Floor Alwyn Williams 

3.30-3.45: Sarah Hayden – POEM? POEM? POEM? POEM? POEM? POEM?: On Reading Peter Roehr
3.45-4: Mark Tardi – Stratal Geometries
4-4.15:  Rachel Robinson – Betweenness in the Work of Cecilia Vicuña
4.15-4.30: Rey Conquer – Line and Layout in German Experimental Poetry: what is at stake?
4.30-5:  Discussion

Panel D: Figuring the Outside - Edwin Morgan Room

3.30-3.45: Robert Snyderman – Autochthonous Roads, Visceral Apostrophe: Tradition Beyond Human Control, or Why it Happened that C.D. Wright Found besmilir brigham
3.45-4: Sara Guyer – Out of My Knowledge/Knowledge of the World (Clare, Bouabré)
4-4.15: Peter France – Salute – to Singing: Gennady Aygi and Chuvash Culture
4.15-4.30: David Miller – The Proverbials
4.30-5:  Discussion

CCA (Centre for Contemporary Arts), 350 Sauchiehall Street, Glasgow, G2 3JD

Participants’ book table, sponsored by Aye-Aye Books

7.30-11            Barbaric Vast and Wild launch, with a mixture of performative-critical papers and readings by Jerome Rothenberg, John Bloomsberg-Rissman, Andrea Brady, Diane Rothenberg, Tawona Sithole, Aonghas MacNeacail, Sandra Alland, Holly Pester, Nicole Peyrafitte, and Pierre Joris

Thursday 6th October
5th Floor Alwyn Williams Building

8.30am            Coffee & tea
9-10.30            Parallel Panel Sessions E and F

Panel E: Language(s) of the Outside - 5th Floor Alwyn Williams 
9-9.15: Jeffrey Robinson – Romanticism and Outsider Poetics
9.15-9.30: Ellen Dillon – A poetry at the gates of existence: negotiating (with) the outside in the work of Peter Gizzi and Peter Manson
9.30-9.45: Colin Herd – Show-orations: The Sophists and Contemporary Poetry
9:45-10:  Nicole Peyrafitte and Pierre Joris – Occitan Poetry
10-10:30:  Discussion 

Panel F: Poetics of Trauma/Repression/ Expression - Edwin Morgan Room
9-9:15: Will Rowe – The Image of Suffering in Colonial, Postcolonial and contemporary works
9.15-9.30:  Dominic Williams – Translating Illegibility in the Scrolls of Auschwitz
9.30-9.45:  Kate Sutherland – Using Law Against Itself: Muriel Rukeyser’s Documentary Poetics
9.45-10:  Laura Rae – Pieces of Me: Poetry as Response to Trauma, PTSD and Sexual Assault
10-10.30:  Discussion

10.30-10.45     Break for coffee & tea - 5th Floor Alwyn Williams 

10.45-12.15     Parallel Panel Sessions G and H

Panel G: Sound / Music / Voice - 5th Floor Alwyn Williams  

10.45-11: Mike Saunders – Noise and Purchase
11-11.15: Hanna Tuulikki – Air falbh leis na h-eòin / Away with the birds
11.15-11.30: Robin Purves – Keiji Haino: Asynchronicity, Mora-Timing and the Undoing of Rock
11.30-11.45: Katie Ailes – Contemporary Performance-based Poetry
11.45-12.15: Discussion
Panel H: Outside Subjectivity - Edwin Morgan Room

10.45-11: Iain Matheson – My Own Private Imago: Introspectibilia in Gaston Bachelard and Iris Murdoch
11-11.15: Dunja Baus and kerry doyle – Desiring Thresholds
11.15-11.30: Katy Hastie – Blows Against the Big Brother Tongue
11.30-12.00:  Discussion
12.15-1.15       Break for lunch (self-catered)

The Homeless Library, viewings, discussion - 5th Floor Alwyn Williams
1.15-2.15         Philip Davenport and Homeless Library participants & exhibit of ‘The Homeless Library’

2.15-3.30         Break for coffee & tea (Alwyn Williams) with private viewings of Ian Hamilton Finlay and Edwin Morgan archives – Special Collections, 12th floor, The University of Glasgow Library
3.30-4.30         Sandeep Parmar, guided discussion on Race and US/UK Poetics

Lighthouse Gallery, 11 Mitchell Lane, Glasgow G1 3NU

5-7pm             Viewing of Design and the Concrete Poem exhibition, with remarks by curator Bronac Ferran

Poetry Club, 100 Eastvale Place, Glasgow, G3 8QG

7.30-11            Outside and Subterranean Poetry Night with performances by Susan Bee, Gerry Loose, Julie Carr, Maggie O’Sullivan, Will Rowe, nick-e melville, Liliane Lijn, Charles Bernstein, Gerrie Fellows, and Peter Manson

Friday 7th October
Glasgow Women’s Library, 23 Landressy Street, Glasgow G40 1BP

9.30am            Coffee & tea
10-11               Discussion on Archives and Experimental Poetry
10-10.15:  Adele Patrick – The GWL and its Archives
10.15-10.30: Michael Parsons – The work of Lily Greenham
10.30-10.45:  Liliane Lijn – On her own work
10.45-11: Discussion
11-11.30          Break for coffee & tea and Poetry Discussion Point
11.30-1            Parallel Panel Sessions I and J

Panel I: Gender, Reading, and Form - Main Conference Room 

11.30-11.45: Annie Higgen – A is for Auden
11.45-12: Sophie Collins – A performance of the act of reading: feminist epistemologies in translation
12-12.15: Nuala Watt – Partial Sight and Poetic Form
12.15-12.30: Juana Adcock and Jennifer Williams – BODY: Text is Flesh
12.30-1: Discussion

Panel J: Translation and Border States - Breakout Room
11.30-11.45: Piotr Gwiazda – Alone with Language: On Exophonic Poetry
11.45-12: Wanda O’Connor – Entwurf
12-12.15: Jacob McGuinn – Fragmenting Figuration: Celan inside Paris outside Blanchot
12.15-12.30: Calum Rodger, Rachel McCrum and Jonathan Lamy – Cinepoems: Scotland/ Quebec
12.30-1: Discussion

1-2:      Lunch and Poetry Discussion Point

2-3.30: Parallel Panel Sessions K and L

Panel K: The Space of Performance - Main Conference Room

2-2.15: Sandra Dias – The Evanescent Body: Poetical Experimental Performance in Portugal
2.15-2.30: Scott Thurston – Jennifer Pike and Movement as Poetry
2.30-2.45: Jane Goldman – Room of One’s Own: Woolf Supper Launch
2.45-3: Theresa Munoz – Interactivity, the Body and Human Emotion in Digital Poetry
3-3.30:  Discussion

Panel L: Ecologies - Break-out Room

2-2:15 Daisy Lafarge – Affirmation as Resistance
2.15-2.30: Srishti Krishamoorthy – Disruptive Botanical Surfaces in Susan Howe’s Poetry since 1990
2.30-2.45: Julie Carr – Women, War and Labour in the Poetry of Lorine Niedecker
2.45-3: Discussion

3.30-4  Break with coffee & tea and Poetry Discussion Point

Main Conference Room

4-5       Holly Pester workshop on GWL archives

Glasgow Royal Concert Hall ‘Music Studio,’ Buchanan Galleries, Glasgow, G2 3NY

8-11     Outside Chance: ‘poetry lottery’ open mic extravaganza

 Saturday 8th October
MANY Studios
9.30-10            Coffee & tea
10-11               Digital Transformations – Andrew Prescott, Bronac Ferran and Tom Schofield in discussion
11-11.45          Readings: Jerome Rothenberg, Alec Finlay, and Lila Matsumoto

11.45-12          Break

12-1                 Charles Bernstein respondent

END: Outside-in / Inside-out

Sunday, September 18, 2016

Brandon Som: Two Elegies & Title Poem from “The Tribute Horse,” with a note by Marjorie Perloff

Elegy (I)

My grandfather’s grave in scorched grass has two names in the gravestone’s granite: one with strokes—silent and once forbidden; the other lettered—a stowaway vowel between one aspirate, one liquid. Speech wears the written in the speaker’s absence to stay the sound & breath’s passing. I read that the wood, for Thoreau, was resonator Sundays when towns tolled bells—Lincoln, Acton, Bedford, or Concord. Pines with resin reverbed in sap what wind sent. A Chinese immigrant, on his Pacific-crossing, carried coaching papers for the memorizing. Approaching the island station, these pages were tossed to sea. A moon’s light in a ship’s wake might make a similar papertrail. My grandfather, aboard at twelve, practiced a paper-name.  What ensued was a debt of sound.

Elegy (II)

 Of Babel’s moon, I have notes. It was a marked card. It lit a chandelier out of an acacia. The trowel glinted with it. Crickets were out too, and, as if they sightread stars, settled in to leg-kick song. A light wind blew seed into the web between tines of a hayrake. A soldier stood letting his horse drink well water from his helmet. The moon trembled in it. There was nothing forsaken about it. It simply issued a shadow while burnishing a surface. This morning, I read that when returning from a trail, Thoreau knew he had had visitors by what was left behind: a wreath of evergreen, a name in pencil on a walnut leaf, a willow wand woven into a ring. Its path not without disruption, the moon, in its orbit, tethers and tethers again. The morning of the funeral, my father dressed my grandfather: from the eyelet, each button, new to full; the tie’s knot loose as if it had swallowed a small bird.

The Tribute Horse 


The handscroll woven from silk
has a finch in the cane rendered
in the ink of lampblack. Because
with some beauty you feel the need

to talk aloud to it, tell it about itself,
I got closer until I could see the depth
produced by the silk sucking on
the soot, & slightly self-conscious,

I addressed the bird, asked whether
it were sketched with a switch
of willow or a brush of goat’s hair.
It was endeared & twittered there,

flit in the cane. It asked me if I were
the scholar or the angler, if I saw
the horsemen with the tribute horse
pass the village on the way to court.


Often ink-stones were roof-tiles,
clay wattle from imperial houses
with names like Bronze-Bird-Terrace.
What kept rain out, kept ink wet.

A brick of ink fledges—a bird
in the stroke settles on the strokes’
branches, lifts & leaves them
a metronome’s sway. A hollow

stroke returns to smoke traces.
The dry brush returns & wets
its bristles in ground soot and gum
kept wet in the stone’s well,

that house for the ink’s dark.                                                                                                       
Under roof is want & over,
a well’s winch, a finch’s chit,
light tappings sounding the depths.


If my song were smoke, I would knot
the braid & cut its movement upwards,
lariat the sinews, harnessing bone
to muscle the kite of the cane birds.

I would knot & bird the line as birds
notch the branch or leave steps
in bank mud. I would thieve the tracks
as I would the pine’s shape as it shadowed                                                
& stretched a figure past the furthest
branches’ reach. Each tree shadows.
Each tree shades. Each tree thirsts
& traffics resin. What a pine darkens

foreshadows its pitch in the pine-smoke.
My song, if my song were smoke, would
rise from kindling & reach, pine-like,
past itself to where the wind takes it.

A calligrapher, in order to regain
the confidence of birds, selects
a whisker brush fringed with rabbit fur
& bundled with an ivory mount

on a handle hewn from bamboo.
The whisker is plucked from field mice
& the fur from the rabbit’s flank
in autumn before its winter molt.

With thumb & forefinger, a bird’s
beak at the wrist’s service, he has
mastered his strokes—bending
weed, sheep’s leg, dropping dew.

But it is a seed-eating bird he wants
in the stroke-work of the word,
the trill answer in the coarse rustle
of brush across the page grain.


Dear finch, that you may have fed
on the worm that if left to live
makes the silk thread, on which
—woven now—you, lighter
at the breast, darker on the wing,
flit and rest, poised for flight
out of the cane, suggests a weaving
finer than I might have guessed.

Legend says an empress found
in her tea a cocoon undone
by the water’s heat, & wound
the thread around her finger.

Spinners need spools, dear finch.
Four sloughs & the worm weaves
a cocoon for wings. Seems you,
dear finch, have borrowed these.

[Jacket Statement by Marjorie Perloff.   “My grandfather, aboard at twelve, practiced a paper-name.  What ensued was a debt of sound.”  That name, which will also be the poet’s own, contains “a stowaway vowel between one aspirate, one liquid” (S-O-M), and it constitutes, in Brandon Som’s The Tribute Horse, a debt of sight as well as sound.  Rarely in our time has a young poet produced a set of poems in which citation and allusion have created such perfectly rendered ideograms, a collection in which ekphrasis, whether of seascape photographs or, as in the title poem, a Chinese handscroll, can generate such luminous detail, at once “Chinese” and yet wholly American in their contemporary reference and argot.  Whether contemplating the way “tunnels turn / The windows of the [subway] train to mirrors” or composing homophonic translations of Li Po’s “Night Thoughts,” Brandon Som makes not only every word, but every syllable and letter echo and resonate.  The Tribute Horse is a magical book.]

Monday, September 12, 2016

Jerome Rothenberg: Pound, Yip, & Chinese Poetry in America

[The following will serve as an introduction to a new book of Wai-lim Yip's English language poetry, to be published next year in Hong Kong.]

It is almost pro forma, in talking of Ezra Pound and Chinese poetry, that we go back to T.S. Eliot’s remark that “Pound is the inventor of Chinese poetry for our time.”  Hugh Kenner does it.  Wai-lim Yip does it.  It is a statement that rings true, once one allows that Eliot was making it with tongue securely in cheek and looking for the maximum effect.  It is also a two-fold statement, balanced in an obvious way between “inventor of Chinese poetry” and “for our time.”  And yet, curiously, Wai-lim Yip omits the second part (“in our time”) when he first quotes Eliot in Pound’s Cathay, and Kenner, with more tongue and more cheek than Eliot, condenses it in the title of the pertinent chapter in his book The Pound Era, to read simply “The Invention of China.”  (Reading that last one, here, in China, is something of an embarrassment – but only if you miss the irony that lies behind it.)
            What did Pound do, then, and what did he fail to do, when his attention turned, circa 1914, to the domain of Chinese poetry?  For the first question, I will venture an answer on my own; for the second I will fall back on the work of Wai-lim Yip, who used his own “special view,” as a poet and a scholar, to reveal an actual Chinese poetry or to invent it anew for the era after Pound.
            The work by Pound to which all of this refers is Cathay, a small book of sixteen poems published in 1914 and subtitled Translations by Ezra Pound: For the Most Part from the Chinese of Rihaku [Li Po], from the notes of the late Ernest Fenollosa, and the Decipherings of the Professors Mori and Ariga.  The small scale of the work and the qualifications around its composition are a first point worth noting – in particular that Pound is avoiding a claim for authenticity or expertise as the author/translator.  Nor is he setting out to be an inventor of a country or a language or a poetry not his own.  Rather he is taking a series of raw notes at a notable remove (via Japanese) from the Chinese original, and he is making poems of a kind that seems new to him in English.
            The rawness of the notes leaves him with the nuclei from which poems can be made – “[radiant] clusters,” possibly, as he would elsewhere have it.  He had attempted a few years before to do something of the sort from finished if awkward translations by Herbert A. Giles, but there was too much interference there – too much of Giles’s finish – for him to work his way through.  But Fenollosa led him word by word, suggesting what might be there, but not distracting him:

                  blue                blue                 river                 bank,             grass
                  luxuriously    luxuriously   garden             in                   willow
                  fill/full           fill/full            storied house on                  girl
                                                                                       in first bloom of youth
                  white              (ditto)             just / face       window         door

 which Pound transformed into: 

Blue, blue is the grass around the river
                         And the willows have overfilled the close garden.
And, within, the mistress, in the midmost of her
White, white of face, hesitates, passing the door.

From the perspective of those who practice poetry, what happened here (and more so elsewhere in Cathay) was that Pound, who had been looking for a way to write a new but still measured poetry of sharp perceptions [his version of vers libre], moved his work forward by this contact with masters like Li Po.  Where his famous imagiste poem of 1913, “In a Station of the Metro,” seems in retrospect to be a naïve example of a barely suppressed metaphor, the poems in Cathay – no matter their remove from the originals – allow a range of experience, Pound’s in alignment with those of the Chinese poets, that is a genuine breakthrough in English and that so far stands the test of time.  In the process, then, it pushes his own practice forward, advances it through an act of translation that goes beyond translation (where translation itself means  [literally] a “going beyond” or “carrying across”).
            What is Pound’s “invention,” then, his discovery in the act of translating and composing the poems in Cathay?
            Kenner in The Pound Era distinguishes three “principles” that arise here and in Pound’s other workings from that time.  These are worth setting down here, as a way to get us started: [1] the vers-libre principle, that the single line is the unit of composition [this has the vaguest connection to classical Chinese but is crucial to how Pound sets out in his “translations”]; [2] the Imagist principle, that a poem may build its effects out of things it sets before the mind’s eye by naming them; [3] the lyrical principle, that words or names, being ordered in time, are bound together and recalled into each other’s presence by recurrent sounds.  [These last two show a connection to aspects of Chinese poetry that Pound may have sensed through Fenollosa/Mori and that Yip articulates more clearly over a half-century later.]
There is, however, more to be said about what Pound discovered in his play among the isolated words in the Fenollosa/Mori notes and what has changed from that while coming into common practice in the years after Cathay:

First (and of immediate importance to much of my own practice), a means for making poetry via translation that can then function as a comment not only on the past but on our own time as well.  Here we can mention Kenner’s reading of Cathay in the context of the First World War or what Pound does a little later, say, in his Homage to Sextus Propertius from the Latin.  This we might speak of as the principle of translation as composition.

Second, the use of a range of appropriative techniques, which have become very common and possibly more radical in the postmodern period.  This could include translation but would extend as well into forms of collage and found poetry – as acts of writing through other poets or other texts (to borrow John Cage’s phrase).  The Cantos throughout are a marvelous proving ground for this kind of work.  And here we might use the term principle of appropriation, to set this approach apart.

3.  Moving away from translation and appropriation as such, Pound’s work in Cathay shows a way of making poetry from lists of words – connected or not at their origin.  As a form of systemic or process poetry, this has been utilized by Jackson Mac Low in his Asymmetries and Light Poems, by David Antin in his Meditations, by me in The Lorca Variations, and by various other poets both in America and elsewhere.  This we might call, after Mac Low, the nuclei principle.

But what about the invention of China or of Chinese poetry?
What is left to say is that Pound set a style that came to typify early twentieth-century translations into English/American and that he later pointed (in Canto 49, say) toward other styles that were possibly closer to the classical Chinese: 

                        Sun up; work
                        sundown; to rest
                        dig well and drink of the water
                        dig field; eat of the grain
                        Imperial power is? and to us what is it? 

And even this of course is the bringing-to-light of a terse telegraphic style (a poetry of essential words) while canceling out the other, recognizably formal qualities of the original – fixed measure and rhyme.                           
It fell to Wai-lim Yip – a poet first and foremost – to unearth all this for us – not to invent China over again but to explain and explore aspects of the traditional poetry that link to American works after and beyond Pound and William Carlos Williams.  From Yip’s work we get what we might call the montage principle based on both a knowledge and practice of Chinese poetry and an observation of the work of later American poets, including Pound himself in the Cantos.  (That Yip’s approach is not only that of a scholar but of a deeply involved poet is also something worth noting.)  In the course of doing this Yip has opened for us not only a sensible view of Chinese poetry but a profound understanding of the nature of translation and the possibilities of poetry as they emerge from an actual practice.

The central works in Yip’s writings about poetry as it moves between China and America (or America and China) are in three books published over the last thirty years: Pound’s Cathay, Chinese Poetry: Major Modes and Genres, and Diffusion of Distances: Dialogues Between Chinese and Western Poetics.[1] Throughout there is an attempt to differentiate and in some sense to reconcile the way two languages and traditions – Chinese and English – frame reality in the act of making poetry.  The work of American poets – of some not all American poets – pursues a poetry of juxtapositions that arises more readily in the open – relatively open –  syntax of Chinese poets like Li Po and Wang Wei.  In Yip’s chronology the starting point is Pound’s Cathay, but the stronger (theoretical) underpinning is from the great Russian filmmaker Sergei Eisenstein, who also worked from an interest in the Chinese written character, not only as a “medium for poetry” (to use the title of Fenollosa’s famous essay) but as a “medium for montage,” which for Eisenstein was the basis of the new art of film, of “moving images.”  Thus Yip brings together the following: Eisenstein’s definition of montage, “the juxtaposition of two separate shots by splicing them together,” and Pound’s similar comments, from more than a decade earlier, comparing “In a Station at the Metro” with a traditional Japanese haiku (and, by implication, other Asian poetry as well): “The ‘one image poem’ is a form of super-position, that is to say, it is one idea set on top of another”[2] [rather than a comparison, in the manner of metaphor and simile].
            Here Yip writes as a poet, understanding that to achieve these results to  maximum effect, syntax itself – the grammar of connectives – gets in the way, or gets in the way until Pound and others begin to break it, leading to the relatively open syntax of later American poetry.  Here are some examples cited by Yip: 

                        Ezra Pound: lines from various cantos 

                        Rain; empty river, a voyage
                        . . . . . . . . . . . .
                        Autumn moon; hills rose above lakes
                        . . . . . . . . . . . .
                        Broad water; geese line out with the autumn.
                                                                        from Canto 49 

                        Prayer: hands uplifted
                        Solitude: a person, a Nurse.
                                            from Canto 54 

                        William Carlos Williams: “The Locust Tree in Flower”

                        Gertrude Stein (who is also grist for Yip’s mill): Orange 

                        Why is a feel / oyster / an egg / stir. / Why is it orange / centre.
                       / A show at tick / and loosen / loosen it / so to speak / sat. /
                       It was an extra leaker / with a sea spoon, / it was an extra licker /
                       with a see spoon. 
                        [Yip’s division into short verse lines to highlight the juxtaposed

And later, Gary Snyder: 

                        First day of the world
                        white rock ridges
                                                               new born
                        Jay chatters            the first time
                        Rolling a smoke by the campfire
                        New!              never before.
                        bitter coffee, cold
                        dawn wind, sun of the cliffs.

To which let me add the following [complete poems], which I have cited elsewhere, comparing them to traditional forms of verbal juxtaposition in many cultures:

                        Kenneth Koch: In the Ranchhouse at Dawn

                        O corpuscle!
                        O wax town!

                         Barrett Watten [American “language poet”]

                         A man torments the sun.
                        Cows are disturbed by their calves.

                        Robert Kelly [one of a longer series]

                        the last days like this
                        a red stone
                        all we know of fire

The examples multiply as we think about them and the topics raised by Wai-lim Yip really take off from here.  In the process of course Yip himself enters as a poet, to give his writing an authority that can only, from my perspective, ring true from within poetry.  Here, therefore, is an example of Yip, writing in English, as a poet, like many others [Reznikoff, Hollo, Codrescu, Joris, Waldrop, Bukowski], who has himself made the move between languages:

conception – 


grip : 



immediate mounting

flare-up from

feathers and clouds
a thousand piles
a million piles
break up 

distant wars 

in brain's lobes
fruits fall




To this I will add, by way of conclusion, a small poem that I wrote some 15 years ago in Taiwan, while attending another seminar on Yip’s work, both scholarly and, as we say, “creative.”   Yip, for his part, prepared and read a long poem to the gathered conferees: a testimony to his art and to a search for meaning that can take us into dangerous areas as well as safe ones, “blinding images” (in his formulation) as well as clear ones.  Sitting in the hall of Fu Jen University I wrote down fragments of what he said and what was said about him, calling it        
                        A Poem of Longing (for Wai-lim Yip)                                                

                        ghosts of the underworld
& fishy smells 

                        the real world, broken

                        it brings forth doubts
                        & longings 

                        after some other world
                        we search for 

                        like the eye behind
                        the movie camera, says 

                        I want to be in the land of Lu,
                        but I am blocked by mountains 


1 He has also been a distinguished translator of Chinese poetry, both classical and contemporary, into English – Hiding the Universe: Poems by Wang Wei and two volumes of  “modern Chinese poetry,” together covering the period from 1930 to 1965. 

2 This “principle” is articulated throughout early European modernism, not usually from Chinese models and often with more radical results than in Pound’s imagiste phase.  Thus Pierre Reverdy, in a definition, roughly contemporaneous with Pound’s,  that underlay the work of the Surrealist poets of the 1920s:  “The image cannot spring from any comparison but from the bringing together of two more or less remote realities. … The more distant and legitimate the relation between the two realities brought together, the stronger the image will be … the more emotive power and poetic reality it will possess.” 

[From a lecture, August 2002, for the Chinese Comparative Literature Association meetings in Nanjing.]