Review: Contemporary Chinese Poetry (by Jennifer Wong)

New CathayNew Cathay: Contemporary Chinese Poetry

edited by Ming Di

Reviewed by Jennifer Wong

11 November 2013 — With its carefully-selected range of poets and choice of contents, New Cathay is an up-to-date and exciting take on Chinese contemporary poetry. Published by Tupelo Press with the support of the Harriet Monroe Poetry Institute, as part of their “Poets in the World” series… [read the  full essay here: link]

Response: First of all, thanks for the review. There are a few things that need to be clarified.

Quote: “As Ming Di concedes, the poets included in her book represent a more “intellectual” or academic contingent, and focuses on a unifying characteristic of ‘Chinese-ness’ that is open to interpretation, as compared with, say, the Chinese contemporary poetry anthology Jade Ladder…” End of quote. Somehow I feel troubled by this “intellectual”. “Intellectual writing” was a term used by the “spoken language poets” during the big debate in 1999 against certain poets. The “spoken language poets” such as Yu Jian, Han Dong, and Yi Sha have been translated into English and other languages a great deal by many sinologists over the past twenty years. I don’t have anything personal against the “spoken language poets”. As a matter of fact I’ve translated a book of poems by Lu De’an who is also a spoken language poet and a close friend of Yu Jian’s, only because he (Lu De’an) has not been translated enough. I also feel troubled by the word “unifying”. I don’t think there is such a thing as “unifying Chinese-ness” as each poet’s Chinese-ness is different. But I feel relieved when I see “that is open to interpretation”.  Yes, it’s open to interpretation. There is no one unifying definition.

Quote: “Xiao Kaiyu replied: ‘I don’t think we have anything worth their [translators] attention right now.'” End of Quote. I think this can be misleading without the context. Xiao Kaiyu was reading Hungarian poet George Szirtes at the time of the interview. He was so touched by George’s poetry and felt so humbled when he made that remark.

There are a couple of other things that I would also like to clarify. But I don’t want to sound unappreciative. Actually I appreciate it very much. I want to say thank you to the author of this review for spending the time to read the anthology and write a review. I googled Jennifer Wong and found that she’s a poet from Hong Kong based in UK and author of a few poetry books. I look forward to reading her poetry too (I’m always curious about what other people write about and eager to read other people’s work.)  For the full review by Jennifer Wong, please click the link at the top.   (Ming Di)


About 诗东西 Poetry East West

Chinese-English bilingual magazine (will include more languages), published in Los Angeles USA, printed in Beijing China. ISSN 2159-2772

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