There are more people celebrating Xmas in China than anywhere else in the world. I wonder if they think Mao is also a Christ… Here is our take:
Merry Christmas & Hippy New Year
Thank you everyone for supporting us throughout the whole year. Even if you only supported us half way or one third of the way, we still want to thank you by telling you some jokes about us. What’s us? Poetry East West. What’s Poetry East West? You mean 诗东西是什么东西？Well, that’s an interesting question…
What does Poetry East West mean? We didn’t want to tell you until now— when you get so used to the normal concept of “east west”, we tell you it’s not about “east west”.
The two Chinese characters 东西 literally mean East West. But when put together it means “thing”, such as 小东西 small thing, 坏东西 bad thing, 好东西 good thing or delicious thing. 诗东西means “poetry east west”, or “poetry thing”. So your question = what thing is poetry thing?
“Poetry East West” has the connotation of “poetry is not a thing”, “poetry is a bad thing”, “poetry is a dirty thing” etc. depending on the tone when you say it and depending on where you put stress when you say it. Chinese is a tonal language and poets are especially good at tones, so it often sounds like “Poetry? What kind of thing it that?”
Now you know our secret, next time when we ask you to “throw your things over”, you will know what we mean: “send your (good/bad/dirty/clean/but most of all funny) poems to us.”
Back in 2010, we discussed for quite some time as to what name to use. We consulted a few American poets too. Everyone was so serious 认真 and serious 严肃. In the beginning we wanted to call this magazine “Poetry Communes”. Afaa Weaver said it sounded too communxxx. So we gave it up, even though some of us liked it very much. “Commune” is a noun meaning 公社 as in The Paris Commune. People born in Mao’s time like to use Mao’s language nowadays with a sarcastic tone. Mao died in 1976. Unless you were already in college or working somewhere by then, nobody would drag you into the party. So we all missed the chance to be a red guard. “But still, you guys need to be careful” someone said with a kind concern 善良的担忧 on his face (over the phone). But “commune” is also a verb and it means “to communicate in an intimate way” by the free online dictionary. “Poetry Communes” = poetry communicates in an intimate way! and in so doing we’re sharing more secret today.
We’ve waited so long to tell you what “East West” mean or means, depending on whether you take East West as one word or two words… We’ve waited so long to tell you what “East West” really means so you think of yourselves as West and us as East and you start to “commune” with us in an intimate way. Poetry Communes. What is “intimate”? I think I’m being intimate today by sharing what “east west” means even without a hyphen.
But I don’t want to take all the “naming” credit. It was Yang XB from Taiwan who suggested 诗东西. All I did was to make an English equivalent Poetry East West, and abbreviation PEW. I laughed twenty minutes at 诗东西, and another twenty minutes at PEW. You have to say it out loud, PEW! to understand why I laughed so much.
Now we have another funny name, Beijing HIP. It’s even better in Chinese, 北京屁股 (Beijing Butt) by the free Google Translator, or 北京臀部 (Beijing Buttock), also by the free Google translator. What is HIP? Home of International Poets. (We don’t want to say Home for International Poets which sounds homeless.) So what is HIP? It’s really 胯部 as in total hip replacement. But 胯部 doesn’t translate back to HIP. So, we can never get things right by using Google. (Thomas W from Berlin was so right about it. Smile.)
Why do we bother to translate poetry? Why do we bother to translate poetry back and forth from English to Chinese and from Chinese to English? Well, most of us have been to America (and some of us are trapped here) and we’ve noticed that most streets are two ways in America. One way streets usually lead to a dead end, or as people say cul-de-sac.
2013 is not a cul-de-sac, unless it’s on a hill where you can see beyond. So many “things” happened in 2013. We want to thank Tupelo Press and Poetry Foundation for publishing New Cathay: Contemporary Chinese Poetry. We also want to thank all the poets for their wonderful “thing” and the translators for turning one thing into another.
We want to thank the network of websites and poetry media in China for awarding us one of the “Best 10 Independent Journals in 2013”. We know folks in China like our journal, but still, it makes us feel good to be with Poetry Construction Quarterly on that list. We want to thank all the authors in Issue Six and Issue Seven of the Poetry East West journal published this year for contributing their “thing” or “things” (there is no plural form in Chinese, by the way). We want to thank all the guest editors for contributing their “thing”, in Eastern way or Western way. We want to thank the people who did the miscellaneous things too. The one who helped us with proof-reading is a PhD of poetry. The one who did all the hard labor has two PhDs. People think we are very academic, even the helping hands have several degrees. And the editing team has four PhD’s and three pre-PhD’s. But we are not academic at all when it comes to poetry. Poetry is a physical thing. Writing is a physical thing. I like the term “body-writing” as we really move bodies with poetry. Body is a thing—
We want to thank Shangyuan Art Scene for collaborating with us (DJS) on Beijing HIP (Home of International Poets in Beijing). We can’t wait to see how it’s going to work. Poets and translators who get selected to go to Beijing will have to do some body movement, as poetry is a physical thing indeed— you have to FLY there first.
(But when you fly, don’t look at the earth, it’s so revealing: East West = HIPS)
We want to thank Red Hen Press for allowing us (DJS) to become an imprint of their publishing house, which made it possible to have the five award winning books published with their ISBNs. It’s not just a matter of numbers. It’s a whole process of publishing poetry— a very physical thing.
What’s DJS? Unfortunately there’s no funny story about it. It used to be called Dickinson Publishing. Dickinson in Chinese is “Di Jin Sen”, therefore DJS. But Dickinson with Red Hen really sounds feminxxx even though Mark Cull says “Red Hen” means “doing things by yourself” according to an English fairytale. (Dickinson with a red hen would be a nice image though. Why did WC Williams say red barrow with white chickens?)
Talking about DJS, we presented DJS Translation Awards in the beginning of the year to eleven translators as well as DJS Poetry Book Awards to five poets. Last month we presented PEW Poetry Prize, PEW Critics Prize, and PEW Translation Prize in China. Be aware, all of these are small things, as we think small means more.
What’s the difference between DJS and PEW? Well, sisters and brothers, like east and west. DJS is nothing without PEW. DJS is a small thing even with PEW. PEW is a small thing.
Executive Housekeeper (of small things)
p.s. Without the wisdom of the other six editors, there would be no such a thing as Poetry East West. Happy New Year to everyone! By the way, we don’t celebrate December 25th because it’s Mao’s birthday. Mao was born on December 26th, and 26 in the East = 25th in the West due to jet lag. But we will toast anyway as Poetry East West is not supposed to have jet lag.
p.p.s. Personally I would like to say thank you to many people and I wish you a really wonderful holiday season whether you are in St Lucia, South Africa, Zimbabwe, Germany, Netherlands, Slovenia, Croatia, Macedonia, Lithuania, Poland, Sweden, Greece, Cyprus, India, Japan, Hong Kong, Taiwan, China, Columbia, Nicaragua, or America– Los Angeles or San Diego, Boston or Vermont (!)…