The Book of Cranes: Selected Poems 1984-2014
Translated from Chinese by Ming Di and Neil Aitken
Vagabond Press (May 2015)
Bilingual edition (Chinese/English)
Zang Di (b.1964-) is one of the most original poets and influential poet-critics in China today, widely acclaimed throughout the country for his innovative use of language and ground-breaking critical essays that have defined a new generation after the misty and post-misty poets. Tackling a wide range of topics, his poems integrate the intellectual and philosophical with the pragmatic and earthy, constructing wildly imaginative spaces where the mind and body meet. This is the first collection of Zang Di’s poetry in English translation and spans thirty years of work, from 1984 to the present. Many of his most iconic poems are included. Throughout this book, Zang Di explores what it means to struggle at the points of conflict between Western influence and Chinese classical traditions, finding that “the Du Fu in me always goes to the international post-xyz gatherings without telling the Shakespeare in me.”
Zang Di offers us a lyric moment in which the whole world stands still… I love this book “of loneliness / that persisted many years,” I love that even hatred here is mysterious, that snow bursts death. This is a book where the quiet opens: and we sit on the ruins as if sitting in a chair in the open field. It is a book of lyrics “bruised by Nietzsche,” a book where “Wittgenstein is a bird,” where even slicing cucumbers is a metaphysical exercise. Zang Di is a poet to live with, yes. But, more than that: Zang Di is a poet to pray with. For, who among us didn’t wake up one morning only to ask: “How I want to humbly kneel down, but to whom?” We are in the presence of a true spirit. —Ilya Kaminsky
This is astonishing work, hovering somewhere between the tactility of the French surrealists and the upside-down beauty of the best Chinese work: consistently surprising in thought and language, and the translations gorgeously realized. —Jeffrey Levine
The selection gives a perfect representation of an important contemporary Chinese poet who, at his best, achieves bewitching subtlety and haunting beauty. Now, thanks to Ming Di and Neil Aitken’s exquisite translation, these poems have come to life in the English language. The chronological arrangement of the poems illuminates the modulating nuances in the poet’s craft over the years, and enables the reader to see the vicissitudes of his inner life through the many transformations. —Xiaofei Tian 田晓菲
Zang Di 臧棣 (pen name for Zang Li), born in Beijing, China in 1964, has been publishing in journals since 1984. He obtained a BA, MA and PhD in Chinese Literature from Beijing University. After working as a journalist for three years, he started a teaching career and has been teaching Chinese literature and poetry at his alma mater since 1996 (also as a visiting professor in the US in 1999-2000 and 2009, and in Japan in 2006 and 2012). Author of eight volumes of poetry, his collected poems and essays,Horseman and Soymilk, was published by the Writers’ Press in 2015. He has been chief editor of Chinese Poetry Review and has edited many important series of poetry books in the country. He has won many national literary awards including “The Critic of the Year” from Southern Literary Journal (2005), Ten Best Young Poets (2005), Ten Best Poets (2006), Ten Best Critics (2007), the Grand Poetry Award from the Pearl River International Poetry Festival (2007), First Literary Award from Yangtze Literature (2008),“Poet of the Year” from the Media Chinese International (2009), first Su Manshu Poetry Award (2010), and Poetry Award from the Arts Beijing (2013). Some of his poems have been translated into other languages and published widely. He has been invited to many international literary festivals and as a special guest at the opening night of the Berlin Poesiefestival (2015).
About the Translators
Ming Di is a Chinese poet and translator, author of six collections of poetry in Chinese and four books of translation. She taught Chinese at Boston University before moving to California where she resides now. She edited and co-translated New Cathay: Contemporary Chinese poetry (Tupelo Press, 2013, co-published by the Poetry Foundation); she also co-translated Empty Chairs (Graywolf Press, 2015). She received Henry Luce Foundation Fellowships for translation through Vermont Studio Center in 2013 and 2015.
Neil Aitken is the author of The Lost Country of Sight (winner of the 2007 Philip Levine Prize for Poetry) andBabbage’s Dream(Sundress Press 2016), as well as the founding editor of Boxcar Poetry Review, and a contributing editor for Poetry East West. A Canadian of Chinese and Scottish descent, he presently lives in Los Angeles where he recently completed a PhD in Literature and Creative Writing at the University of Southern California.
Cover image: © Xiaoze Xie, Chinese Library No. 35 (detail), 2007. Oil on canvas, 48 x 66.5 inches. Courtesy of the artist and Chambers Fine Art, New York.