Thursday, April 21, 2011

Yang Lian & Miyazawa Kenji

every tree beats against you
like a poem's wounded tributary

The phenomenon called "I"
is a blue illumination

Both of these poets remind me of something sad and slightly depressing, when it comes to poetry. America is a country where the cultural value of poetry, collectively speaking, is very low. Foreign poetry in translation is valued even lower. If we follow the race to the bottom of the ignored arts, then Asian poetry in translation is even lower than that of contemporary Europeans.

This might sound erroneous to some. After all, a reader can visit Barnes and Noble and see a variety of haiku anthologies in translation. If a reader is lucky, they can find a New Directions volume of Li Po or Tu Fu. Plus, an apt student of prosody would point out how classical Asian verse fueled the great American modernists like Pound and Williams. Still, there is relatively little or no attention paid to Chinese or Japanese language poetry from Twentieth Century going forward.

Both Kenji and Lian are great reminders that Modernism/Post-Modernism were not just American and European phenomenons.

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