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Classical Chinese Poetry: An Anthology Paperback – February 2, 2010
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“In the way of the pioneer translators of Chinese poetry during the past century--of Arthur Waley, Burton Watson, Willis Barnstone--David Hinton has heard and lured into English a new manner of hearing the great poets of that long glory of China's classical age. His achievement is another echo of the original, and a gift to our language.” ―W. S. Merwin
“Hinton has established himself as the premier Chinese translator of our generation . . . He is a national treasure.” ―William Mullen, The New York Sun
“I don't know if [Hinton's Selected Poems of Po Chü-i] is superior to the original or not, but it's superior to anything I've ever seen in Chinese, and about the same for English.” ―A. R. Ammons
“Hinton's music is subtle, modulated . . . He has listened to the individual tone of each poet, and his craft is equal to his perception . . . He continues to enlarge our literary horizon.” ―Rosemary Waldrop, citation for the Harold Morton Landon Translation Award
“[The Late Poems of Meng Chiao] affords us what is all too rare in Chinese translations: the sustained, recognizable resonance of a single voice at a single moment . . . This is a real contribution to the small body of genuine poetic translation.” ―Richard Howard
“Given the magnitude of his ability and his overall project, Hinton is creating nothing less than a new literary tradition in English, an event of truly major importance not only to English literature but also to the literature of my own language. I cannot recommend the value of his work too highly.” ―Bei Dao
About the Author
David Hinton's translations of classical Chinese poetry have earned him a Guggenheim fellowship, numerous NEA and NEH fellowships, and both of the major awards given for poetry translation in the United States, the Harold Morton Landon Translation Award, from the Academy of American Poets, and the PEN Award for Poetry in Translation, from the PEN American Center. He is also the first translator in over a century to translate the four seminal works of Chinese philosophy: the Tao Te Ching, Chuang Tzu, Analects, and Mencius. He lives in Vermont.
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I purchased this book after having checked out a copy from my public library because I wanted to be always available. I am not knowledgeable about the nuances of translation, but these poems sound true to me. (I have also read and continue to value translations by Red Pine.)
I have by now read many of David Hinton's translations as well as his deeply moving books, "Existence" and "Hunger Mountain," which I also highly recommend.
These poems will both enchant you and soften your heart, taking you through a world that is remote from our western one, but also immediately accessible through these beautifully translated works. Any lover of poetry will find this a valuable acquisition.
Hinton's versions, by contrast, are knotty, thoughtful, muscular and torsive. They are also intensely musical. They restore a measure of sheer passion and 'difficulty' to Chinese poems that, while it suits certain poets better than others, is always highly compelling. Hinton is steeped in Chinese philosophy (particularly Daoism) and this has led him to develop his own private 'philosophical' diction, which he uses pretty consistently throughout. We general readers sometimes forget how allusive Chinese poetry is, not just to Chinese history, astrology, medicine etc., but also to Confucianism, Daoism and Buddhism.
My only (very minor) reservation about this admirable collection, is that his style is so distinctive that it might be thought to impose a degree of homogeneity on his chosen source texts; and that this could be seen as a little misleading. The same charge could of course be laid against Waley's translations, or Burton Watson's---or even Ezra Pound's. Nor, when one looks more closely at the text as a whole, does it seem quite fair: Hinton's Shi Jing poems are unlike anything he's ever done before, for instance; and his renderings of Li He are likewise noticeably different from those of Du Fu or Meng Jiao.
By tackling so broad a span of Chinese literary history, Hinton has set himself a whole set of new problems to solve, and the result has been a triumphant success. What a treat to see him getting under the skins of so many other major Chinese writers, and giving them fresh voices!
His decision to stop at the end of the Song Dynasty makes perfect sense, though I'd love one day to see what he makes of those many wonderful Yuan Dynasty qu poems that at present we have to go to Seaton for (not that Seaton isn't pretty wonderful himself).
In recent years we've been highly fortunate in our American translators of both Chinese and Japanese verse: but Hinton really is in a class of his own. Buy this, and treasure it during your own lifetime; then pass it on to your children and grandchildren. Buy it in hardback, so that it will weather the decades. (But do so quickly. Hardback editions have relatively small print-runs. In fifty years' time, second-hand copies of this masterpiece will be worth a small fortune.)
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Our government should mandate schools to educate our pupils with this book.Read more