Interview for the Next Big Thing
What is your working title of your book (or story)?
A number of books are forthcoming from Tupelo, including a collection of poetry translations, Doubled Radiance: Poetry & Prose of Li Qingzhao.
Where did the idea come from for the book?
In girlhood, I knew about the Tang Dynasty male poet Li Bai or Li Po, whose famous poem on moonlight I memorized and recited. I was new to a woman poet named Li. As I mentioned in my translator’s preface for Circumference, Li Qingzhao’s poetry first caught my eye when I saw her last name and mine were the same: 李
What genre does your book fall under?
Doubled Radiance is classical Chinese poetry translated into modern English.
Which actors would you choose to play your characters in a movie rendition?
What an extraordinary question for a collection of poetry translations ~ I love this. Let us see, now…. I was awed by Yoon Jeong-hee’s performance in the award-winning film, Poetry (2010), directed by Lee Chang-Dong. I suppose Zhao Wei or Gong Li would play the young Li Qingzhao. I would cast Yoon Jeong-hee for Li Qingzhao’s post-war years after the catastrophic fall of the northern capital.
If the translator must take a role in this film, I would not play myself! I am camera-shy and rather dislike having my photograph taken ~ acting on-screen, to this end, would be rather nightmarish. A better thought ~ ask the poet-divas from Kundiman to consider any of the aforementioned roles on the silver screen. As a matter of fact, I would favor active involvement by poets at all levels of acting, directing, and production.
What is the one-sentence synopsis of your book?
Love, war, exile in the life of a Song Dynasty woman.
How long did it take you to write the first draft of your manuscript?
Translation is an arduous labor. In other words, a long time ~ about one year, working weekly, to complete a draft, with a second year to fine-tune it.
Who or what inspired you to write this book?
A labor of love. I was inspired by Dorothy Disse’s digital archive, Other Women’s Voices, housing translations of women’s writing before 1700. Moreover, a desire to highlight another Asian woman’s work in the world, daring to reach across space and time to circulate her poetry ~ I’ve also translated poems by the contemporary Taiwanese woman poet, Hsia Yü, for Poetry Magazine. Currently, I am studying the writings of Bing Xin for another translation project. My time is so fragmentary in this season, however. This task will be in the future.
Christina Pugh, the Consulting Editor of Poetry Magazine, “tagged” me this week, as well! Read Christina’s lovely interview on Daniel Bosch’s blog, and her new collection, Grains of the Voice, from Northwestern University Press / TriQuarterly Books. Not only is Christina’s poetry erudite & gorgeous, the poet herself shines w/ a heart of gold!