Lantern Review reviews CHA: AN ASIAN LITERARY JOURNAL, ISSUE 12

Henry W. Leung, reviewer for Lantern Review, has written an extensive review of the current edition of Cha (Issue #12); the review is now available on the LR blog.

Henry emphasises, among other things, the Asian-themed poetry (‘Most of the poems in this issue fit the “Asian” label easily enough[.]’) and the translations (‘I laud Cha for being international and diglossic, because the presence—or shadow—of other languages encourages us to confront our own more objectively.’) in the issue as well as our critique column, A Cup of Fine Tea:

If you followed the links to these poems, you’ll know that many are paired with commentary or reviews in the correlating blog, A Cup of Fine Tea, emphasizing the dialogue that small-press literary journals are intended to be.

In the review, works by Annie Zaidi, Clara Hsu, Eddie Tay, Fiona Sze-Lorrain, Helle Annette Slutz, Kim-An Lieberman, Marco Yan, Inara Cedrins and Peters Bruveris, Phill Provance, Steven Schroeder and W.F. Lantry are discussed, some very favourably. 

Henry also poses an important question to Cha editors in his review: as an Asian journal, should we be more aware of publishing pieces that fit the “Asian” label? Of course, “Asian” can be roughly interpreted at least two ways: 1) Asian-themed works and 2) works by Asian writers/artists. However, in his discussion, Henry suggests that content comes before authors’ racial make up or current location, as he points out that Annie’s and Marco’s poems, “Diaphragm” and “Remembrance” respectively, ‘don’t immediately fit any distinct cultural categories’, despite the fact that Annie is from Mumbai and Marco lives in Hong Kong. Henry reminds us, then, that a piece of work by an Asian-born or Asian-based writer does not by default make it “Asian”. I agree there is a distinction.

The discussion of “Asian-ness” reminded me of Jeff‘s editorial written for the second anniversary issue of Cha (Issue #9), in which he contemplates on the notion of “Asian writing community” in today’s globalised world:

I also had no sense of the diversity of the Asian writing community. When we began, I assumed that Asian writers were those found on the continent, locals, maybe a handful of expats. I have come to realise that this definition was far too narrow—that in a globalised world the idea of Asian writing must be more inclusive and fluid, must encompass the perspectives of writers from the diasporas, travellers to the region, even people with an interest in the continent. Asia it turns out is everywhere. All you have to do is open your doors. How else can one run a Hong-Kong based journal from a house in London?

Admittedly, the passage above does not cover works by ‘foreigners’ that are not in any way thematically relevant to Asia — a concern raised by Henry in his review of Cha. Looking through the journal’s archive, I can say that the prose pieces are all Asian-related while in other categories we have not been as strict. For example, in our selection of poetry, “Asian” is far from the first criteria that we use to judge a piece. Why is that? Henry has drawn our attention to a point that we will certainly be thinking some more. What are people’s thoughts on this?

Thank you, Henry and Lantern Review, for reading Cha so attentively and sharing your thoughts with us!

Also read “Cha A Literary Review Debate”

Meet Inara Cedrins and Peters Bruveris

Inara Cedrins edited the Chinese Feature for Drunken Boat in 2006 and her poems “Wintering” and “Towards Borders” were published in the February 2009 issue of Cha. In the September 2010 issue, we are offered the opportunity to publish Inara’s translation of a sequence of poems titled “Notes from Travels in China, I” by the Latvian poet Peters Bruveris. In Inara’s words:

Peters Bruveris is considered the best poet in Latvia today: his work has a breadth of experience, global scope, backed by his studies of and translations from Latin, Turkish, Azerbaijani, the Crimean Tatar language, Lithuanian, Russian, Germany, and Prussian. Yet he can find significance in and relate to universality the most minute happenstance, a slight sound heard, the leaping of a grasshopper; and also gives us a taste of what life is like in the fairly grim Baltic countries – the wintry, remote countryside of Latvia, the miracle of spring. A frequent concern of his is Ars poetica, the perceptions of the artist.

We found the imagery in “Notes from Travels in China, I” compelling and haunting; we were particularly impressed by the poem’s daoist landscape and the poet’s deeper intention: a journey, personal and aesthetic, of erasure. The sequence begins: ‘for a boat with an awning / I traded an official’s position // now I possess a fishing pole’ ….
Bio: Inara Cedrins is an artist, writer and translator who went to China to learn to paint in Chinese ink on silk in 1998, and remained five years teaching English at universities there, using poetry as a vehicle. She then studied thangka painting and taught in Nepal, and lived in Riga, teaching Creative Writing at the University of Latvia in 2005. Her anthology of contemporary Latvian poetry written while Latvia was under Soviet occupation was published by the University of Iowa Press, and she is working on a new Baltic anthology. Upon returning to America she lived in the Albuquerque/anta Fe area; currently she has an artists’ residency at the Merchandise Mart through the Chicago Artists Coalition.

Bio: Pēters Brūveris was born in Riga in 1957, and after graduating from the Department of Art and Culture at the Latvian State Conservatory worked as a literary consultant to the newspaper Latvian Youth and as the director of the literary department of the newspaper Art and Literature. Eight collections of his poetry have been published: Black Thrush, Red Cherries (1987), Amber Skulls (1991), Sitting On A Park Bench (1994), Black Bird’s Nest in the Heart (1995), Flowers for Losers! (1999), Love Me God (2000), The Landscape of Language (2004), and Behind Glass (2006). He has also written four books for children, librettos and song lyrics as well as texts for animation films; he wrote the song lyrics for a production of The Good Soldier Shveyk at the Daile Theater in 1998, and the script for the animated film Unusual Rigans in 2001. In collaboration with musician Aigars Voitišķis, Brūveris recorded an album, Glass Boats, in 2009. He has been involved in the ambient music and environmental science project Nature’s Concert Hall. With poet Uldis Bērziņš, he translated and edited a collection of Turkish poetry titled Courtyards Filled with Pigeons (1988), and he has translated the works of Lithuanian poets Kornelijs Platelis, Sigits Gedas, Henriks Raudausks, Toms Venclova, as well as many others, translating poetry and prose from Azerbaijani, the Crimean Tatar language, Russian, Germany, and Prussian. His poetry has been published in Lithuanian, Russian, Swedish, German, Slovenian, Ukrainian and English translation. He has received the Klāvs Elsbergs Award (1987), the Publisher Preses Nams Award in Literature in 2000 and 2001, the Days of Poetry Prize in 2001 and 2005, the Award in Literature from the Baltic Assembly in 2004, the Ojars Vacietis Poetry Prize (2006) and the National Prize for Best Book (2007).