Cha’s March 2013 Issue (#20) Launch Reading at AWP

There will be a launch reading for the March 2013 issue ofΒ Cha: An Asian Literary Journal at AWP. The event will be hosted byΒ guest editorsΒ Kaitlin SolimineΒ andΒ Marc VincenzΒ and co-hosted by the Fairbank Center forChinese Studies at Harvard University.
Feature readings by past and currentΒ ChaΒ contributorsΒ EleanorΒ Goodman,Β Bill Lantry, Kim Liao,Β Mai MangΒ (Yibing Huang), Tracy Slater, Marc Vincenz, and Nicholas YB Wong.Β 

New updates on 4 Cha contributors: Duo Duo, Yibing Huang, Marc Vincenz and Michael O’Sullivan

Duo Duo and Yibing Huang

Duo Duo‘s 2010 Neustadt Prize Lecture “This Is the Reason We Persevere”Β is now made available! This lecture was translated from the Chinese into English by Yibing Huang (Mai Mang), who was guest editor of “The China Issue” of Cha. In this lecture, Duo Duo said: ‘β€ŽEven as I speak, remnants of the 1970s still resound, and contain every echo of the reshaping of one’s character. One country, one voice-the poet expels himself from all that. Thus begins writing, thus begins exile. A position approaches me on its own. I am only one man; I establish myself on that. I am only a man.’ Read on here.

|| Duo Duo’s poetry was published in Issue #14 of Cha.Β 
||Β Read Yibing Huang’sΒ Cha profile.


Marc Vincenz

A brand new poem by Marc Vincenz entitled “Static” is now up at October Babies! The poem opens with these cryptic and interesting lines which hook you in: ‘In that year / that was not a year // when the days / were not like days.’ Β Β 
||Β Β See Marc Vincenz’sΒ Cha profile.Β Β 


Michael O’Sullivan

Michael O’Sullivan’s new book Weakness: A Literary and Philosophical History,Β published by Continuum, is Β now out! The book is an exploration of the notion of ‘weakness’ in different contexts. Of particular interest, at least to me, is the section on Keats, Dickens, Joyce, Beckett and Coetzee. Learn more about the book here.
|| Michael O’Sullivan’s poetry was published in Issue #10 of Cha. He has also written several reviews for the journal, the most recent one is in Issue #16.


The Chinese Curse


“May you live in interesting times.” Thus goes the first part of the famous Chinese curse, or at least the curse commonly attributed to the Chinese. Like all good curses at first sight it could be mistaken as a blessing. This curse has, in fact, long been granted to and put upon Chinese writers and artists: they have certainly been living in interesting times.

Back in 1972, shortly after Nixon’s visit to China, Susan Sontag wrote her short story “Project for a Trip to China.” While calling China “the most exotic place of all” and her planned trip to the country a “mythical voyage,” she also admitted that “mythical voyages were to places outside of history” yet “now such voyages are entirely circumscribed by history.” In other words, Sontag felt she was merely a tourist fantasizing about a “real” China that she could not enter.
The “real” China, however, can be a real curse. About the same time, an anonymous, lone Chinese youth, who would later go under the poetic pseudonym Duo Duo, was writing secretly about the birth of a new subjectivity that had been alienated and isolated in the night of history. This night provided such uncanny visions:
In a night full of symbols
The moon is like the pale face of a patient
Like a mistaken, shifting time
And death, standing in front of the bed like a doctor:
Some merciless feelings
Some terrifying changes in the heart
Moonlight coughs softly on the empty ground in front of the house
Ah moonlight, hinting at the clearly seen exile… (“Night” [1973])
Here we encounter a strange, nascent reflective consciousness that was reporting back to us on two separate worlds: not so much Eastern and Western as aboveground and underground. And it was underground where Duo Duo resided. As he understood well as we first enter the underground, we can only grope, blindly and intuitively, for the threads of history:
The past sinks into silence without any reason
Along with the principle of the sun shining all over the earth
And the dreams once written in books
They once existed and vanished subjectively
In the permanent graveyard of time (“Untitled” [1976])
Having apparently inherited the “seer” tradition that Lu Xun founded with his “A Madman’s Diary” (1918) at the outset of modern Chinese literature, Duo Duo proved himself to be an “anti-prophet” of an underground China during the Cultural Revolution.
Contrary to Duo Duo and his anonymous, cryptic lyric voice, Ai Weiwei is one of the most outspoken and dynamic artists in today’s China. Ai Weiwei embodies the paradox of the second, more intense, clause of the Chinese curse: “May you come to attention to those in authority.” He is an independent artist with underground roots, but he is by no means an underground artist. Instead, he works and expresses his opinions publicly and aboveground. A conceptual and performance artist, a diligent and defiant blogger and a deliberate exhibitionist, he challenges visible and invisible walls in art and daily life. Ai Weiwei’s provocative works and social activism have made him so dangerously suspect in the eyes of the Chinese authorities that he was abruptly arrested on April 3, 2011. Ironically, his arrest only solidified his stature as a new international art icon.
Ai Weiwei is the best example of the rapid globalization of contemporary Chinese art, which in turn mirrors another prominent fact, namely that the Middle Kingdom itself is perceived as an emerging global superpower in the 21st century. Following his subsequent release on parole, regardless of how his personal life and career might have been affected in the short term, it is almost certain that Ai Weiwei has made decisive long term gains for himself and for contemporary Chinese art more generally. He has broken various taboos and provided a wide open vista for a new generation of ambitious Chinese artists who aspire for freedom within the nation and a place within the larger international stage. In this sense, the unprecedented publicity, visibility and attention heaped upon contemporary China and its artists have only turned the curse that has befallen Ai Weiwei into a blessing.
Duo Duo and Ai Weiwei have each been pioneering and revolutionary figures in their respective realms and times. Meanwhile, over the past three decades and more, there have been an impressively diverse and complex spectrum of Chinese writers, poets and artists, who like Duo Duo and Ai Weiwei, have deep roots in the underground of history. And they all, one way or another, have found their own distinctive and increasingly aboveground ways to wrestle with the burden and curse of history. Their works, considered together, testify to a kaleidoscopic, sometimes super-real but more often surreal, contemporary China. Natural questions arise: to what extent have these writers, poets and artists already succeeded in rendering their unique messages comprehensible to non-Chinese audiences? Can Chinese literature and art finally explode through the opaque or transparent walls surrounding China, and truly “make sense” to the world?
Perhaps one need not be overly concerned by such questions at all. Earlier this year, when attending a conference in Beijing on Chinese literature and its introduction overseas, I had the following to propose on the whole affair:
1 Before we introduce or promote ourselves, we must know who we are.
2 We can only present ourselves, we cannot impose ourselves upon others.
3 If others do not accept us, in the end, we have to accept ourselves.
This is as much pragmatic advice as it is highly idealistic, on both a collective and an individual level.
The late Chinese writer Wang Xiaobo (1952-1997) once speculated, via the male protagonist in his novella The Year ofΒ Independence, on the existential purpose of poetry writing itself:
I come to think: it’s not necessary to write a poem for others. If a person comes to enjoy a quiet night by himself, then my poem has no use for him. Reading it to him would only prevent him from enjoying his own poem on the quiet night. If a person can’t sing, then all the songs in the world have no use for him; if he can sing, he must sing his own song. That is to say, poet as a profession should be eliminated, and everyone needs to be his or her own poet.
Such a steadfast assertion, of course, might sound romanticized whereas in fact it should be understood from a particular moment in which Wang Xiaobo found his fictional alter-ego, a discovery not free of its own curses. In another novella, Love in the Era of Revolution, Wang Xiaobo further explored the dual theme of “seeking miracles” and “negative lotteries” and came to the conclusion that in the era of revolution, the impulse to seek miracles would invariably be met by misfortunes or “negative lotteries.” In the term “negative lotteries,” Wang Xiaobo not only summarized his generation’s grotesque experience during the Cultural Revolution, he also suggested, before his own sudden, untimely passing in 1997, a dystopian prospect for a future China of, say, 2015 or 2020. The sobering, somewhat fatalistic, prophecy of “negative lotteries” is like the Chinese curse itself, and serves as a useful reminder to those practicing contemporary Chinese literature and art: optimistic projections may turn out to be only wishful thinking.
This acknowledgment, nonetheless, brings us back into Duo Duo’s “Night” of the 1970s. That “Night,” one of many, was so agonizingly quiet, yet so distinctively audible, and was like that young, isolated poet himself, who, like a needle dropping to the ground, with no outside attention whatsoever, no media hype, no noise, was trying to find his way, absolutely alone, intoβ€”and out ofβ€”the maze of history and dreams:
It once lingered in a place of misery
Leaving unconscious and indecipherable black spots on the memory
It was sleepless, like a poet, tossing and turning
Passing in and out of ancient rooms of dreams… (“Night” [1977])
“May you find what you are looking for!” A curse is a curse. But, this last clause of the Chinese curse may, strangely, sound the most like a literal and honest blessing to China and its contemporary writers and artists. Indeed, just as another, although non-Chinese “curse” once had it: “The owl of Minerva spreads its wings only with the falling of the dusk.” Only those who have been cursed by history are blessed with the ability to see their predicaments clearly and to shatter the false spell of that same history.
Mai Mang (Yibing Huang) / Guest editor
17 July, 2011

Into East River(s): Chinese / American Artists and Asian American Poets

Date:Β Thursday, June 2, 2011
Time:Β 4PM to 8PM
Place:Β 25 West 43rd Street, 19th Floor
between 5th & 6th Avenues, Manhattan
Free Admission – Limited Space, Registration Required

To register, please call 212-869-0182.

For thousands of years, rivers – both East and West – have been used as a source of food and drinking, for energy, and for navigation.Β Culturally and politically, rivers have also been used to delineate the boundaries of nations, regions, and communities. New York City’s East River, for instance, is a β€œnavigation” passage way for the city’s natives, immigrants, and refugees alike. Other rivers, both East and West, be it the Yangtze, Tigris, Thames, Los Angeles, or the Mekong, and their tributaries, have both linked and demarcated cultures, countries, and politics.Β 

Curated by Russell C. Leong, AAARI’s CUNY Thomas Tam Visiting Professor at Hunter College; and Yibing Huang, Professor of Modern Chinese Literature at Connecticut College,Β Leong and Huang hope that this program will lead to more bilingual and bicultural dialogue.

4PM – Registration
4:30PM – Images of Exclusion and Inclusion
Zhang DaliΒ in Conversation with Curators Yibing Huang and David RongΒ (Bilingual Program)
*Chinese artist Zhang Dali’s work focuses upon the constant revision, erasure and exclusion of certain moments and figures in modern history, particularly, late 20th-Century Chinese history. By exposing the man-made blank or absence beneath various official news and photographical documents, Zhang shows that there is always a β€œsecond history” that needs to be dug out and restored against collective amnesia and silence.
Corky Lee in Conversation with Prof. Peter Kwong
*Chinese American artistΒ Corky LeeΒ selects images from his 250,000 images of Asian America.Β  Lee has for 40 years sought to β€œinclude” what has been neglected by the mass media: the expression, politics and culture β€œinside” communities rather than from the outside, viewing his subjects as the determining β€œsubjects” rather than as the β€œobjects” of history.Β  Turning a stereotype on its head, Corky refers to his work and forthcoming book as β€œwhat’s not on the menu”—in other words, both as what is absent and what is authentic and cannot be located in the tourists’ guidebook.
5:30PM – Supper
What’s Not on the Menu –Β Join artists, writers, and curators for a light supper.
7PM – Into East River(s): An Asian American Poetry Reading
To Recognize All those Who Enter America
On June 6, 1993, at around 2 a.m., theΒ Golden VentureΒ – a ship bearing 286 immigrants from China (mostly from the province of Fujian) along with 13 crew members – ran aground on RockawayΒ  Beach in Queens, New York after a mutiny by the smugglers. The ship had set sail from Thailand, stopped in Kenya and circled the Cape of Good Hope en route.
  • Meena Alexander
  • Ken Chen
  • Jennifer Hayashida
  • Andrew Hsiao
  • Lisa Chen
  • Andrea Lim
  • Mai Mang
  • Russell C. Leong
  • Zhang Zhen
  • Huang Xiang
Literary Affiliate
Asian American Writers’ Workshop
  • Read Yibing Huang’sΒ Cha profile.
  • Russell C. Leong’s poetry was published inΒ issue #1Β of Cha.

How did you select Yibing Huang to be your guest editor? And why?

How did you select Yibing Huang to be your guest editor? And why?
I first met Yibing through a mutual friend of ours, Professor Russell Leong. I was taking an informal creative writing class with Russell, and he introduced the students to Yibing. Since then, I have been impressed by Yibing’s work and he has even contributed two poems to Cha. I felt like his expertise would be a perfect match for the ethos of the China issue. Often, our guest editors are writers who have a strong interest generally in literature. However, for the China issue, we felt that someone with expertise in Chinese literature would be essential.
See more questions and answers here.Β 

Cha is in The China Daily

Back in August (Sunday 29th August), I was contacted by China Daily. Today, finally, there is an article on Cha in the paperΒ [Link]. China Daily is the only official English-language national newspaper in China.Β The article also appears in theirΒ US Edition.

Unfortunately, they made one typo which completely changed the meaning of one of my quotes. The quote reads: “I am sure that we will see more books from mainland writers written in English” but it should have been: “I am NOT sure that we will see more books from mainland writers written in English”. Please also note that the cover image appearing in the article is by Alvin Pang.Β 
The article mainly focuses on our forthcoming “China Issue”, due out in June 2011. (See the Call for Submissions.) We hope many of you will submit works to the edition.


Please note that we are no longer accepting submissions for “The China Issue”. We are, however, accepting works for the Fourth Anniversary Issue. See here.

[Read the Chinese versions here or download the English call PDFΒ here.]

Cha: An Asian Literary Journal is now accepting submissions for “The China Issue”, an edition of the journal devoted exclusively to work from and about contemporary China. The issue, which will be published in June/July 2011, will feature poetry, fiction, creative non-fiction, scholarly works and visual art exploring the modern Middle Kingdom. We are looking for submissions from a wide range of Chinese and international voices on the social, political and cultural forces which are shaping the country. If you have something interesting, opinionated or fresh to say about China today, we would like to hear from you. Please note that we can only accept submissions in English.

We are pleased to announce that Cha former contributor, distinguished Chinese scholar and poet Yibing Huang will be joiningΒ Cha as guest editor for the issue (see his biography below) and read the submissions with co-editors Tammy HoΒ and Jeff Zroback. Huang has graciously agreed to lend us his extensive knowledge of Chinese literature and keen critical eye to help us select the pieces and shape the issue.

The Reviews section will be devoted exclusively to books related to China. If you have a recent book that you think would be right for review in “The China Issue”, we encourage you to contact our Reviews Editor Eddie Tay at Books should be sent to Eddie before the end of March 2011.

If you would like to have work considered for “The China Issue”, please submit by email to by 15th April, 2011. Please include “The China Issue” in the subject line of the email or your work will automatically be considered for one of the regular issues. Submissions to the issue should conform to our guidelines.

YIBING HUANGΒ (pen-name: Mai Mang) was born in Changde, Hunan, China and inherited Tujia ethnic minority blood from his mother. After receiving his B.A., M.A. and Ph.D. in Chinese Literature from Beijing University, he moved to the U.S. in 1993. He holds a second Ph.D. in Comparative Literature from the University of California, Los Angeles. Huang’s poetry has been published in China since the 1980s and can be found in many anthologies. As a “blindist,” he is the author of two books of poetry: Stone Turtle: Poems 1987-2000 (2005) and Approaching Blindness (2005). Most recently, he published Contemporary Chinese Literature: From the Cultural Revolution to the Future (Palgrave Macmillan, 2007), a book that presents case studies of the generation of Chinese writers which spent its formative years during the Cultural Revolution and focuses on this generation’s identity shift from “orphans of history” to “cultural bastards.” A traveler in the world who has given poetry readings in China and in the U.S., Huang is currently an associate professor of Chinese at Connecticut College.
Call also posted/mentioned in the following places:
  • Asian Australian Studies Research Network [link]
  • Asia-Pacific Writing Partnership [link]
  • Asia Writes [link]
  • Canadian Arts Connect [link]
  • China Daily [link]
  • China English [link]
  • Chinalyst: English Language China blogs [link]
  • Co-Views [link]
  • Crg Hill’s poetry scorecard [link]
  • Drunken Boat [link, link]
  • Duotrope’s Digest [link]
  • English Department, University of Pennsylvania [link]
  • Hong Kong Writers’ Circle, The [link]
  • Hot Stuff [link]
  • Jennifer Hossman’s eLearning for Writers [link]
  • just a moment [link]
  • Lantern Review Blog [link]
  • Listen and Be Heard Network Arts News [link]
  • New Pages (posted on July 10) [link]
  • New Zealand Poetry Society [link]
  • Northern Territory Writers’ Centre, The [link]
  • On The Other Side of the Eye [link]
  • Paper Republic: Chinese Literature in Translation [link]
  • Places for writers [link]Β 
  • POETICS Digest – 5 Jul 2010 to 6 Jul 2010 (#2010-157)
  • Rutgers-Newark MFA: Blog [link]
  • Simon Fraser University [link]
  • Toad Press [link]

CHA contributors in Drunken Boat

We are pleased to see that four Cha contributors have works published in the latest issue (issue #10) of Drunken Boat: Michelle Cahill, Jee Leong Koh, Yibing Huang and Papa Osumbal. Read their works, or read the entire “Arts in Asia” section.
  • Michelle Cahill’s poetry was published in issue #2 of Cha.
  • Jee Leong Koh’s poetry was published in issue#6 of Cha.
  • Yibing Haung’s poetry was published in issue #3 of Cha.
  • Papa Osumbal’s poetry was published in issue #4 of Cha.