Posts Tagged ‘Jeffrey Yang’

It is uncommon for Molossus to feature magazines but I am always happy when we do, as I so admire their succinctness and digestibility. That said, I can be quite harsh in my opinions, as so few magazines maintain their quality from beginning to end, much less from issue to issue. The few we do feature here are the best of the best, discoveries we’re excited to share.

Two Lines World Writing in Translation XVII: Some Kind of Beautiful Signal, ed. Natasha Wimmer & Jeffrey Yang (Center for the Art of Translation) $14.95

The San Francisco-based Center for the Art of Translation publishes Two Lines each year, its contents selected quite curatorially by a tandem of guest editors. The newest edition was assembled by notable Bolaño translator Natasha Wimmers and New Directions editor Jeffrey Yang. Still published in its strange horizontal format, the book-style magazine collects the best work of working translators. Highlights of this issue include Bolaño’s short note on the importance of translation, which perfectly accompanies his advice on the writing of short stories, bilingual poetry by Xi Chuan, translated by Lucas Klein, the cleverly translated “Tropes” of Oliverio Girondo, by Heather Cleary Wolfgang, and the nimble transfer of Carlito Azevedo’s concrete poem “Traduzir” into the equally effective English-language “Translation,” by Sarah Rebecca Kersley. As always, a translator’s note accompanies each translation; these alone are worth more than the volume’s purchase price. The book ends with a special section dedicated to Uyghur poetry, including both contemporary and classical work translated by Dolkun Kamberi and Jeffrey Yang. More on that impressive survey is forthcoming on Molossus in February, when our interview with Yang is scheduled to appear.

In his essay “Translation is a Testing Ground,” which appears toward the end of Beautiful Signal, Bolaño writes

How to recognize a work of art? How to separate it, even if just for a moment, from its critical apparatus, its exegetes, its tireless plagiarizers, its belittlers, its final lonely fate? Easy. Let it be translated.

That’s exactly what Two Lines does: the graceful legwork required for recognizing works of art. Without fail, the poetry and prose within stands the test of translation.

Signal: 01: A Journal of International Political Graphics & Culture, ed. Alec Icky Dunn & Josh MacPhee (PM Press) $14.95

Like Two Lines, Signal culls the best and most interesting material from around the world. Using interview as their primary method, the editors allow practitioners to speak for themselves, be they the Xicana printmakers of Taller Tupac Amaru, Johannes van de Weert, the Dutch creator of Red Rat, an influential comic during the rise of the Dutch punk scene in the 1980s, Felipe Hernandez Moreno, a printmaker in his 70s who participated in the Mexican Student Movement of 1968, or Rufus Segar, who designed almost every cover of the 1960s magazine Anarchy.

The first issue also includes a photo-essay of work by Midwestern graffiti artist IMPEACH, who tags boxcars with Wild West-styled lettering of simple messages like “IMPEACH,” “TORTURE,” “BAILOUT,” and “POVERTY,” in a rolling commentary on contemporary political buzzwords and the larger policies they represent. The most unexpected article in :01 is about adventure playgrounds, first organized by Danish landscape architect Carl Theodor Sørensen during World War II. Also known as junk playgrounds, the projects offer children the opportunity to reflect their own vision of creative space.

In the introduction to the first volume of their new book-style magazine, Dunn and MacPhee write,

The production of art and culture does not happen in a vacuum; it is not a neutral process. We don’t ask the question of whether culture should be instrumentalized towards political goals, the economic and social conditions we exist under marshal all material culture towards the maintenance of the way things are.

Their wide-ranging interviews examine those economic and social conditions with a lens that is political but not politicized. Unsurprisingly, Signal is beautifully designed, with a surplus of graphic material that would be difficult to find elsewhere. My favorite images are the Mexican prints from 1968, especially interesting when compared to the contemporary print-work of Taller Tupac Amaru, but the wide range of covers of Anarchy come in a close second. I look forward to Signal:02.



Read Full Post »

An Aquarium, Jeffrey Yang. (Graywolf Press) $15.00

An-Aquarium_Yang-320x487Jeffrey Yang is an editor at New Directions, and his poetry evidences his wide exposure to world literature, manifested both in allusions—with poems featuring the literature and philosophy of peoples from around the world, ranging from the indigenous Miskito of coastal Nicaragua to Vishnu Ivara, as well as mythology name dropping on behalf of the Hawaiians, Maya, Olmec, and others—and in tone. The book catalogues the contents of Yang’s world aquarium alphabetically, beginning with his poem “Abalone,” and ending with “Zooxanthellae.” Yang often ends descriptive sequences with straightforward and contextually quaint declarations, an effect that occasionally strikes out but works on the whole. He ends his poem “Dolphin,” for example, with:

Scientists tell us that if we
rearrange a few of our genes,
we’d become dolphins. Wouldn’t
that be real progress! 

which indeed seems too quaint for contemporary poetry. In “Eel,” the poem immediately following that one, however, he uses it to great effect and with sly humor, as in the best aphorisms:

Eels are slimy creatures.
But they never lie. If they sense
the slightest pretence, they’ll
bite off your finger. Carefully 
study the hands of politicians. 

Not all of Yang’s alphabetical poems are about sea creatures, dry land titles include “Intelligent Design,” and “Rexroth.” 

Altogether a noteworthy book, An Aquarium engages world literature in an important dialogue. It contains allusions worth investigating further, a scientific but unpretentious vocabulary, and an assortment of interesting facts, like that “The barnacle has the longest penis / of any animal in proportion / to its body size.” 

The Gigantic Robot, Tom Gauld. (Buenaventura Press) $16.95

robotDescribed by Daniel Clowes as “A perfect little book,” Tom Gauld’s 32-page board book for adults captures perfectly the understatement of the children’s board book. His translation of the medium works well for his subject matter, the construction and eventual neglect of an instrument of war, an occurrence too often shrouded in political jargonese or ideological oversimplification. Social philosophy aside, Gauld is a contemporary Gorey, reminiscent of the late illustrator both in his minimal style and the terse, simple narration that accompanies his illustrations, differing in his political inclinations. The book is easy to flip through, but like its smaller board book cousins, it grows richer with each re-read.




Read Full Post »