Abyss (Paperback)

By Ya Hsien, John Balcom (Translator)

Zephyr Press, 9781938890215, 112pp.

Publication Date: December 13, 2016

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Description

A seminal work from the second wave of Chinese modernism.

So great is Ya Hsien's influence on younger generations of Taiwanese and Chinese writers that he is sometimes referred to simply as "The Poet." Yet he never wrote a second book after Abyss appeared in an expanded edition in 1971. This single book's variety and virtuosity have made it a modern classic and the poet something of a legend. A new documentary, "Ya Hsien: A Life that Sings," was nominated for Best Documentary at the 2015 Taipei Film Festival.

Under the Barber Pole

The barbers sing

Always it's the same wheat-harvest festival
Always an abundance of rye without ears
Always it is reaped, reaped
On the land of inspiration
A small southern path leads to ears of grain
And it's also a kind of horticultural school
A kind of beauty
A kind of agricultural reform
A kind of taste for something other than Greek sculpture

The barbers sing

Ya Hsien's poetry runs the gamut from realism to surrealism, incorporating elements of folksong and modernist poetics, expressing a wide emotional range, and deftly capturing the critical spirit of the times. The sixty poems are divided into seven sections that present differing styles and themes, including "Wartime," "Songs without Music," and "Wild Water Chestnuts." The pen name Ya Hsien (his given name is Wang Ching-Lin) means "mute string." Ya Hsien lives in Vancouver, British Columbia.

Award-winning translator John Balcom lives in Monterey, California.



About the Author

Ya Hsien (Ya Xian) is the penname of Wang Ching-Lin (Wang Qinglin). Born in Nanyang County, Henan Province, he was active in Taiwan's Modernist Movement in the 1950s and 1960s. He is best known for a single collection of poetry titled Abyss, published in 1968, and an expanded edition in 1971. He stopped writing poetry altogether in the mid-1960s. In 1968 he attended the Writer's Workshop at the University of Iowa, and later attended the University of Wisconsin, Madison, from which he received an MA in East Asian Studies. After retiring in 1971 with the rank of Lieutenant Commander, he taught and edited at a series of magazines, eventually editing the influential literary supplement of the United Daily News. He now calls Vancouver home but spends a good deal of time in Taiwan and China. John Balcom is an award-winning translator of Chinese literature, philosophy, and children's books. He teaches in the Graduate School of Translation, Interpretation and Language Education at the Monterey Institute of International Studies, a graduate school of Middlebury College. Balcom conducted translation workshops and has lectured on literary translation in the US, Europe, and Asia. He is a past president of the American Literary Translators Association and has also served on the Literary Translation Committee of the International Federation of Translators. Recent publications include Grassroots (Zephyr 2014), Stone Cell by Lo Fu (Zephyr 2012) and Trees without Wind by Li Rui (Columbia University Press 2012). His translation of Huang Fan's Zero won the 2012 Science Fiction and Fantasy Translation Award in the novel/novella category. He lives in Monterey, California.
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