Editor’s welcome

Issue #2.1 is the title of the latest evidence of the existence of Welling Out of Silence. The issue it refers to intends to take advantage of our web-little mag’s web nature. A little mag is (a few still exist) a small and usually ephemeral Literary Magazine, “hard copy”…paper, usually three times a year (literary folk take summers off, according to the late great Robert Creeley at least). I’ve seen, and even been seen in, a couple that lasted “through” issue #1, and I served as an Advisory editor of one, the Venerable and still lively Literary Review of Fairleigh Dickinson University, which has been around for over sixty years. Under the editorship of Walter Cummins, a CREATIVE, lively, and open minded man,  between 1989 and Y2K it printed more Chinese translations and debuted more translators than all the rest of American little mags combined.

BUT, let us return to the present, in progress, issue of Out of Silence, the “Beta” version 2.1. Being a creature of energy rather than matter (though there is plenty the matter with, the present editors), The Silence has the advantage of being able to simply grow, rather than having to be “compiled and edited”. Stuart Carduner and I have come to realize, in the process of getting this #2.1 out, that we can use some help, and if you’d like to get in on the ground floor of this long running-to-be little e-mag, (participate as an editor, work your way up to the capital E, join the masthead), send us your corrections … facts, commas, missing or repeated words, go for it.

But again, anyway, given the fact that we have some good work on hand, some of which we promised to put up earlier than this, and that we have work promised by JPS, and five other translators, some familiar names, including Farman and Larsen, we’re going to  open the issue!  When we get to the number of pages, or the number of contributors, that constituted Issue #1, we’ll remove the decimal from the designation. So, now, here, new work by David Hinton, from his brand new Shambhala book, Hunger Mountain, and a re-print of an essay which first appeared in Cipher Journal, and was offered us by Red Pine (Bill Porter). There’s also a brand new translation of a rarely translated but highly regarded POET, Yuan Hao-wen,  by a new voice, the British translator and budding novelist,  Kevin Maynard.  Soon we’ll be adding advance material from the forthcoming White Pine anthology of Chinese women poets, offering work from several talented new voices as well as the incomparable Jeanne Larsen, and an old friend of both TLR and this Page,  Mike Farman, another brilliant Englishman, honest to goodness rocket scientist and translator. There will be more to come as you provide it. I’m counting on work from translator and seal specialist Matthew Flannery, (if I recall correctly, Mr. Flannery, like Mike Farman, is also a discovery of Walt Cummins at TLR). His new tz’u poems from Sung Dynasty military hero Hsin Ch’i-chi are exciting. And the WORDs column will offer, at last,  a couple of new word for words, (this time from Canadian Jan Walls), for amateurs to try out. At WORDs we’ll also announce a contest, with prize books and publication in the Ocean of Poetry, for the top three submissions (Submit! Submit!…I hate the very idea of “submission”: let’s call them contributions).

As we go along we’re particularly looking for more first time translators, and we’ll be happiest to see translations by people who read Classical Chinese, but we’ll happily look at and print translations done in the manner of Pound (with Achilles Fang), Rexroth and Caroline Kaiser (with a variety of unnamed collaborators), and Rexroth (with Ling Chung). Most notably successful co-translators in the recent moment are Tony Barnstone and Chou Ping; in fact, most of our best contemporary translators work with others or with the aid of others, “standing on the shoulders of giants,” little ponies, or whomever.

A Chinese poem is a poem, first of all, and we are here to show, in the Ocean of Poems, the best efforts of English-speaking poets to make poems in English of those poems in Chinese.  In Out of Silence, we want to promote translations and discover and put forward translators. We also want to show you how translators think about how their translations get made. Here we are, here we stand, here we get going on with that business, in Vol. I, issue #2.1, and we hope you and K’uei Hsing, the God of Literature, approve of this offering. Our viewership continues to grow and we are making the best provisions we can to keep poems welling from the springs of creativity into the glorious sea of human experience.

Peace, your editor


The Shih Ching , usually translated as either The Book of Songs or the Classic of Poetry, is the first great collection of Chinese poetry. Tradition says that it was edited into its present form by the Sage of Sages, Confucius himself. In fact the book was assembled before, during, and after the life of Confucius. Its more than three hundred poems include fragments of works as old as the Shang Dynasty (traditional; dates 1766-1154 BCE) as well as “contemporary” poems from the Chou feudal states written or spoken by both aristocratic court figures and just plain “folks”. A great deal has been said about the origin of many, if not the majority of the poems as oral “folk” art, but it is clear from the artistry of the written language in which they have been handed down that, like the scribes who improved upon the originally oral poetry attributed to “Homer” in the West to create the Iliad and the Odyssey, the people who converted Chou folk songs and court verses into poetry in written Chinese characters clearly thought of themselves as (and were) artists. So the characters used to render simple and direct lyrical utterances of the illiterate peasant folk often honor them with carefully chosen written vocabulary: the heart and soul of folk art remains clearly present, but literary subtleties are introduced. The scribes who created the Shih Ching were poets, not tape recorders. They chose the best of what existed, and they honored it with their own art.

In its present form, the Shih Ching consists of three major sections, the Kuo Feng, or Odes of the States, comprising 160 of the 300 are generally but not always folk songs. The Ya (Elegant Verses) subdivided with no obvious criteria into greater and lesser, include poems 161-265, and the Sung or Temple Odes high ritual songs and bits of dynastic myth, include poems 266-305. The present selection is comes, all but a single longer poem on drinking and its positive and negative consequences from the “Lesser Elegants”, all come from the Kuo Feng Sections.

Knowledge of the Shih Ching poems was a necessity of diplomatic practice around the time of Confucius, when it was a common practice to deliver or at least support the delivery of diplomatic messages among the feudal domains (the “States or Guo of the Guo Feng) by oral presentation of relevant lines from the Classic. From the Han on many of the poems where imbued with very specific allegorical interpretations, but it is clear that later poets, who memorized the book word for word, used it as allusive material in their own poems at least as often for its plain “folk” messages as for its orthodoxly approved allegorical ones.