The Wild Great Wall
by Zhu Zhu
translated from the Chinese by Dong Li
“A resonant poet of desire, memory, and historical reflection”
Though revered in literary circles, Chinese poet Zhu Zhu remains on the periphery, writing quietly. His work, lucidly rendered by accomplished translator Dong Li, weaves slowly through personal and larger histories to reveal an astute, painterly vision of the world. Selected from an oeuvre spanning 1990 to the present, the poems of The Wild Great Wall animate seeming minutiae and collective memory to interrogate the nature of time and the encounters that occupy it. Tight as a wound rope, they bind to the interiority of the mind and wait to be unraveled.
Zhu Zhu was born in Yangzhou, P.R. China. He is the author of numerous books of poetry, essays, and art criticism, including a bilingual French edition translated by Chantal Chen-Andro. He’s the recipient of Henry Luce Foundation Chinese Poetry Fellowship at the Vermont Studio Center and the Chinese Contemporary Art Award for Critics. He was also a guest at the Rotterdam and Val-de-Marne International Poetry Festivals. He lives in Beijing.
Dong Li was born and raised in P.R. China. He is an English-language poet and translates from the Chinese, English, and German. He’s the recipient of a PEN/Heim Translation Grant and fellowships from Alexander von Humboldt Foundation, Akademie Schloss Solitude, Ledig House Translation Lab, Henry Luce Foundation/Vermont Studio Center, Yaddo, and elsewhere.
“Though often overlooked internationally, Zhu Zhu has nevertheless been producing one of the most interesting bodies of work in contemporary Chinese poetry. His elegy to Zhang Zao is near perfect as an embodiment of the deceased poet’s lyricism, while in Florence, “We study the map and forget / we are already in those pensively charming / streets and structures, roaming obliviously / through its newly recovered anonymity.” And translator Dong Li is a rare talent, a trilingual poet who translates exactingly into English from his native Chinese. In English as well as Chinese, these are poems of lush description, of wide-ranging reading across cultures and times, and of travel to the exterior and interior.”
--Lucas Klein, translator, and co-editor of The Chinese Written Character as a Medium for Poetry
“Embers, when dark enough, can be used for mirrors." The three decades of Zhu Zhu’s poetry collected in The Wild Great Wall salvage a darkling mirrorwork from the remains of what’s burned away. A resonant poet of desire, memory, and historical reflection, Zhu Zhu has found an apt translator in Dong Li, who understands that “reunion happens in other people’s books, / happens in translation, / happens in a foreign land.” The Wild Great Wall will introduce American readers to a singular poetic consciousness adrift in modernity like “a floating bottle of morrow.”
--Srikanth Reddy, author of Voyager and Changing Subjects: Digressions in Modern American Poetry