1 INNOVATIONS AND EXCLUSIONS: TH E INCORPORATION OF CHINESE LITERATURE IN MODERN AMERICAN POETRY By JAMES INNIS MCDOUGALL A DISSERTATION PRESENTED TO THE GRADUATE SCHOOL OF THE UNIVERSITY OF FLOR IDA IN PARTIAL FULFILLMENT OF THE REQUIREMENTS FOR THE DEGREE OF DOCTOR OF PHILOSOPHY UNIVERSITY OF FLORIDA 2007
2 2007 James Innis McDougall
3 To Liulu and Colin
4 ACKNOWLEDGMENTS I want to thank Liulu for su staining this project by poin ting to dreams that shift and reform again and again like clouds on far horizon s, turning the constant trudge on the everyday cracked concrete to a dance upon the grace notes of Fortunaâ€™s strathspeys (a strathspey is a working song, such that as you labor the mu sic coaxes you along). Wee Colin, xiao Benzheng, the early one, I want to thank for showing me the conspiracy of ocean currents in one caulobscured wail. I am grateful always to my mother , father, brothers, sister , brother-in-law, nieces, and nephews for the endless lessons in poetics â€”Hereâ€™s tae us! Whaâ€™s like us!?! Damn few and theyâ€™re aâ€™ deid! I offer my deepest, most sinc ere thanks to my dissertation committee chair, Marsha Bryant, who led me to the gates of this word horde, piloting me through many a treacherous byway, and for giving me a true appr enticeship in the crafts of scholarship and writing. Finally, I would like to thank C.K. Shih, Malini Schueller, and Susan Hegeman; it is an honor and a privilege to work with them; th eir encouragement, questions, insights, and guidance helped me to mature as a scholar. I cannot thank them enough for their confidence in my project, which for a space was all that held all these pages together.
5 TABLE OF CONTENTS page ACKNOWLEDGMENTS..............................................................................................................4LIST OF FIGURES........................................................................................................................7ABSTRACT....................................................................................................................................8 CHAPTER 1 INTRODUCTION..................................................................................................................122 NATIONAL MARGINALIA: WA LL LITERATURE OF ANGEL ISLAND AS MODERN AMERICAN POETRY........................................................................................31 Borders, Boycotts, and Revolution.........................................................................................33 Traditional Chinese Forms.....................................................................................................44 Identification and Modern National Identity..........................................................................65 Angel Island Modernism........................................................................................................71 Conclusion..............................................................................................................................85 3 LOST IN TRANSLATION: CHINESE PERSONAE AND MODERNIST INVENTION IN CATHAY .....................................................................................................87Cathay and Poundâ€™s Orienting of Modernism........................................................................90 Cathay in Context...................................................................................................................92Poetry as Art Object...............................................................................................................102Personae and Invention in Cathay .........................................................................................112 Conclusion: Cathay and the American Poem........................................................................1384 H.T. TSIANGâ€™S POEMS OF THE CHINESE REVOLUTION : WHITMAN, HISTORIOGRAPHY, AND THE MODERN CHINESE/AMERICAN POEM..................145Revolutionary Beginnings.....................................................................................................146Race, Labor, and Revolution.................................................................................................151A Poetics of the Hypocolony.................................................................................................154Bringing the May Fourth Movement a nd the Chinese Revolution to America.....................159May Fourth Whitman.............................................................................................................172Conclusion: Revolution a nd the Racial Frontier...................................................................1885 GARY SNYDERâ€™S RIPRAP AND COLD MOUNTAIN POEMS IN 1950S CONTAINMENT CULTURE: THE POETICS OF SHAN SHUI TIBISHI AND THE POLITICS OF EXCLUSION................................................................................................193 Domestic Containment as Beat..............................................................................................194 Cold Mountain Tibishi ...........................................................................................................203
6 Traditional Chinese Literatu re and Snyderâ€™s Innovations.....................................................208 Cold Mountain: Postmodern Exclusions...............................................................................225 Conclusion: Innovations and Excl usions in the Cold War....................................................2276 CONCLUSION......................................................................................................................232 LIST OF REFERENCES..............................................................................................................261 BIOGRAPHICAL SKETCH........................................................................................................273
7 LIST OF FIGURES Figure page 2-1 Postcard of Chin atown before the fire of 1906.................................................................51 3-1 Cover of Cathay .................................................................................................................102 3-2 â€œSong of the Bowmen of Shuâ€ from Fe nollosaâ€™s notebook..............................................114 4-1 Chinese coolie laborers contracted by British in Southeast Asia.....................................155 4-2 Foreign-run factory in China............................................................................................1554-3 Poems of the Chinese Revolution Cover Art by Robert Minor..........................................186 5-1 â€œHan Shan and Shi Deâ€.....................................................................................................220 6-1 â€œQiu Jin in â€˜Manâ€™s Suitâ€™â€...................................................................................................244
8 Abstract of Dissertation Pres ented to the Graduate School of the University of Florida in Partial Fulfillment of the Requirements for the Degree of Doctor of Philosophy INNOVATIONS AND EXCLUSIONS: TH E INCORPORATION OF CHINESE LITERATURE IN MODERN AMERICAN POETRY By James Innis McDougall May 2007 Chair: Marsha Bryant Major: English From haikus to ghazals, traditional Asia n poetry has brought si gnificant changes to American literature during the tw entieth century. However, standa rd American literary histories depict the driving force of these cross-cultur al poetics not as coming from Asian Americans asserting a cultural heritage, but from attempts by Anglo-American poets to transform English literature. Focusing specifically on uses of Chinese literature, my dissertation, Exclusions and Innovations: The Incorporation of Chines e Literature in Modern American Poetry , questions this history by assessing how Chinese cu lture is represented in the e xperimentation of avant-garde poets (innovations), and the writi ngs of marginalized Chinese immi grants (exclusions). I use this comparative model to demonstrate how Chinese liter ature in the form of translations, imitations, and allusions has become familiar within American poetry, yet at the same time the intertextual travel traces an erasure of Chinese immigrant cu lture that resulted from the Chinese Exclusion Acts and other anti-Chinese legislation in the US (1882-1965). While Chinese-language texts written in America have failed to receive a clos e study, because they are often treated exclusively as displaced Chinese literature, I argue that they are central to understanding the heterogeneity of American modernism. Moreover, the cultural histor y of Chinese literature as it has appeared in
9 American poetry reveals the tensions between anti-colonialism and imperialism found not only within American literary texts, but also within the institutiona lization of American literature. I begin my investigation with the chapter â€œN ational Marginalia: Angel Island Poetry and American Modernism,â€ demonstrating that the A ngel Island poems (written on the walls of the barracks of the immigration station on Angel Island in San Francisco Bay between 1910 and 1941 by detained Chinese immigrants) are examples of the tibishi , or â€œwall literature,â€ subgenre. Through traditional literary conventions the poets are able to annunciate the disjunctions of imperialism, modernization, revol ution, and nationalism. As inscri ptions, their poetry would be monumentalized as a collective memory, allowing th e poems to serve as a â€œwitness to historyâ€ in both Chinese (revolutionary) and American (ethni c) national historiograp hies. The Angel Island poems represent a modern alienation produced by national institutions of race-based exclusion, telling a tale of not only Chinaâ€™s enc ounter with modernity, but Americaâ€™s. The second chapter, â€œEzra Poundâ€™s Cathay : Chinese Literature Lost in Translation,â€ examines the famous, and influential work that made traditional Chines e appear â€œnaturalâ€ in modern American poetryâ€”Ezra Poundâ€™s 1915 m odernist anthology of traditional Chinese poems, Cathay . I argue that in Cathay , Pound performs the role of cultural authority, signifying on the work of Orientalists ra nging from Marco Polo to Erne st Fenollosa within a body of Chinese poetry that he uses to demonstrate hi s modernist poetics. For Pound to assume the simultaneous roles of speaking for China as an Orie ntalist and as a performer of Chinese culture, China had to exist, paradoxically, as a â€œthirdâ€ space outside European and American traditions. Through Cathay Pound indirectly writes himself into the American literary tradition by reformulating Whitmanâ€™s use of free verse, and vi gorously refiguring Emer sonâ€™s idea of natural writing as â€œChine se writing.â€
10 I shift my focus in the third chapter, â€œH.T. Tsiang's Poems of the Chinese Revolution and the Modern Chinese/American Poem,â€ from avan t-garde modernism of the Great War to populist modernism of the American left, examining poe try that Cary Nelson labels as Americaâ€™s â€œrevolutionary memory.â€ H.T. Tsiangâ€™s 1929 Poems of the Chinese Revolution , as I argue, is a rare image of the pre-Mao Chinese communist revol ution in the late 1920s, connecting the abject conditions of Chinese living in th e United States to Americaâ€™s capit alist and imperial presence in China. H.T. Tsiangâ€™s poetry represents one of the only instances of Chinese May Fourth literature in modern American poetry, characterizing China as we ll as Chinese poetry as modern. Instead of drawing on Chin aâ€™ poetic traditions in Poems of the Chinese Revolution , Tsiang imitates the poetry of Walt Whitman and in the process revises Whitmanâ€™ s internationalism. I show how the powerful and violent images in Ts iangâ€™s poetry contrast w ith Poundâ€™s, such that Poundâ€™s Cathay appears more stereotypically â€œOrientalâ€ than Tsiangâ€™s free verse poems. As such, from Tsiangâ€™s poetry we find not only a fragment of Amer icaâ€™s radical literary history, but also the transnational politics of traditional aesthetics through the representation (politically and aesthetically) of China in American literature. In Chapter 4, â€œGary Snyderâ€™s Cold Mountain: Chinese Poems for a Cold War,â€ I evaluate Riprap and Cold Mountain Poems how the â€œthirdâ€ space of Chin a represented by the tradition of the Cathay -style Orientalism had been reclaimed as an experimental â€œBeatâ€ aesthetic to resist American domestic containment culture of the Co ld War. I argue that Snyder not only uses Chinese aesthetics and religious philosophy to inform his poetr y, but as a challenge to the repressive climate of early Cold War 1950s Amer ican culture. In this sense, Snyderâ€™s poetry creates a tension between repres enting Chinese poetry, and using China as an idealized space for
11 a transformative poeticsâ€”both depe nding on exclusions of actual Chinese from mainstream American culture. Exlusions and Innovations closes with a discussion of recent Asian American poets who use poetry to articulate the di sconnections between the discursive China of the modernist tradition and the recovered lega cies of marginalized Chines e-American writings. As Asian American literature emerged as part of a cultural nationalist movement, novels such as The Woman Warrior have been championed as signifying the arrival of Asian American writers in American literature. At the same time poetry has been for the most part disregarded, revealing the privileging of the novel as more typically â€œAmerican.â€ Using Steven Yaoâ€™s typology of hybridity in Asian American poetry, I examine the poetry of Marilyn Chin and Shirley Lim Geok-Lin as responses to the â€œnatur alizationâ€ of Chinese literature in the United States within an Orientalist tradition, at a time when such naturalization wa s impossible for Chinese immigrants. These poems identify the ideological construction s of gender that the Or ientalist tradition not only used in creating landscapes, but also an Am erican literary landscape. As such, their poetry writes back against an American Orientalism that stems from the exclusion acts, while including themselves in an American poetic tradition of us ing Chinese literature as a source of poetic innovation.
12 CHAPTER 1 INTRODUCTION National literatures are often s ites of struggle over cultural and political representation, and the disciplinary organization of literature into national groupings frequently serves myths of national exceptionalism and conflict over national identity. â€“Cary Nelson What is Li Po doing in Disney Worldâ€™ s Epcot center? Throughout the day in a CircleVision 360 theatre, a replica of Beijingâ€™s Temple of Heaven, continuous screenings are run of the 20-minute â€œReflections of China,â€ a creation of Disneyâ€™s Imagineering, surrounding crowds with dizzying imag es of a whirlwind tour across China. Li Po (also known as Li Bai, Li Taibai, Li Bo), the Tang Dynasty poet, delivers th e narration in the film and represents a stable and stabilizing referent throughout the film, appear ing and then disappearing into the landscape as he figures as the native in formant narrating an adventure across Chinaâ€™s notable tourist destinations, historical landmarks, and dive rse geography. Halfway through the presentation, the virtual tour takes the spectator to a peak of Huang Shan (Yellow Mountain) on which Li Po appears suddenly and the mountain dissolves into the image of a tradi tional ink brush landscape painting of a mountain, which is then cut into pa rallel images of scrolls of poetry written in different styles of calligraphy, completely surro unding the viewer. As the camera simultaneously pans down several scrolls of calligraphy, Li Po fully emerges into his role as an ambassador of Chinese culture by way of his poetry. During this segment Li Po comments on the interconnected uniqueness of Chinese poetry achieved through Chinese landscape and Chinese script. The fetishized close-ups of the calligraphy make visual the narratorâ€™s exotic description of Chinese writing as the essence of beauty, mystery, and distinctness of Chinese culture. In this split screen segment, Li Poâ€™s poetry appears along with poems from the Hanshan Shi Ji , or Cold Mountain Poems Anthology â€”a collection of poems that were lite rally written in the landscape of the Huang Shan mountain chain. The presence of th ese Chinese poems, even though they would be
13 unrecognizable to most American Epcot patrons, was one example of how traditional Chinese literature has become an uncanny presence in Am erican culture. The game of presence and absence of Li Po signifies a larger phenome non in American culture in terms of the way traditional Chinese literature has become familiar, yet at the same time Chinese culture still serves as a marker for some thing absolutely foreign. While Li Po is not necessari ly a readily recognizable figur e in contemporary American culture, he is certainly a presence in modern American literary cultu re to the extent that it is not surprising that the Epcot film woul d use him to represent China. Just as one might ask what is Li Po doing in Disney World, one might also ask what Chinese poets are doing in the work of Charles Wright, Robert Bly, Allen Ginsberg, Conrad Aike n, Amy Lowell, John Berryman, Robert Creeley, Edgar Lee Masters, Vachel Li ndsay, Carolyn Kizer, Kenneth Rexroth, Vikram Seth, Marianne Moore, Philip Whalen, William Ca rlos Williams, Charle s Bukowski, Archibald MacLeish, Louis MacNeice, Yusef Komunyakaa, Charles Olsen, Lawrence Ferlinghetti, Colleen McElroy, and many others. The familiarity with Chinese literary traditions has come about through what Yunte Huang calls â€œintertextual travel,â€ whereb y translations, imitations, and allusions of traditional Chinese poetry have not on ly inspired poetic innovations, but also have become a â€œnaturalizedâ€ featur e of modern American poetry. The story of the transpacific crossings of traditional Chinese literature has been one of continual interest in American literary criticism because it raises quest ions as to the boundaries of national literature and national culture. One of the curious aspects of such cross-cultur al poetics, as the Disney Li Po exemplifies, is that China and Chineseness is used to signi fy a familiar representation of foreignness. The focus of my study is to evaluate the paradox of Chinese literature as a source of innovation for
14 writers in America as a way of representing excl usion and the use of Chin ese literature by those facing exclusion to create and innovative Ameri can identity. The asymme tric conflict between innovation and exclusion appears not only in work s of recognized avantgarde poets like Ezra Poundâ€™s Cathay and Gary Snyderâ€™s Riprap and Cold Mountain , but also in the works of Chinese immigrant writers, like H.T. Tsiangâ€™s Poems of the Chinese Revolution , and the Angel Island poems. In these four very different works of modern American poetry, Chinese literary forms and aesthetic movements provide poets with means for innovating verse in addition to redefining the meaning of â€œAmericanâ€ in their poe try. The Angel Island poets, for example, use a traditional Chinese sub-genre, wall poetry, to create a historiography and pedagogy for migrant Chinese detained in the Angel Island immigra tion center. From traditional Chinese court and landscape poetry Ezra Pound sculpts an English language elegy to present his ideas of a free verse Vorticist poetics. H.T. Tsiang draws from May Fourth Movement poetry to bring the Chinese revolution to the United States. Zen a nd Daoist influenced Chinese poetry provided Gary Snyder, and in turn, Jack Kerouac, w ith a way of imagining Chinese literature as prototypical Beat poems, responding to the repressive American cultu re of the early Cold War. One of the key literary works that gave Chin ese literature currency in modern American poetry is Ezra Poundâ€™s 1915 Cathay in which Li Po appears as cen tral figure in world literary history. The subsequent inte rest in Chinese translati ons, especially among Poundâ€™s contemporaries like Amy Lowell and William Carlos Williams, can be seen as a part of a narrative of the importance of China in Ameri can cultural nationalism in the period following World War I. Many scholars have identified this as a symptom of nativism. For example, Walter Benn Michaels discusses this issue in American modernism by saying that cultural nationalism â€œinvolved not only a reassertion of the dissec ting between American and un-American but a
15 crucial redefinition of terms in which it might be madeâ€ (2). He also says that cultural nationalism reflects â€œefforts to work out the mean ing of the commitment to identityâ€”linguistic, national, cultural, racialâ€”that is common to both [nativism and modernism]â€ (3). On first glance Poundâ€™s Cathay is a modernist work that rejects nativismâ€”an explicitly American provincialism that Pound derides throughout his critical writin gsâ€”as translations from Chinese poetry would indicate that Poundâ€™s project is one of cosmopolitan internatio nalism. However, Poundâ€™s Chinese sources are products of encount ers with Orientalism more th an they are products of his encounters with China. For example, Poundâ€™s early Imagist poems are derived from the translations of the Sinologist, He rbert Giles, and the poems in Cathay are from the notebooks of Ernest Fenollosa, the American Orientalist who spent many years in Japan. According to Zhaoming Qian, Poundâ€™s imagery in his Chinese poe ms can be traced to exhibits of Chinese landscape paintings in the British Museum. Furthe rmore, the tightly regulated original Chinese poems re-organized into loose stanzas of verse libre in Cathay suggest Poundâ€™s interest in Whitmanâ€™s transcendentalist American poetics. Th e title of the collectio n relates the importance of China to European modernity, which is to mistake the â€œNew Worldâ€ for Marco Poloâ€™s â€œCathay.â€ Pound relates America to European culture through an act of fundamental misrecognition, which in turn can be used as fertile ground for poetic production. By doing so Pound represents American culture as not only un stable, but a forgeryâ€”both in the sense as not being authentic, as well as something that is craf ted from a forge. In this way the discursive history of China in the West serves as an indispensable emblem for American cultureâ€™s duplicitous identity complex. I ndeed, such a tradition might also be said to exist in chinoiserie , not as simply integrating European and Chinese aesthetics, but the imag inary reconstruction of an idea of Chinese aesthetics in Europe to please a European market. Als o, it is important to note
16 that the ships involved in the Bo ston Tea Party had arrived from Ch ina, signifying that middle to high class cultural consumption of and preference for Chinese luxury items (such as tea, silk, and porcelain) had been a part of Am erican culture since colonial times (Tchen xv). John Eperjesi conjectures, â€œCapital needs a re gional imaginary in order to overcome spatial barriers to expansionâ€ (â€œThe American Asso ciationâ€ 197), as a way of desc ribing how American presence in the Pacific since the early republic contri buted to westward expansion. And the regional imaginary is a product of Orientalism. A ccompanying the exchange of goods, literary representations of â€œthe Orientâ€ have been an intimate aspect of American culture since the founding of the nation. One of the early poets to grapple with the postcolonial need for an authentic American poetry in the new republic was th e Connecticut wit, Joel Barlow , who wrote the 1807 epic poem, The Columbiad , situating the event of the discovery of the New World as a foundational moment marking the inception of America in mythic terms. In the poem, he describes the Incas as having walls and ceilings carved with words â€œ Like Memphian hieroglyphs, to stretch the span / Of memory frail in momentary man â€ (Book II, line 287). He includes a note in which he discusses what he means by â€œMemphian hieroglyphsâ€ explai ning that the hieroglyphs represent a writing technology that was wiped out by the Spanish and Po rtuguese conquest. Furthermore, in this note Barlow spends three paragraphs talking specifi cally about Chinese characters as a superior technology of writing, which has a greater capacity to expre ss thought and meaningâ€”an idea that Tom Yingling has suggested was influenced by Leibnitzâ€™s notion of Chinese writing as a natural sign system that would a llow a one-to-one representation of the cosmos in language with each signifier a monad (140). Leibnitzâ€™s writing on the Chinese language joins a larger debate in Europe such as John Webbâ€™s 1669 An Historical Essay Endeavoring a Probability that the
17 Language of the Empire of Ch ina is the Primitive Language , which suggests that the Chinese were speakers of the original universal language th at existed before the tower of Babel, and they kept this â€œoriginal primitiveâ€ human language al ive in the Far East. Barlowâ€™s description of primitive Americaâ€™s lost writing in The Columbiad announces the task of the American author, which is to recover the lost American sign sy stem. He goes further to suggest that Chinese writing is a possible a supplemen t for this lost writing. Yingli ng characterizes this as the possibility of America as, first, an â€œunnamed sp ace,â€ and second, â€œa future moment in which the legacy of Babel will be reversedâ€”all peoples of the earth will be educated to democracy, one transparent language of unlimited capacity wi ll replace all others simultaneouslyâ€ (140). The authentic American language, as suggested by Barlow, is the Chinese character, which represents each concept with its own sign. Barlowâ€™s theoretical hieroglyph depends upon an absence of Chinese writing that American authors must supplement. As Robert Kern points out, the creation of an authentic American writing is a task that has been an issue of continual concer n for American authors writing in an â€œAmericanâ€ tradition that was solidified by Emerson and the New England Transcendentalists (37). Kern argues such a formula reveals th at one of the key roles of Orientalism in American writing is to create an experimental space â€œoutsideâ€ of the conventions associated with enlightenment Europe. The â€œnewâ€ experimental work is gi ven a deep historical temporality as a â€œfoundâ€ text, like an archeo logical artifact that could append literary historiography. However, the field of Oriental ism carries with it discursive problems as described by Rey Chow: â€œit is antiquity that rema ins privileged as the site of the essence of Chineseness, which appears to be more bona fi de when is found among the deadâ€ (2003, 18). It is easy to see how metaphorical distance and absen ce are built into Orienta list representations of
18 China that are the sources of experimentation. For example, there is a continual flattening of the meaning of â€œChinaâ€ and â€œChineseâ€ such that a diverse set of languages (from Cantonese to Hakka), an extremely long and complex history of different kingdoms and states (from Chu to Shu), a variety of ethnicities (from Manchu to Naxi), various syntheti c cultural traditions (including many different literary genres), and the spatially di verse settings (from Mainland China to diasporic communities around the wo rld) are reduced to Tang and Song dynasty Chinese writing in one genre. The genealogy that positions experimental modern American poetry as the futurity of Barlowâ€™s lumbering The Columbiad coming into being excludes the Chinese immigrant writers who were also using Chinese litera ture as intertextual sources in the twentieth century. It is a literary exclusion that parallels the legal exclus ion associated with the Chinese Exclusion Acts. Orientalism in the American tradition (in wr iters such as Barlow, Whitman, Pound, Williams, etc.) creates an ideological se paration between European Americans representing China as an experimental compensation for a lack in American verse, and immigrant Chinese Americans representing China as a political entity and literary heritage. Th is difference positions Chinese American writers as outsiders to the American tradition where China is an abstract, and metaphoric space for experimentation. Representing China as an ideal experimental and imaginary space, as a form of â€œnatural wri tingâ€ or a â€œwriting before Babel,â€ depends upon metaphors of distance that are not maintained naturally, but had been sustained by legal, political, and cultural re pression. The Chinese Exclusion Acts are emblems of such a system. Because of these acts, during the first two-thirds of the twentieth century, the race of the writer did matter especially when it came to repres enting China and Chineseness. Chinese immigrant writers throughout the twentieth century were al so writing representations of China and using
19 Chinese literature as in tertextual sources in ways that have gone for the most part unrecognized in American literary history. Because of this, the incorporation of Chinese literature into modern American poetry requires a comparative met hod to show how European-American poets who attempt to redefine American literature through the use China as an imag inary space outside of time and history for poetic experimentation, lik e Gary Snyder and Ezra Pound, contrast with poets like the Angel Island poets and H.T. Tsiang who use China as a cultural, political entity existing within a historical context. One of the border spaces uncovered through such a comparison is the difference between â€œChinaâ€ and â€œChinesenessâ€ as fixed discursive nodes that can be used as a fulcrum for questioning â€œAmericaâ€ and â€œAmerican-ness,â€ and â€œChinaâ€ and â€œChinesenessâ€ as concepts that a literary intervention can alter, which could likewise question ideologies of representation of what is â€œAme rican.â€ While these differences are seemingly incommensurable, the Chinese Exclusion Acts offer a means of cont extualizing tropes of alienation and de-familiarization such that illumi nating the Orientalism in avant-garde writing and the protests in Asian American writingâ€”dual components of an Exclusion Act Literature. Of the writings reviewed in this study, th e Angel Island poems are the most closely connected to the Chinese Exclusion Acts, writte n as they were, directly on the wall of the immigration detainment center located on an island in San Francisco Bay by detained immigrants. Ezra Pound wrote Cathay as an expatriate in Europe, and many of the poems in Cathay mourn abandonment, separation, and exile. P ound, later, was caged in 1945 in Pisa, Italy, and taken forcibly to the United States as a political prisoner for ma king radio broadcasts supporting Mussoliniâ€™s fascist government and denouncing Americaâ€™s involvement in World War II. The American government recognized Pound as an American who was committing treason, for which he would have been executed were it not for the inte rvention of prominent
20 American literary figures who were friends. H. T. Tsiang found himself detained by immigration services twice. He wrote English-language poetr y, plays, and novels after exiling himself to the United States to avoid execution for his left ist revolutionary politics in China. In Poems of the Chinese Revolution he attempts to connect race-based oppression with class-based oppression by showing how racist exclusionary immigration politics paradoxically reifies race-consciousness at the expense of class-consciousness, making life e xponentially more difficult for racialized labor. Snyderâ€™s poetry describes life as a figurative out sider to mainstream consumer society and a literal outsider during his long st ay in Japan. Gary Snyder who ha d his passport withheld due to suspicions about subversive politi cal affiliations in the 1950s not only lived abroad, but also advocated for ecological redistribution of na tional boundaries based on watersheds, replacing national consciousness with ecological consciousness. Ezra Pound and Gary Snyder are critically significant as innovators for their incorporation of Chinese poetics as a means of restructuring E nglish-language verse. The Angel Island poets and H.T. Tsiang represent the few pub lished writers now availa ble in anthologies of American literature who offer a unique portrait of the life of Chin ese migrants who are forced to deal with the harsh realities of the Chinese Exclusion Acts. These pairings highlight the difference between poets associated with bringi ng Chinese literature into modern American poetry, and poets marginalized by the Chinese Excl usion Acts who are associated with bringing Chinese poetry into America as a part of an organic cultural heritage. The latter pairing offers innovations as to the significati on of Chineseness, while the work s of former poets use a stable signification of Chineseness as artistic expressi on and self-fashioning that challenge what they see as conventional if not problem atic formulations of American literature. In these comparisons, exclusion emerges not just as an immigration po licy aimed at Chinese, but a determining figure
21 used to articulate the extraordinar y ruptures in modern life that are seen both in content and in representational strategies in all of the poets coveredâ€”alienation and defamiliarization. Since the general topic in my study is the use of Chinese literature in modern American poetry, an obvious paradox arises; the topic covers a national literature through what appears to be transnational sources. All the poets that are di scussed in this dissertation at least to some degree imagine themselves transnational with an id entity that is not reducible to citizenship. As such, one aspect of this study is to introduce the transnational di mensions of national literature. For example, the Angel Island poems have b een introduced in ant hologies of American literature, as well as early revolutionary poetry of the Peopleâ€™s Republic of China. This leads to the question of whether or not na tional literatures should be taken seriously at all, or whether literature should be considered free from na tional restrictions. Take for example Johan Ramazaniâ€™s recent article in American Literary History where he states: Although literary scholarship is not a branch of the Bureau of Immigration and Citizenship Services, as the INS has recently been rename d, critics co-construct the national and ethnic identities of writer-citizens, r outinely issuing passports to T. S. Eliot, Mina Loy, W. H. Auden, Denise Levertov, and Sylv ia Plath, for example, in the shape of footnotes, literary histories, and anthologies that claim them as â€œAmeri canâ€ or â€œBritish.â€ (331) Ramazani is right to suggest that anyoneâ€™s ident ity and subjective relation to the world, let alone that of a poet, is, indeed, very complicated. But the poetâ€™s relation to a national literature is not simply a biographical problem solved by a passpor t, or even an indexi cal problem for knowing where to look for archives of a poetâ€™s body of works. The argument that personal identity is polyvalent and overdetermined has been convinci ngly made, and that dangers lurk in what Balibar identifies as the racism implicit in â€œl ocking individuals and gr oups a priori into a genealogy, into a determination that is immutable and intangible in originâ€ (22). However, this
22 does not erase the importance of the nation, or the tensions between individual writers and national identities especially within the coll ection of the poets that I am studying here. Interrogating national affiliation and borders erected between peoples seems, an extremely important task, especially in the st udy of twentieth century literature. The Angel Island poems were written in the INS detention center during a period of time stretching across the careers of Eliot, Loy, and Auden. It follows that the systemic flows or bloc kages of immigration f unction within larger narratives of the role of the nati on within the production of subjective national identity. To take a specific example, the one that frames this st udy, the accumulated Chinese exclusion legislation demonstrates the way that two national myths of American origin, Manifest Destiny and the melting pot, were organized around a Eurocentric id entity in which the movement of people, traditions, and ideas from Europe were destined in a global drama such that the United States was to realize itself through an East to West transmigration Europeans. While the pragmatic explanation for the harsh anti-Chi nese legislation was to halt c oolie labor, Chinese immigrants, like indigenous peoples and Afri can Americans, did not fit into the mythos and historiography that rationalized American exceptionalism based upon European heritage. In this sense, the enforcement of the border helped to police identity. The border would not only be deployed to maintain identity but it also helped to produce identity. For writers of the first half of the twentieth century the modern te chnologies of the border (photogr aphs and biometric databases) provided new meanings of national identity prod uced materially through state controls. These official identities interpolated the individual as a part of the modern nation state, even though public support for policies that informed the enforcement of the borde r stemmed from older
23 essentialist notions of national identity derived from racial a nd ethnic features, and expressed through artistic achievements. While the poems in this study are analyzed in terms of an American national literature, there are several important intersections between th e main texts in the diss ertation and historical events in China. During the late 19th century European and American missionary, economic, and military presence in China continued to increase at the apex of colonialism. Specifically, events like the Boxer Rebellion led to the invasion of the eight-nation army, which resulted in an increased foreign military presence in China to protect concessions and other economic interests. In fact, to underscore the imperial aspirations of the United States it sent its subaltern Filipino troops to support this mission. Other events include the 1905 Boycott, and the Nationalist Revolution that ended the Qing D ynasty in 1911, and lead to the establishment of the Baiyang junta in Beijing until 1925. During these moveme nts, Chinese intellectuals studying overseas wrote literary responses to the treatment of Chinese in countr ies like the United States where exclusionary immigration policie s had marginalized and even dehumanized people of Chinese descent. The 1904 renewal of the Chinese Exclusi on Acts by the United States Congress led to a sea-change in national identity in China as mercha nts, students, and workers joined together with overseas Chinese in cities in America and around the world to boyco tt American goods. The Chinese scholar A Ying has shown that the reacti on to the Chinese Exclusion Acts led to the formation of a literary tradition by Chinese wr iters and poets attempting to gain support for protests against the Chinese Ex clusion Acts. As the Boston Tea Party radicalized an American identity in the late ei ghteenth century, the boycott of 1905, foll owed by later boycotts in the early twentieth century, not only unified transnationa l Chinese intellectual and political communities, it also raised the national consciousness of Ch inese in Mainland China as being a nation among
24 nations. As Robert G. Lee points out: â€œAsian im migrant politics took on a transnational character as Asian immigrants engaged in resistance to r acial discrimination and cl ass exploitation in the United States and in nation building in the lands of their origins. From the turn of the century, there was tremendous movement of political activists back and forth across the Pacificâ€ (264). Another key event is the 1919 May Fourth Movement that figured literary experimentation as a force for modernization and revolution. Writers of the May Fourth Movement began a formal rejection of traditional Chinese poetics, inaugurating the official beginnings of modern Chinese literature, corresponding roughly to the time period of cultura l nationalism of American modernism. As many Asian American Studies sc holars have shown, the turbulence in China, often directly related to foreign economic, military, and even religious presence, created large numbers of immigrants who would atte mpt to come to the United States. The Chinese citizens, Chinese Americans, and Asian Americans that I discuss in this dissertation are not simply victim s. If anything, their poetry repres ents the migrantsâ€™ challenge to the imposed fixity of an American identity as Anglo-American. More than that, their literary works dispute the existence of an essential a nd stable Chinese identity. For example, Angle Island poets suggest reforms needed in China fo r successful social transformation. Their poetry also shows that the United States loses its cons titutional legitimacy through racial exclusion. As Lisa Lowe points out, â€œAsian im migrants have not only been â€˜s ubject toâ€™ immigr ation exclusion and restriction but have also been â€˜subjects ofâ€™ the immigrati on process and ar e agents of political change, cultural expressi on, and social transformationâ€ (9 ). The Angel Island poems and H.T. Tsiangâ€™s writing are examples of this agency. I also want to make clear that nowhere in this study do I assert that Snyder or Pound in any wa y support the Chinese Exclusion Acts. Nor is my study simply a critique of immanent social factors that appear in their work.
25 The goal of this investigation is to examine the tactics and strategies that Chinese poetry allowed in a time when social and even biol ogical hybridity was forbidden. Therefore, the cultural contexts function as a way of unde rstanding and periodizing modern American literature, as well as of examining key tropes. Similar work has been pursued by David PalumboLiu in his Asian/American: Historical Cr ossings of a Racial Frontier , which begins with a mapping of the modern Asian American, showing â€œhow the formation of â€˜modern Americaâ€™ in the early twentieth century is so deeply and partic ularly attached to the Pacific regionâ€ (17). He states, â€œManaging the modern was inseparabl e from managing Asian Americaâ€ (17), and the Chinese Exclusion Act that began in 1882 and was revised and extended every ten years until 1943 is an excellent example of this. To try to un derstand the use of Orientalism that appears as a central motif in modern American poetry without considering the Chinese Exclusion Acts is to ignore one of the main connections of Ameri can modernity to the production of literary modernism. More importantly the modern author s created a privileging of traditional Chinese literature as a stable referent for â€œChinesenessâ€ in the beginni ng of the twentieth century at a time that there could be a traditional Chinese literature (in opposition to a modern Chinese literature). The entrance of Chinese literature as an intertext in modern American poetry, then, is part of the story of the raciali zed border that was crucial to the construction of an American identity where the idea of the frontier transforme d from geographic to ra cial features, and how this racialized border became a significant part of history of nationalis m in both China and the United States. The Chinese Exclusion Acts were meant for American domestic policies; however, the immigration acts, which appear to represent an attempt to manage American political and economic demographics (though th e acts were argued by way of assumptions concerning cultural incommensurability), would have profound affects on Chinese nationalism.
26 Likewise, the Exclusion Act prot est literature was a transnational phenome non that would later help to ground ideologies of two different nationalisms. Taken individually, the Angel Island poems and Ezra Poundâ€™s Cathay seemingly have nothing to do with each other. But when put in th e context of the Chinese Exclusion Acts within the between-the-wars peri odization of American modernism, th e two sets of poems form a more complete picture of American literature within an international frame. Poetry as an expression of national identity can be seen as a periodizing ma rker for understanding modernism. For example, during the testimony given to the California Senate (1876) on the â€œSocial, Moral, and Political Effect of Chinese Immigration,â€ a testimony that would be the official rationale for instituting the Chinese Exclusion Act of 1882, one of the speakers who claimed authority on Chinese culture and advocated the restric tion of immigration would say: â€œThe Chinese, So Dr. Williams says, are almost destitute of imagination. The have no poets, as we understand them. What they have is of the most inferior, commonplace characte râ€ (20). This response comes from a question from the Senate committee which asked whether or not the Chinese had any architecture that would rival the â€œgreat nations with histories going back four thousand years [i.e. Egyptians, Greeks, and Romans]â€ (20). The respondent, W. H. Shaw, answered a question about architecture with poetry as a subs titute for representative cultur al achievements defining national characteristics in order to prove that an imagined hierarchy of culture wa s indeed true. According to their constructed paradigm, Chinese architecture could not but be inferior to â€œWesternâ€ architecture because it was infect ed with a prior syndrome revealed in the poetry. This signifies an idea of poetry as a device for accessing the â€œrealâ€ cultural essence or national spirit that instructs and interpenetra tes all other cultural activity from ar chitecture to song writing, such that a defective poetry indicts a defective people.
27 Chinese American poetry especially as it appears under the rubric of ethnic poetry, can be seen as writing back against W. H. Shawâ€™s dismissa l of Chinese culture. This is done in order to both affirm a cultu ral heritage that clears out a space in the American national imaginary by recovering a history from the cultural vacuum of the â€œYellow Perilâ€ discourses that have dominate d representations of Asia during the first part of the twentieth century. Chinese American poetry also forces an interrogation of the Orientalism in the high-modernist translated Chinese poem as an essentially American literature. In doing so, Chinese American poe ts write back against racist political discourses of mainstream American culture a nd against the privileged poetics particular to American twentieth-century poetry. I begin my investigation with the chapter â€œN ational Marginalia: Angel Island Poetry and American Modernism,â€ demonstrating that the Angel Island poems (written between 1910 and 1941 by detained Chinese immigrants) are examples of the tibishi , or â€œwall literature,â€ subgenre. Through traditional literary conventions the poets are able to enunciate the disjunctions of imperialism, modernization, revol ution, and nationalism. As inscri ptions, their poetry would be monumentalized as a collective memory, allowing th e poems to serve as a â€œwitness to historyâ€ in both Chinese (revolutionary) and American (ethni c) national historiograp hies. The Angel Island poems represent a modern alienation produced by national institutions of race-based exclusion, telling a tale of not only Chinaâ€™ s encounter with modernity, but also Americaâ€™s. As such, the poems perform a cultural mapping of the vexed re lationship between national and transnational identities, which is manifested in the way that traditional shanshui , or landscape, conventions are used to depict the experience of being out-ofplace. I show how the Angel Island poems bring into American literature a modernization of trad itional Chinese poetry as a political response to
28 the Chinese Exclusion Acts, running counter to th e early twentiethcentury depictions of Chinese poetry in America as an unchanging cultural form. While the Angel Island poems represent one of the most direct examples of the transpacific flow of Chinese literature into Am erica, they are one of the least familiar. The second chapter, â€œEzra Poundâ€™s Cathay : Chinese Literature Lost in Translation,â€ examines the famous and influential work that made traditiona l Chinese appear â€œnaturalâ€ in modern American poetryâ€”Ezra Poundâ€™s 1915 modernist anthol ogy of traditional Chinese poems, Cathay . I argue that in Cathay , Pound performs the role of cultural authority, signifyi ng on the work of Orientalists ranging from Marco Polo to Ernest Fenollosa within a body of Chinese poetry that he uses to demonstrate his modernist poetics. For Pound to assume the simultaneous roles of speaking for China as an Orientalist and as a pe rformer of Chinese culture , China had to exist, paradoxically, as a â€œthirdâ€ space outside European a nd American traditions. That is to say that China had to be excluded in order for Pound to invent it. Pound uses Chinese poetry, as Hugh Kenner and Ming Xie have shown, as an experiment al space to address his friends at war, and engage the English elegiac tradition on his own terms. Furthermore, through Cathay Pound indirectly writes himself into the American literar y tradition by reformulatin g Whitmanâ€™s use of free verse, and vigorousl y refiguring Emersonâ€™s idea of natural writing as â€œChinese writing.â€ Like the Angel Island poems, Cathay demonstrates the transnational dime nsions of a nati onal literature; however, at the same time, it shows that transnationa lism is not a free, open space of exchange, but mediated through flows of power. I shift my focus in the third chapter, â€œH.T. Tsiang's Poems of the Chinese Revolution and the Modern Chinese/American Poem,â€ from avan t-garde modernism of the Great War to populist modernism of the American left, examining poe try that Cary Nelson labels as Americaâ€™s
29 â€œrevolutionary memory.â€ H.T. Tsiangâ€™s 1929 Poems of the Chinese Revolution , as I argue, is a rare image of the pre-Mao Chinese communist revol ution in the late 1920s, connecting the abject conditions of Chinese living in th e United States to Americaâ€™s capit alist and imperial presence in China. H.T. Tsiangâ€™s poetry represents one of the only instances of Chinese May Fourth literature in modern American poetry, characterizing China as we ll as Chinese poetry as modern. Instead of drawing on Chinaâ€™s poetic traditions, in Poems of the Chinese Revolution Tsiang imitates the poetry of Walt Whitman and in the process revises Whitmanâ€™ s internationalism. I show how the powerful and violent images in Ts iangâ€™s poetry contrast w ith Poundâ€™s, such that Poundâ€™s Cathay appears more stereotypically â€œOrientalâ€ than Tsiangâ€™s free verse poems. As such, from Tsiangâ€™s poetry we find not only a fragment of Amer icaâ€™s radical literary history, but also the transnational politics of traditional aesthetics through the representation (politically and aesthetically) of China in American literature. While in the first three chapters I examin e poetry written during the Chinese Exclusion Acts, in â€œGary Snyderâ€™s Cold Mountain: Ch inese Poems for a Cold Warâ€ I evaluate Riprap and Cold Mountain Poems which was written during the period between the Chinese Exclusion Acts being repealed in 1941 and race-based quotas on Asian immigration be ing dropped 1965. I show that as the rhetoric of Chinese exclusion shifte d from blatant racist not ions of civilization to political containment of communist ideology, th e â€œthirdâ€ space of China represented by the tradition of the Cathay -style Orientalism had been reclaimed as an experimental â€œBeatâ€ aesthetic to resist American domestic containment culture of the Cold War. I describe Chinese-langauge source texts from the Han Shan, or Cold M ountain, tradition to show how Snyder not only translates from Chinese, but attempts to incor porate Chinese closed forms into his original poems, creating a pedagogical model for his unde rstanding of Zen â€œinter penetration.â€ I argue
30 that Snyder not only uses Chinese aesthetics and religious philosophy to inform his poetry, but as a challenge to the repressive climate of early Cold War 1950s American culture. In this sense, Snyderâ€™s poetry creates a tensi on between representing Chinese poetry and using China as an idealized space for a transformative poeticsâ€”both depending on exclusions of actual Chinese from mainstream American culture. Exlusions and Innovations closes with a discussion of recent Asian American poets who use poetry to articulate the di sconnections between the discursive China of the modernist tradition and the recovered lega cies of marginalized Chinese-American writings. As Asian American literature emerged as part of a unified cultural movement, novels such as The Woman Warrior have been championed as signifying the arri val of Asian American writers in American literature. At the same time poetry has been for the most part disregarded, revealing the privileging of the novel as more typically â€œAme rican.â€ Using Steven Yaoâ€™s typology of hybridity in Asian American poetry, I examine the poetry of Marilyn Chin, and Shirley Lim Geok-Lin as responses to the â€œnaturalizationâ€ of Chinese literature in the Unite d States within an Orientalist tradition at a time when such naturalization was impossible for Chinese immigrants. These poems identify the ideological constructions of ge nder that the Orientalis t tradition not only used in creating landscapes, but also an American liter ary landscape. As such, their poetry writes back against an American Orientalism that stems from the Exclusion Acts, while including themselves in an American poetic tradition of using Chin ese literature as a sour ce of poetic innovation.
31 CHAPTER 2 NATIONAL MARGINALIA: WALL LITERATURE OF ANGEL ISLAND AS MODERN AMERICAN POETRY there never is anything â€œnaturalâ€ or â€œinevitableâ€ or to be taken for granted in the setting up of center and periphery. It is always the result of specific and discernibl e operations: rhetorical ones in texts, power ones in the broader social area (xi) â€”de Certeau from Heterologies: Discourse on the Other If one does not study poetry, one has not the wherewithal to speak --Confucius from The Analects Seascape like lichen for a thousand li twists No road to the mainland, the shore path is harsh1 (Lai 4) This opening couplet of the anthology, Island: Poetry and History of Chinese Immigrants on Angel Island, 1910-1940 , evokes the image of a broad horizon as the landscape of sea and rocky shore spreads out in all direc tions. The seascape is doubled th rough the figure of the lichen, alluding to a metonymic relation between lic hen on the shore and, metaphorically, to the continuous repeating pattern of twis ts and breaks. Thus, the poet is able to hint at the color, smell, and texture of the shore, which in th e second line we find is separated from the â€œmainland.â€ In the second couplet the poet cont extualizes the landscape, introducing not only a personal conflict but also the textual hi story of the Angel Island collection: When first making port in a calm breeze I felt also thus-? In that calm state, who knew in a wooden tower I would dwell? (lines 3-4)2 1 My translation. Throughout this chapter I will use Lai et al.â€™s translation unless otherwise indicated. Mark Lai et al., translates these lines as: â€œThe sea-scape re sembles lichen twisting and turning for a thousand li . / There is no shore to land and it is difficult to walkâ€ (p. 4). In the bookâ€™s translation â€œno shore to landâ€ is ambiguous, and the parallel structure of the second line is lost. 2 Lai, et al. translate this line as: â€œhow was one to know he was to live in a wooden buildingâ€ (4).
32 This first poem captures the bewilderment expre ssed by many of the poets when their traveling circuits were cut short as they were detained in the â€œwooden towerâ€â€”the detention barracks on Angel Island. The unsettling shock that the poet describes provides a shared entry point for the contemporary American reader into the antholog y, opening a concealed history of racism in the American immigration policy and the early struggl es of Asian Americans. The poetâ€™s unsettled feeling points to a larger rupt ure of modernity expressed not only through the extrapolated circumstances that give the poem a political meani ng within the anthologyâ€™s context, but also in the way that the poet employs conventions of tr aditional Chinese poetry to express a singularly modern event of being detained by the American Naturalization and Immigration Service. The first poem is a representative example of how the Angel Island poets imitate traditional closed forms (this poem is written in the style of the jueju quatrain), employ classical shanshui landscape modes (the first couplet develops th rough nature imagery c onsisting of contrasts between land and water), and apply the textual practices of the tibishi or â€œwall literatureâ€ subgenre (the poem was originally written on the wa ll, and the poem mentions the building in which it is inscribed). Form and material ity of the Angel Island poems are as important as the content in the way that they represent the drama of early twentieth-century nationalism on two sides of the Pacific, and, more subtly, the heterogeneity of modernism in American poetry. Moreover, the Angel Island poems introduce a conflict within th e American literary tradition to which Asian American poets would respond towards the end of the twentieth century. My larger arguments about American modernis m come out of the hi storical context of the politics of Chinese exclusion in the United States, the politic al transformations that were occurring in China, and the trad itions from which the poems attempted to draw. These contexts include the Chinese Exclusion Act and the institu tions erected to enforc e it, the 1905 boycott of
33 American goods, and the Chinese Revolution of 1911 that ended the Qing dynasty. In addition to historical background, my argument also consider s the conventions of traditional Chinese poetry, specifically, jueju and lshi poetic forms, traditional shanshui aesthetics, and the tibishi subgenre. The Angel Island poems, since their appearance in the 1981 anthology, Island: Poetry and History of Chinese Immi grants on Angel Island 1910-1940 , have been an important work in the field of Asian American studies. Since th e increased importance of ethnic studies in American literature and the relatively recent attemp ts to create a more inclusive literary canon of American literature, the Angel Island poems have began to appear more prominently in American anthologies. For example, Cary Nelsonâ€™s landmark An Anthology of Modern American Poetry includes the Angel Island poems, representi ng the cultural and linguistic diversity of American poetry in the early twentieth cen turyâ€”a period dominated by now-canonical high modernists. The anthologized poems in litera l translations performed by Lai, Young, and Lim that have achieved greater recognition presen t a minimal surface to American audiences to whom much of the meaning of the poems comes from their textual histories whereby the poems themselves are figured as survivors in a narrative of ruins. Borders, Boycotts, and Revolution The Angel Island poems are a direct result of the Chinese Exclusion Acts, which began in 1882 and continued until they were repealed in 1941. During this time the barracks of the Angel Island detention center became an unlikely palimpsest where the meaning of the exclusion is not only described, but responses to th e exclusion are represented. For example, the last quatrain of poem â€ in Lai et al.â€™s anthology describes the anxiety that filled the process of detainment: Counting on my fingers, several months have elapsed Still I am at the begi nning of the road. I have yet to be interrogated.
34 My heart is nervous with anticipation (lines 4-8) The quatrain shows the long detentions and the interrogation procedures that occurred as the Immigration and Naturalization Service (INS, now the Bureau of Citizenship and Immigration Service, BCIS) attempted to police Chinese immigr ation. It also represents the Chinese migrant as having a subjectivity and an interiority, unlike the representations of Chinese as a â€œYellow Perilâ€ that informed the anti-Chinese legislation in the second half of th e nineteenth century. As the Chinese Exclusion Act was renewed every te n years, it became an all-encompassing legal tool used to exclude all Asians. Immigrants were originally detained in a Pacific Mail Steamship Company warehouse as they waited to be processed, until an in spection condemned the practice and the Angel Island facilities were opened in 1910 (Lai, et al. 13) . Chinese immigrants resisted the exclusion acts with legal challenges, usi ng â€œloopholesâ€ in the law, and by subverting the entry process (falsifying docum ents, altering images, or bypa ssing border stations), which resulted in the modernization of the INSâ€™s t echnologies of identific ation, surveillance, and discipline in managing the border (12). It is in th is situation that we can read the Angel Island poems as literary response, producing the dom inant tropes of modernismâ€”alienation and fragmentation that describe the loss of a stable identity. The Chinese Exclusion Acts represented an aspect of American modernity where state institutions implement technologies of identific ation to manage the American body politic. They also represented the ways that American nati onalism developed through theories of race and territorial expansion, as in Mani fest Destiny. However, the Chines e Exclusion Acts were not the only nationalism that informed the Angel Isla nd poems. The Chinese boycott of 1905 marked an unprecedented social and political movement in China that had a transformative effect on Chinese around the world. The boycott was in res ponse to the United States Congress passing the
35 ten-year renewal of the Chinese Exclusion Act. After hearing repor ts of mistreatment of not only Chinese laborers, but also scholars and diplom ats in the United States, Chinese activists protested the passing of the acts by encouraging a national b oycott against American goods. In a study of commercial culture and Chinese national identity, Karl Gerth explains that the 1905 boycott had four direct effects: first, it began a series of boycotts that would connect consumption with national politics; second, it creat ed a unified image of China, as opposed to separations based on geography, dial ects, gender, and social status that prevailed during the Qing dynasty; third, it created an image of the nation as a bulwark agains t international th reats; fourth, it created a â€œpopular participati on in the anti-imperialist and na tional salvation projectâ€ (128129). The agitation surrounding the boycott embodies a paradoxical situation that marks the period stretching from late-imperial China from the turn of the century through the Republican period until the end of the revolution in 1949. Incr easingly, transnational experiences by Chinese abroad created a strong sense of Chinese nationa lism. The paradox stands as a determining figure through which the poems can be read in terms of American immigration la ws being connected to Americaâ€™s presence in China. The boycott was started by merchants in China and the United States, revealing not only the transnational connections of Chinese in co ordinating political acti on, but the transnational extension of US power. The United Statesâ€™ m ilitary, economic, and political power was not simply confined to the geographic boundaries of the nation, but was transnational. As Lisa Lowe suggests, one of the paradoxes of the expansion of the United Statesâ€™ power is that it created both a politics of immigration and a la bor market that combined to form at once a welcoming and an exclusionary gesture. The market for Chinese labo r and the political refusal to accept Chinese as American citizens framed Chinese American iden tity as a resident alien. Lowe states, â€œThe
36 economic contradictions of capital and labor on the national level, and the contradi ctions of the political nation within the global economy, have given rise to th e need over and over again, for the nation to resolve legally capitalist contradiction around the definition of the Asian American subjectâ€ (10). While there was a transnational flow of American economic and military power across the Pacific into Asia, there was an accompanying xenophobic and racist attempt to exclude of Asians from the United States. The 1905 boycott would play an important part of Angel Island history. First, boycotts of the detention centerâ€™s cafeteria and hunger strike s became protest tactics through which detainees used consumption as a political tool for impr oving their conditions (Lai, et al. 19). Secondly, through organizing the 1905 boycott in the United States, Chinese American merchants became effective advocates for the trea tment of Chinese immigrants comi ng to America. Gerth mentions that, â€œthe boycotts politicized merchants through native-place a ssociations, which were largely responsible for initiating the boycottsâ€ (129). The relevance of this effect on the Angel Island poems comes back to the architecture of the Ch inese Exclusion Acts, which complicate the racial exclusion through the class-based exceptions made for students (wealthy enough to study in American universities), wealthy traveling for le isure, family members of US citizens, state officials, and merchants (â€œChinese Exclusion Ac t, 1882â€). Chinese American merchants served as political organizers, supporti ng a political infrastructure fo r revolutionary movements in China, as well as for protecting the interests of Chinese Americans who were denied basic government institutions in the United States (e specially in terms of providing security, legal counsel, and even social services like hospitals). These institutions would allow for a means to a collective political response, as well as for lobbying Chinese Am erican interests among politicians, including the Six Companies founde d in 1854 (later the Chinese Consolidated
37 Benevolent Association) and The Chinese Amer ican Citizens Alliance founded in 1895 (Lai 2004, 39). It is important to note in terms of the A ngel Island poems that the leaders of these merchant organizations were xiucai degree holders (signi fying that they had passed the Mandarin exam system and were qualified to hold office as local-level administrators for the Qing government) and were also involved in forming litera ry clubs as they wished to preserve Chinese cultural traditions (Hom 30). Chinese poetry in America was practiced well before the Angel Island poems were written; thus, it is not surp rising that there are su rviving poems from the detainees, and that these poems would e xpress outrage at the exclusion acts. Several of the Angel Island poems show not onl y anger directed at the United States for unfair immigration laws, but also many poems motivate political ac tion in China. In 1911, a year after the Angel Island facil ities were opened, the Qing dynasty was overthrown by the Nationalist revolution. Thus, it ma kes sense that the poetry confr onts issues of Chinaâ€™s upheavals as being related to the excl usion acts, if only because th e two are connected through the detainees travels. For example, poem 42 from Lai et al.â€™s anthology demonstrates a kind of political dialectic where an indi vidualâ€™s encounter with the US immigration service leads to a transformation of national consciousness. I left the village well behind me, bade farewell to my father and mother , Now I gaze at distant clouds and mountains, tears form like pearls . The wandering son longed to be wealthy like Taozhu , Who would have known I w ould be imprisoned on Island? . I beat my breast when I think of China and cry bitterly like Ruan Ji. , Our countryâ€™s wealth is being dr ained by foreigners, causing us to . suffer national humiliations My fellow countrymen have foresight, plan to be resolute, , And vow to conquer the U.S. and avenge previous wrongs! .
38 As in poem 1, poem 42 draws from shanshui conventions that include themes of separation, and the construction of nature imager y usually through parallel juxta positions of land and water. The second couplet completes the quatrain, locating th e poetic subjectâ€™s lyrical gaze on Angel Island, joining a famous Tang dynasty tradition of shanshui poem that are composed in a tower. â€œIsland,â€ the place of captivity, is unembellished, se tting up the closing rhetorical question that meditates upon the poetâ€™s fate. The second quatr ain begins with an allusion to the Three Kingdoms (220-280) eccentric, Ruan Ji [ ] (one of the Seven Sages of the Bamboo Grove), who used his poetry for politic al allegory (Châ€™n and Bullock 10-11). The classical allusion contrasts the sudden references to the twentieth ce ntury. The poet succinctly inserts the standard narrative of Chinaâ€™s modernity radically transfor ming the landscape poem into an analysis of the global politics that resulted in the detainment . The poet describes European and American (and later Japanese) imperial incursions that di srupted local and later national economies (â€œOur countryâ€™s wealth is being draine d by foreignersâ€), thereby erod ing the sovereignty of the Qing dynasty (â€œcausing us to suffer national humiliation sâ€), which could only be rectified through a modern political and military transformation (â€œMy fellow countrymen, have foresight, plan to be resoluteâ€), transforming China into a strong nation that can stand up for itself on the international stage (â€œAnd vow to conquer the U.S. and avenge previous wrongsâ€).3 The poet creates a story of Chinaâ€™s modernity through a nineteenth-century pseudo-Darwinian deterministic historiography of progress, which did not exist in traditional, especially Tang dynasty poetry. Instead of being an effort simply to mimic the shanshui poem, the poet uses the genre as a way to place the individual within the larger fr amework of a global drama of th e survival of the fittest. 3 Tu Weiming (just one of many scholars to make this point) says that liberation from imperialism is the masternarrative of twentieth-century Mainland Chinaâ€™s politics (149).
39 The first quatrain presents a fragment of the individualâ€™s alienation and sorrow at his4 unsuspected detention at Angel Island during his j ourney to search for wea lth overseas, which is framed within a larger histor ical situation in th e second quatrain. In th e second quatrain, the Angel Island poet mimetically operates as the read er of the first quatrain, putting the lyrical, subjective verse into a historical, national fram ework. Between the two quatrains the emotional tone of the poet changes from elegiac, sorrowf ul, and philosophical resi gnation, to an activist historian who is not afraid of l eading his readers toward the rattli ng of sabres. As the poet shifts in tone and content he creates a connection between the two quatrains, suggesting: â€œthe wandering son longed to be wealt hy like Taozhu,â€ and â€œour countryâ€™s wealth is being drained by foreignersâ€ are related. This reading posits that the poet consciously or unconsciously draws a causal relationship between imperialist incursions into China and Chinese attempting to migrate in order to make money. Such a connection ha s recently become a focus of Asian American scholars, like Erika Lee and Sucheng Chan, who show how the migrations of Chinese are from areas affected by the USâ€™s imperial presence in Ch ina. By describing the hi storical and political connection between the imperialism and immigra tion the poet is able to critique the Chinese Exclusion Acts for the double inju stice of not only destroying local economies in China, but also excluding Chinese from access to an American econo my that was attempting to mine the mythic limitless market of China. Poem 42 shows one of the many strategies used in representing the detainment at Angel Island. Other responses range from outrage to resignation at the unfair and often dehumanizing treatment of the exclusion. Given the terrible and irrational circumstances of the writersâ€™ confinement, it is tempting to place the reacti on of the Chinese immigr ants through the Angel 4 The poems are all taken from the male barracks, and the female barracks had burned down, so it is most likely that even in the poems where a female voice is being used, that the poet is male.
40 Island poems as a localized complaint against an unfair system of excl usion and alienation; however, the Angel Island poems represent a part of a much larger dialogue on race-based exclusion in the United States and the Chinese nation state after the Qing-dynasty ended in 1911. The anxiety of these two interrelated problems is one aspect of the ambivalence between national and transnational identities represented in th e poems. Furthermore, the Angel Island poets construct a China whose relative wealth and power were defined in its ability to counter the Chinese Exclusion Acts. In this way the poems se em to draw from a body of work that has come to be known as the Chinese Exclusion Act Prot est Literature. These works became widespread during the 1905 boycotts of American goods year s before the Angel Island poems could have been written. The Chinese Exclusion Act Literature is comp rised of a large and diverse body of texts, that include â€œwall literature.â€ Fo r example, in a 1909 report in the Annals of the American Academy of Political and Social Science , James Bronson Reynolds wrote an article titled, â€œEnforcement of the Chinese Ex clusion Law,â€ which stated: On the twenty-ninth day of the eleventh moon of Peng Ng year, that is January 13 1907, there appeared on the walls of many build ings in the Chinese quarter of Singapore a declaration from which I take the followi ng statement: â€œIn America we are one and all ill-treated as if we were criminals, no distinction being made between officials, merchants, students and ordinary people. There the disgrace inf licted upon us may be said to be carried to its fullest limit.â€ Th e signer of this declar ation was a well-known, prosperous Chinese merchant of Singapore, and his judgment on the American Bureau of Immigration, I am informed, voiced the genera l sentiment of intellig ent Chinamen (363). Although according to Reynoldsâ€™s re port the posting was not in the form of a poem, the textual characteristics of the message indicate a sh ared and widespread response to the Chinese Exclusion Acts within not only the United States and China, but around the world. Furthermore, like the Angel Island Poems, the message was tran scribed and circulated in a different medium from its original place on the wall. In this ca se, Reynolds argues that the United States should
41 enforce a class-based, and not a race-based excl usion policy. Moreover, the rhetorical purpose for re-contextualizing the wall l iterature was to convince congre ss to change the immigration legislation because it was affecti ng US trade interests in China. The Angel Island poems are join such protests against the continual policies of Chinese exclusion. These poems have been transcribed into anthologies of American poetry, such as Island , compiled and annotated by Him Mark Lai, Genny Lim, and Judy Yung, all descen dents of Angel Island detainees. The new rhetorical work that the poems perform, in additi on to demonstrating the ri ch and varied literary traditions that have flourished in North America, is to clear out a space for an Asian American literature in order to show its long and repressed history, and to challenge the Eurocentric definitions of American culture. Reynoldsâ€™ reference to the writing on a Singapor ean wall in his essay fits into a category that the Chinese literary critic, A Ying, identifies as â€œChinese Exclusion Act Protest Literature.â€ A Ying assembled an anthology, Chinese Exclusion Act Protest Literature Anthology (Fanmei huagong jinyue wenxueji ), out of essays, short stories, handbills, biographic accounts, dramas, and poems. This body of protest literature, according to A Ying, crystalized the 1905 Chinese boycott American goods . However, the literary protests are not restricted to the boycott of 1905. A Ying shows that literary pr otests against the Chinese Exclusion Acts appeared in China and the Unite d States even before the Chinese exclusion legislation was passed into law. For example, Huang Zunxian ( ), a diplomat with a post in the United States was a leading formalist shi (regulated verse) poet, and had published the â€œ Driven Out Guest â€ (â€œ â€) while living in the United Stat es (Mair 440). Later in 1900 he had written the poem â€œYellow Manâ€™s Sorrowâ€ (â€œ â€), describing hard conditions and
42 racism that Chinese faced in America (A Ying 2-4). As a diplomat, Huang boosted San Francisco poetry gatherings and the form ation of literary clubs between 1881 and 1885, suggesting that there was a literary culture in San Francisco that had it s own private publishing houses and literature prizes prio r to the turn of the century (H om 32). Another notable figure of the late-Qing period was Zhang Xianbing ( ) who published a collection of poems in the United States called, Songxin Poetry Collection, San Francisco Works , (A Ying 4). In addition to these wo rks, at the turn of the centu ry there was a growing body of journalism reporting the condition of life in th e United States (Li, Anshan 1). Using the pseudonym, Yin Bingzi , Liang Qiqiao , an activist promoting a constitutional monarchy and massive reforms for the Qing dynasty, had written A Report on Chinese Exclusion Acts in America in 1904, which is one of the first comprehensive studies of Chinese-Americans and their tr eatment in America (1). Fictional works and poetry dealing with racism and criticisms of the treatment of Chinese in United States also appeared in China. Some of these works were published in small activist journals and newspapers, for example, the novella, Bitter Student ( ) by Qi Youzi ( ), and the short story, Golden World ( ) by a writer known as â€œOne Who Stayed At Biheguangâ€ (Ying 4). The boycott literature wa s not restricted to essays and speeches calling for action; it incl uded â€œdifferent media to reach as many people as possible. Newspapers targeted the cultural elite; songs , lectures, slogans, drama performances, and cartoons of mistreated Chinese reached a wider audience; and handbills, leaflets, and placards
43 written in the colloquial langua ge informed intermediate groupsâ€ (Gertz 129). By 1910, the earliest possible date for the wri ting of the Angel Island poems, the depiction of the treatment of Chinese in America and American immigration policy had become a literary topic that was written and read by Chinese in both the United St ates and China. Most of the titles of this Exclusion Act Protest Literature were published in Guangzhou and Shanghai where, not surprisingly, existed most of the foreign presen ce in China with the city of Guangzhou and its surrounding counties being the point of origin for most Chinese immigrants to the United States (Lee 2). In a 1929 collection of Cantonese folk songs, over two hundred describe ordeals of Chinese in America, family members left behind in China, the day-to-day managing of a family across two continents, and the pain and anxiety of separation. Thes e works reveal the extent of the transnational dimension of Chinese literature during the time when the Angel Island poems were composed (Hom 40). The Angel Island poems can be read as a cont inuation of the tradition of the Exclusion Act Protest Literature, which d ealt with a perspective of Chin a from outside of China that revolutionized national consciousness in late-Q ing China. According to Alan Chun, â€œtheir [overseas Chinese] identity as a group was galvanized by Chinese nationalist sentiment that began to grow during the early twentieth century and culminated in the 1911 Revolution that overthrew the Qing dynastyâ€ (102). The treatment of Chinese in the United States became an important index for Chinese to imagine China as a nation within a global system of nations. The Angel Island poems were recorde d, collected, and circulated within China before they registered as a part of the literary histor y of the United States. Because of this, the poems can be read as a part of a cultural and political transformation o ccurring in China. At the same time, the Angel Island poems have also become more widely acknow ledged in the United States at the end of the
44 twentieth century through anthologies like Cary Ne lsonâ€™s, as well as thro ugh the recovery efforts of Lai, Young and Lim whose most complete co llection have argued that the poems represent a pioneering spirit of Chinese-Americans which ch allenges stereotypes a nd shows the obstacles they overcame to become American. As such, th e poems have been framed as contributing to two different national literatures. Traditional Chinese Forms The Angel Island poems make up a small part of the traditional Chinese-language poems written and published by Chinese-Americans a nd Overseas Chinese in the United States. However, most of these other poems have not be en translated into English. The most common forms that the Angel Island poets employ, the jueju and lshi , date back to the Six Dynasties period in Chinaâ€™s hi story (AD 220-589), and were once considered folk song forms until they became fashionable among the c ourt literati. All formal poems or s hi are structured metrically based upon rhyme and tone patterns, and specific forms of shi depend on tone, meter, or stanza lengths. By the end of th e Six Dynasties new lyrical styles of shi , the jueju and lshi , became accepted and popular forms that played upon pairings of couplets. According to Daniel Hsieh, â€œIn Chinese poetry, the quatrain is a fundame ntal unit of verseâ€; he continues by adding â€œmuch of Chinese poetry is composed in blocks of quatrainsâ€ (60). Lshi consists of eight lines of five or seven syllable lines, which usually can be thought of rhetori cally as two quatrains, whose lines are formed by alternating cl usters of flat (in standard mandarin 1st tone) and deflected (in sta ndard Mandarin 2nd, 3rd, and 4th tone) tonal pattern s (1). Typically lshi contains at least two antithetical (parallel) couplets. The jueju consists of only one quatrain, and tends to be more flexible in tonal cons truction often to give the impres sion of spontaneity. The quatrain unit, usually composed of antithe tical couplets has its history in the composition of folk songs,
45 but it is also an important devi ce for regulating the visual appear ance of the poetry (60). Herbert Giles reports that at the end of the 19th century that Chinese â€œwall literature,â€ consisted of doggerel verse composed in sequences of quatrains (Giles 429). The blocks of quatrains create a visual effect, which is essentia l for a genre whose key feature is its appearance in public places. Like news and more banal postings, the Angel Isla nd poems allude to the formal restrictions of regulated verse, but often do not vigorously adhere to all the rules of regulated verse. Many of the Angel Island poems use shanshui or landscape conventions, which is not surprising because jueju and lshi poems are often associated with nature poetry. The conventional shanshui motifs began through the work of i nnovators during the Six Dynasties, like the forms jueju and lshi , which later flourished in the Tang dynasty. Two of these prominent poets who emerged during period were Tao Yuanming (c. 365), and Xie Lingyun (385-433). Both took to reclusion from government postsâ€”Tao became a farmer and wrote in a style that is called or field and garden poe try (Mair 266). Xie was a noble who later was banished to the south after spending too much time wandering the mountains (266). He is attributed with beginning the parall el verse style of shanshui poetry that incorporates Confucian, Daoist and Buddhist motifs, describing wildernesses of mountains and water (268). For both poets nature is not only described, it also becomes a way of representing a personal transformation. Xieâ€™s poe try depicts his experiences trav eling in the mountains, and his exile in the southern part of China. His shanshui poetry, then, is a writing-in-place. The subtext of exile or being â€œout of placeâ€ allows the verisi militude of his descriptions to operate on a metaphysical level as being in an illusory world. An example fr om Xieâ€™s fifth century â€œClimbing
46 Stone Drum Mountain near Shangshu ( )â€ shows how the shanshui poem creates within the landscape an elegiac mood: The traveler is a prey to endless sorrows, As one grief goes another comes behind. Such a long road leading back to my old home, With rivers an hills between that canâ€™t be crossed (Euyang 599) Here the weariness of Xieâ€™s tr aveler (interchangeable with Xie himself) extends into the landscape in an aesthetic gesture of ganwu (emotional response to physical nature) (Chang 57). Later landscape poets would likewise depict thei r experiences in nature but also to correlate mountains (or things rocky) and ri vers (or things wet) with Daoist principles of yin and yang, to suggest the Buddhist transcendence of dualism, or to map social values within dynastic empires often in allegorical Confucian terms. These interr elated philosophical points of de parture create a unity of form and subject matter between the closed form and the open landscape. Poets of the Six Dynasties institu ted long-lasting changes to the shi by adapting conventions of â€œparallelismâ€ and â€œveris imilitudeâ€ from a long-form genre called fu (Chang 69). Though the Angel Island poems were written at the end of the Qing dynasty several hundred years after the Six Dynasties, the main features of the poems are derived from this tradition. To many early twentieth-century scholars, Chinese a nd Western alike, it appeared as if late-Qing dynasty poets merely produced sub-par derivatives of poetry from richer times (a continuation of a historiography that 19th century thinkers like Hegel clai med, positing that Chinaâ€™s civilization had decayed and its advanced â€œs piritâ€ migrated to the West). However, recent scholarship suggests that by the late-Qing period, subtle li terary innovations were taking place that set the conditions for the modern literary movements of the twentieth century. For example, in
47 describing the bamboo-branch poetry, a kind of public poetry, Wang Di states, â€œalthough Qing poets â€˜did not invent new genresâ€™ as did th e poets of Tang, Song, and Yuan times, they did compose verse more closely related to people's lives. The emergence of bamboo-branch poetry was most likely attributable, as some scholars point out, to â€˜the rise of realism in Qing poetry.â€™â€ (Wang Di 33). Though writing in a traditional form, the Angel Island poets use elements of the shanshui poem in a kind of realism that certainl y makes their poetry seem more vulgar than famous poets from Chinaâ€™s classical past, and in the process created a poetry that in itself would become a usable past for Chinese American poets. Due to the expectations of verisimilitude in shanshui poetry, it can also be considered a genre of travel writing. Shanshui poems written as inscriptions during a poetâ€™s travels generated a mutual writing of nature on the poet, and the poet on nature; thus, â€œby inco rporating a text into the environment, the traveler sought to partic ipate enduringly in the totality of the sceneâ€ (Strassberg 7). For example, poem 40 begins, â€œI lean on the railing and lift my head to look at the cloudy sky, / All the mountains and rivers are dark ( , / )â€ (lines 1-2). Here the poet introduces the frame of the scene and proceeds to draw the landscape image through the pairing of â€œmountainsâ€ and â€œriver s.â€ Poem 17 ends with the lines â€œAt times I gaze at the cloudand fogenshrouded m ountain-front / It only deepens my sadness / â€ (lines 3-4), an image in which the mist and the hill on Angel Island double as both the location of the deta inees on the hill in A ngel Island, as well as a familiar place in shanshui poetry. The first two lines of poem 58 use water and mountains to describe the actual and dangers of trying escapin g from the barracks (â€œMay I advise you not to sneak across the barrier. / Green wa ters surround a green hill on four sides /
48 â€), closing with the cautionary lines about accepting deportation as a better alternative to risk death in trying to cross the bay (lines 7-8). Poem 64 uses the landscape as a way of talking about failing th e immigration interview and the prospects of deportation after a half a year of detainment. It reads as follow: â€œCrude Poem Inspired by the Landscapeâ€ â€œ â€ The ocean encircles a lone peak , Rough terrain surrounds this prison . There are few birds flying over the cold hills , The wild goose messenger cannot find is way . I have been detained and obstacles , have been put my way for half a year Melancholy and hate gather on my face. Now that I must return to my country, I have toiled like the jingwei bird in vain The humble poet of poem 64 uses shanshui conventions to produce the mood of loneliness, sorrow, and almost unfathomable emotional dept hs that would accompany a half-year detention only to be deported. The emotional situation of ha ving been detained also helps to create an added significance to the features of the landsca pe. Poem 64, like previous examples, presents a variety of ways that elements of shanshui are reconstituted in order to produce aesthetic, emotive, and didactic images of Angel Isla nd. While not all of the Angel Island poems use shanshui conventions, all the poems, as Strassberg sugge sts, represent a desi re to â€œparticipateâ€ within the â€œtotalityâ€ of Angel Island. The poets are not simp ly passively observing Angel Island as a transparent eyeâ€”they are tran sforming it through their poems. As the Angel Island poems are examples of regulated verse, or shi , they not only can be categorized by their form (like jueju and lshi ), but also their materi ality. Traditional Chinese
49 literary subgenres include poems th at serve specific social func tions, appearing in particular places. For example, all of the Angel Island poe ms can be considered as a part of the tibishi or â€œwall literatureâ€ subgenre, and at least one scho lar in Chinese has categorized them as such.5 One of the first English-language definitions of tibishi as an object of Si nological inquiry comes from Gilesâ€™s 1899 Chinese Literature . Gilesâ€™s work will come up agai n in this dissertation due to the influence of Chinese Literature on Ezra Pound and William Carl os Williams, who used this English-language anthology of Chin ese literature as a resource for their own attempts to refigure Chinese poetry into the Ameri can poetic tradition (Qian 24, 120). Spinning a fin-de-seicle narrative of Chinese culture af ter the British incursions, G iles catalogues wall literature, newspaper, and translation as important genres of the late-Qing dynasty (425). Newspapers and wall literature were also very important in Chin atowns in the United States and around the world as a means of unifying a marginalized commun ity through print culture . Often times the two would merge as newspapers and private publishers would post articles and other forms of writing in public places. The coupling of wall-literatur e and journalism as the late-Qing literatures de jour reveals that the revolutionary modernism of the vernacular-based May Fourth movement was immanent within the Qing dynasty before the 1911 revolution. Gile s suggests that â€œA Chinese Horace might well complain that the aud acious brood of England have by wicked fraud introduced journalism into the [Chinese] Empire , and evils worse than consumption and fevers have followed in its trainâ€ (425). Gilesâ€™s denuncia tion of low-brow culture hints at the unstated fear on behalf of both he, and the Qing offici als sharedâ€”that the public postings of the newspaper and other forms of wall literature o ffered possible outlets for political and social 5 See: Fang Minxi â€œMulou tibishi zhu shi â€ (Tong Shang 1978 8 24 ).
50 subversion of the status quo to which both em pires clung. Giles describes â€œWall Literatureâ€ as follows: From time immemorial wall-literature has b een a feature in the life of a Chinese city surpassing in extent and variety that of any other nation, and often playing a part fraught with much da nger to the community at la rge. Generally speaking, the literature of the walls covers pretty much the same ground as an ordinary English newspaper, from the â€˜agonyâ€™ column downwards.6 (Giles 425) That Chinaâ€™s wall literature has a monolithic histor y is an Orientalist trope belying the historical specificity of the contents of his own descriptio nâ€”official proclamations, and tirades against the foreign presence all come out of specific events that could not have always existed. Giles states, â€œIt is scarcely necessary to add that wall literatu re has often been directed against foreigners, and especially against missionariesâ€ (428). In his ob servation of the genre, he does not report the possibility that these forms might be used to e licit revolutionary sentiment. Gilesâ€™s proviso in this sentence recreates a stereotype of the Chinese as naturally xenophobic heathens, in a way that does not seem to consider the sources of Chinese misgivings about a foreign presence in China. Angel Island poets share these very same suspicions, to the extent that Lai et al.â€™s anthology includes a sect ion titled â€œAbout Foreigners,â€ whic h includes poem 48: â€œI thoroughly hate the barbarians because they do not respect justice / They c ontinually promulgate harsh laws to show off their prowess / They oppress the ove rseas Chinese and also violate treaties (99-100). Gilesâ€™s description of tibishi applies to a limited historical moment that could only have existed after the Opium War, which is often considered Chinaâ€™s entry into modernity, shaping the Qing 6 Gilesâ€™s description of wall literature includes the following: Mixed up with notices of lost property, consisting sometimes of human beings, and advertisements of all kinds of articles of trade, such as one would naturally look for in the handbill literature of any city there are to be found announcements of new and startling remedies for various dis eases or of infallible pills for the cure of depraved opium-smokers, long lists of the names of subscribers to some coming festival or to the pious restoration of a local temple, sermons without end directed against the abus e of written paper, and now and then against female infanticide, or Cumminglike warnings of an approaching millennium, at which the wicked w ill receive the reward of their crimes according to the horrible arrange ments of the Buddhist-T aoist purgat ory (429).
51 dynastyâ€™s need for reform, and fostering an opposition to imperialism. Not only does Giles mischaracterize wall literature by not giving the subgenr e a historical specif icity, he tends to characterize it as lowbrow literature: â€œthey are written in doggerel verse, with a view to appealing more directly to the illiterate read erâ€ (426). Giles does show the advantage of wall literature as a kind of print capital, where the circulat ion of texts is Figure 2-1. Post Card of Chinatown Before the Fire of 1906. Verso reads: â€œThe Latest Newsâ€” Chinatown's Bulletin Boards are always a sour ce of interest to San Francisco visitors. The latest news is posted on the walls of buildings, and the Chinese gather about to learn of world events.â€ Th e Ethnic Studies Library, Un iversity of California, Berkeley. Call number: SF Chinat own (iii): postcards: 32783 dependant upon a circulation of bodies. The wall a nd word combine to re-direct flows in ways that are unpredictable and possibly subversive. Re gardless, they both play into the construction of a geographic imaginary, and the beginnings of a national imaginary, demonstrating how texts become an integral part of the way that a peop le can understands themselves as part of a nation.
52 In a sense this is characteristic of the Angel Is land poems, because they re present a circulation of texts caused by circulations of bodies among spatially bound linguistic communities. In terms of the literary history of the subgenre, most of the famous tibishi are associated with pastoral and wilderness settings, and not ur ban postings as Giles describes. Furthermore, there have been many changes in the social function of tibishi since it became a poetic convention during the Six Dyna sties (220-589) (Zeitlin 74) . Liu Hongsheng defines the characteristics of the tibishi as not simply engravings on a wall, but it can consist of a variety of materials, writing technologies, loca tions, and situations for writing (2).7 Liuâ€™s list in note 7 refers specifically to Tang dynasty tibishi ; however, his typology addre sses elements found in the Angel Island poems, such as the use of prison cells, and complaining about unfair treatment by a corrupt government (2). Because spontaneity is valued in the sub-genre, ther e is more latitude for 7 Liu Hongsheng defines tibishi as follows: â€œ [ ti ]â€ means â€œwritesâ€; â€œ [ bi ]â€ refers to â€œany surface to write up on," not merely a â€œwall,â€ but also mountains and cliffs, the temples, the post horse relay stations [inns], porch pillars, the palace halls, estate grounds, the window lattice, the tower over a city gate , closed doors, prison cells, bridge heads, steles, folding screens, hard pillows, lanterns, kites, handk erchiefs, clothing, leaves, even bamboo. Thus, the written media and the method of publication tibishi are many and varied. Some tibishi take their form because of the conditions and limits that the writers faced at that ti me and were forced to write with stone, coal briquettes, branches, knives or swords, skin of guava, even the poetâ€™s blood is used to write. The variety of writing tools reflects the heterogeneity of the genre. Tibishi includes topics such as sorrowful life experience, states pain from nostalgia or homesickness, rage at unfavorable results of the civil examination that are written at the examination site, frustration of dealing with official circles of power, disillusioned with the mortal world, requesting aid from the immortals; [the tone can be influenced by many sources] perhaps a childhood mood, perhaps the return of a lingering ancient wound, the performance of expressing oneself sadly, resigned sighs in response to the boundless universe, perhaps to eulogize the landscape, perhaps out of resentment of the world and detestation of mundane affairs, perhaps to urge the world to change, perhaps to reverse a verdict, some of the poems have richly complex thoughts and allusions. [ , â€œ â€ â€œ â€ ; â€œ â€ â€œ ,â€ , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , . , , . , , , , , , , , . , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , .] ( . . : , 2004, p. 3. My translation.)
53 splitting the diglossia that separates formal cla ssical Chinese in which poetry was traditionally written and vernacular Chinese, and permitting lingui stic variations that range from doggerel to highly erudite, formal poems. In this way, the sub-genre has tended to straddle high and low forms of poetic expression, such that while the Angel Island poems imitate privileged forms the diction and usage are inflect ed by vernacular Cantonese. The Angel Island poems and the tibishi sub-genre can both be described as writing at the limits. In one sense, they are wr itten on the limits of the forma lized boundaries of the American nation state. But the poems more obviously reflec t the limits of producing a literature within captivity. In this way the poetry is to a certain extent a â€œfoundâ€ poetry, but not in the sense that it employs a found text as a way to manipulate and defamiliarize the readerâ€™s orientation to the poem as a L=A=N=G=U=A=G=E school poet might . Instead the Angel Island poets rely on found technologies of writing, the palimpsest, an d even immediate impressions of the poetâ€™s mise en scne to be combined ad hoc for the purposes of poetic pub lication. I say publication and not composition, because the poets had access to paper and could have written their poems through a more personal and ephemeral medium. The special properties of the tibishi allowed the site of artistic production also b ecome a site of re-production, as tracings and transcriptions can be made by readers as they encounter the poems . Publication of poetry occurs through a coconspiracy between author and reader both of wh ich use poetry as a way of narrative formation of the meaning of their journeys as they travel . This is true of the Angel Island poems, and many of the poems contain references to their materi ality. Examples from La i et al. include poem 15, line 1 (â€œThe insects chirp outside the four wallsâ€ [ ); poem 27, line 2 (â€œOver a hundred poems are on the wallsâ€ [ ]); poem 31, line 1 (â€œTh ere are tens of
54 thousands of poems composed on these wallsâ€ [ ]). There are several examples of poems that not only refer to walls upon which they appear, but also to the many other poems on the wallsâ€”a fact that is not lost upon the poe t. The poet has not only a â€œfoundâ€ textuality but also â€œfoundâ€ texts with which to work. The found-ness of the poems gives the subgenr e a special extra-poetic (outside of the poetic composition) feature of that comes from the discovery of the tibishi . The collector of tibishi typically puts the assemblage of lyrics with in the narrative of their discovery. Such a task was often put to the end of crea ting a historiography that frames the individual poems as a form of nostalgia or didacticism. This sense of loss through discovery was rhetorically used as early as the Tang dynasty in order to produce a â€œruin sentimentâ€ huai gu as the poems are received and commented upon either within an ant hology or through the production of more tibishi (Zeitlin 78). Judith Zeitlin argues that in the early Qing dyna sty (1644-1911) adherents to the Ming dynasty (1368-1644) made anthologies of tibishi written by palace ladies because they saw the fragments of the then-ruined Ming culture they clung to in the palace la diesâ€™ inscribed verses (104). Zeitlen says, â€œthe palace la dy revenant is clearly a stand-in for an eyewitness to history, someone who experienced past events and can provide â€˜inside informationâ€™â€ (104). The Angel Island poems have come to share this function as â€œhistorical insider,â€ which allows the collector to create a coherent assemblage of lyrical fragments. The result is a narrative that explains the poems in a way that the original poets could not possibly have imagined. In this sense, the Angel Island poems contain a â€œruins sentimentâ€ through the narrative of their current form. They were â€œdiscoveredâ€ by a park ranger in a building slat ed for demolition in the 1970s. The Angel Island poems also have become interventions into na tional historiography by scholars in China (A
55 Ying), and the United States (Lai, et al.) such that the detainees become figured rhetorically as â€œeyewitnesses to history.â€8 Despite the controls an anthologi zer may possess over the meaning of tibishi , poets create inscriptions in order to memorialize spaces as having special meaning. Furthermore, sites of inscription can become, alternativel y, citations for inscription as later poets write themselves into particular places. In a study of landscap e inscriptions, Strassberg shows how tibishi accumulate intertextually as well as spatially within a l iterary geography. He states : â€œCertain sites thus became virtual shrines in the literary culture, el iciting further inscriptions through the centuries. The Cave of the Three Travelers (San-yu-tung), first written about by Po Ch-I [Bo Juyi] (772â€“ 846) in 819, attracted another set of â€œT hree Travelersâ€ in the Sung, and was further inscribed by Lu Yu (1125) in his A Journey into Shu (1170)â€ (4). Another exam ple of this occurred along the stone cliffs of Wu Creek where â€œover fi ve hundred inscriptions have accumulated from Yuan Jieâ€™s time [the date of the inscription is 784] thr ough the early Republican period, including a â€˜Paean to the Great Song Restorati on,â€ installed in 1209 next to Huang Tingjianâ€™s poem by two members of the Song imperial cla n, lifting phrases barely unchanged from Yuan Jieâ€™s shorter original [title â€˜Wu Xi,â€™ or â€˜My Creekâ€™], it praises or dinary imperial activities with bathetic pomp [an inversion of Yuan Jieâ€™s po etry]â€ (Pearce 138). Wu Creek is now a tourist 8 Lai begins his narrative frame for the poems through the story of the near-ruin of the poems and their chance recovery: The Chinese detention barrack on Angel Island, a two-story wood building located on a hill overlooking San Francisco Bay, stood abandoned for mo re than two decades until it was finally marked by the government for destruction. In 1970, park ranger Alexander Weiss noticed characters inscribed on the walls inside and concluded they were writings left by Chinese immigrants once detained there for questioning. Weiss informed his superiors but they did not share his enthusiasm or belief in the significance of calligraphy on the walls. Weiss contacted Dr. Geor ge Araki of San Francisco State University, who along with San Francisco photographer Mak Takahashi went out to the island and photographed practically every inch of the barrack walls that bore writteng, mo st of which was poetry. Their discovery soon sparked enough local Asian American community interest to lobby for its preservation in 1976 the Legislature appropriated $250,000 for the preservation of the building. (Lai 9-10)
56 destination visited by over 250,000 pe ople per year (Pearce 138). Judith Zeitlin points out that by the Ming Dynasty there was an attempt to curtail in scription poems in scenic areas to the extent that a work â€œentitled â€˜How to Kill Sceneryâ€ (â€œSha Fengjingâ€ ) lists â€˜inscribing poems on walls at famous mountain sitesâ€™ al ongside other crimes such as â€˜using a pine grove as a toiletâ€™â€ (74). â€œWu Creek,â€ and the â€œThe Cave of the Three Travelers,â€ demonstrate how tibishi have become tourist destinations for the places that th ey have memorialized, such that the poems have altered the environment as they have been ensh rined in various ways. Likewise, the Angel Island poems have created a destination and revised the American geogra phical imagination. More than $50 million dollars have been al located by private donors as well as local, state and federal governments to preserve the barracks on Angel Is land, and to restore the poetry written on the walls (Barber A28). Of the many rh etorical feats of the subgenre, tibishi , one of the most prominent is the continuous and polyvalent pl ay of presence and abse nce between individual lyric and collective memory, inscribing na tional geography with cultural meaning. The Angel Island poems share a contiguous interre ferentiality with each other in the same way as such notable historical te xts as Bo Juyiâ€™s â€œCaves of the Three Travellersâ€ and Yuan Jieâ€™s â€œWuxiâ€ inscriptions. One way that this can be read is through the repetition of allusions in the Angel Island poems. Obvious cases of borrowi ng comes through the shared use of literary allusion among the poems: for example, poem 30 lin e 6, â€œWhen Ruan Ji reached the end of the road he shed futile tearsâ€ ( ); poem 43 line 5, â€œI beat my breast when I think of China and cry bitterly like Ruan Jiâ€ ( ); poem 62 line 5, â€œWhen Ruan Ji reached the end of the road, who t ook pity on his weeping?â€ ( ); other historic and literary
57 figures with shared allusions include Han Yu, Su Wu, and Zu Di. The reworking of allusions demonstrates the poetsâ€™ shared materials both literal and figural simu ltaneously suggesting a horizontal, contiguous poetic influe nce, as well as a vertical hist orical transmission of influence, which in turn re-inscribes previous detainees wi th cultural authorities. In the cases of poems 30, 43, 62, the allusion to Ruan Ji implies a poetry that is at once a disavowal of a political regime (Ruan Ji refused to serve a government he did not support), aesthetic ap preciation of landscape and veiled political allegory, which were ofte n referenced by later literati (Sturman 50).9 Ruan Ji becomes a significant figure for the Angel Island poets considering he was educated as a member of the official class, yet had to endure extreme poverty as a result of his disenfranchisement with the ruling government (50). Angel Island poets w ould find in Ruan Ji a significant figure that represents a usable past. The interreferentiality of the Angel Island poems also appears in the way that they contend with one another. Although the conditions of the detainment appear to be shared, the responses to this situation were not monolith ic. Examples of the differences range from philosophical resignation to outrage. For exam ple poem 27 reads, â€œWhy should one complain if he is detained and imprisoned here / from ancien t times, heroes often were the first ones to face adversity ( )â€ (lines 7-8). On the other hand, poem 47, concludes with â€œI should regret my taking th e risks of coming here in the first placeâ€ ( ), suggesting that the poet is evaluating his decision to migrate as mistaken, not heroic. Poem 36, lines 5-6 ascribe the personal sufferings to the state of the Chinese nation, â€œIf my country had contrived to make herself strong, this never would have happened. / Then 9 According to Peter Sturman, Ruan Ji once took up a distant official post, and upon arrival, he tore out the wall of a building so that he could appreciate the landscape (50).
58 when the ship had docked, we could have gone directly ashoreâ€ ( ) (86). However, poem 45 does not accept that the Chinese nation lacks resources to change the fate of the migrants (â€œDo not say that we have not the means to level the ugly barbariansâ€ [ ]). The multiplicity and heterogeneity of the responses to the detainment reflects the heterogeneity and multipli city of the immigrants who came from China. The poems represent a communal dialogue on topics like the meaning of the detainment, and the state of China vis--vis American imperial pow er. The interreferentiality of the poetry on the walls extends discursive space capturing the dialo gue where the participants do not all share the same values, or interests even though they shar e experiences as detain ees. This adds another layer of complexity, which is translated out of the poems in English. In addition to employing traditional closed forms and classical allusions, some of the Angel Island poems are imitations of more fa mous poems. For example, poem 33 â€œInscription on a Wooden Building,â€10 (â€œMu Wu Mingâ€ ), is written as an imitation of Liu Youxiâ€™s ( ) famous, â€œInscription on a Humb le Roomâ€ (â€œLou Shi Mingâ€ ). The poem stands out in Lai et al.â€™s anthology because it is one of the only poems longer than 8 lines and not written in regulated verseâ€”the line lengths va ry. It employs a special genre of inscription writing called ming , which is explicitly discussed in the Six Dynasty rhetorics Wen Xin Diao Long ( ), and Wen Xuan ( ). The Wen Xuan suggests that a ming should be â€œcomprehensive and concise, gentle and generous,â€ and gives as its first example the inscription 10 â€œWooden buildingâ€ is the nickname that the Chinese deta inees gave the Angel Island detention barracks (Lim 70).
59 on Emperor Shunâ€™s bathtub that reads, â€œ , , ,â€ which, incidentally, Ezra Pound borrowed for his dictum, â€œmake it newâ€ (Hightower 523, note 54). The Wen Xuan describes the ming as a â€œrhymed Admonition about its proper useâ€ (523, note 54). In the Wen Xin Diao Long the ming is described as follows: The term ming means to name; to distinguish an article necessarily entails calling it by name. To make this appellation co rrect and say its co nnotation, great moral development is essential. (Shih 59)11 As an imitation of the â€œLou Sh i Ming,â€ the Angel Island poem â€œMu wu mingâ€ is more than a parody; it engages in the act of na ming a material object such that the object fits into a symbolic order. Below is a juxtaposition of Liu Yuxiâ€™s â€œLou Shi Mingâ€ on the left, and the Angel Island poem, â€œMu Wu Ming,â€ on the right: â€œlou shi ming,â€ by Liu Yuxi Inscription on a humble room shan bu zai gao The mountain does not have to be high You xian ze ming To have there dwell immortals shui bu zai shen The water does not have to be deep You long ze ling to flow with dragonsâ€™ soul si shi lou shi This is but a plain room Wei wu de xin Of my solitary but kind fragrance, â€œmu wu mingâ€ Inscription on the wooden building , lou bu zai gao the building does not have to be high ; you chuang ze ming to have windows let in light , dao bu zai yuan The island does not have to be far . Yan zhi ai lun For fog to control Ai Lan (t ransliteration of â€œIslandâ€ meaning Angel Island) , jie chi mu wu Alas, this wooden building zu wo xing cheng It restricts my movement 11 The translator of the Wen Xin Diao Long , Vincent Shih, footnotes this passage, saying: â€œThe name, as here used, must not only denote the article to which it is given but al so connote a virtue which the name of the article suggests. Hence, â€œto nameâ€ actually means to su ggest a moral exhortation in an inscribed appellation. For these moral achievements are what the name connotes. Without these connotative contents the name cannot be considered as correctâ€ (59, note 3).
60 tai heng shang jie l moss marks my steps green Cao se ru lian qing Grass enters inexpensive and blue tan xiao you hong ru hear dialogues of great scholars Wang lai wu bai ding Come and go only the literate Ke yi tiao su qin, yue jin jing One can play the zither, recite golden classics wu si zhu zhi luan er No unpleasant sounds reach the ear Wu an du zhi lao xing No labor piles on my desk nan yang zhu ge lu In Yangzhou to the south, is Zhuge garden Xi shu zi yun ting In Sichuan to the west is Zi Yun Pavilion kong zi yun: he lou zhi you ? Confucious says, â€œhow can there be meanness?â€ si bi you qi l four walls are painted green zhou wei cao se qing we are surrounded by grass of blue xuan hua duo xiang li hear shouts of countryside peasants shou ye you xun ding The night watchman has patrols , . Ke yi shi yun dong, kong fang xiong One can move about, if one has spare cash you hai zi zhi luan er Childrenâ€™s unpleasant sound disturb the ear wu du bi zhi lao xing not a murmer of labor nan wang yi sheng fang To the south the medical examination building xi liao lu jun ying To the West is an army camp. , ? zuo zhe yun: he le zhi you? The Author says, â€œhow can there be happiness?â€ The â€œMu Wu Mingâ€ creates an ironic inversi on Liu Yuxiâ€™s Tang Dynast y Poem, which can be read as writing back against the genreâ€™s â€œgen tle generousness,â€ and a reversal of Confucian ideals through the writerâ€™s own complaint. In the process the poet merges a famous and easily recognizable Chinese poem with the audienceâ€™s own knowledge of Angel Island. The key feature of the ming is proscriptively creating a moral use of an item (or in this case , of the place) through poetry. In the â€œMu Wu Mingâ€ the poet transforms the inscripti on from having a proscriptive to descriptive value, which, in turn, changes the social functi on of the poetic enunciation. The differences between the rhetorical situations of the two poems are instru ctive for rethinking the critique of late-Qing Dynasty poetry as deri vative, and the Angel Is land poems as lowbrow poems written by hacks. A recurring theme in th e Angel Island poems is the absurdity, cruelty,
61 and injustice of the prolonged detainment. However, Poem 33, in addition to describing the detention as miserable, demonstr ates dry wit and performs a dext erous weaving of the conditions of the detainment into the poem into a well-r ecognized classical poem, suggesting a composition contains as much hu mor as bitterness. The poet uses mimicry to deconstruct the C onfucian world order of Liu Yuxiâ€™s poem, which posits that the individualâ€™s self-purification is a necessary function for the improvement of the state (i.e., the simple poverty of living in a shed among books, music, and nature is an enchanted blessing, where oneâ€™s capacity for refi nement is infiniteâ€”â€œHow can one be sad?â€). The subtext of Liuâ€™s poem is that official life is inherently a co rrupting influence, and instead of an increased engagement with politics one mu st withdraw. But the Angel Island poet suggests that the state needs to change in order to insure a personâ€™s quality of life, because the reality of the detention suggests there is no space to which one could withdraw from the political realities of the state (both China and the United States). Th e difference is subtle but clearly marked by the author replacing his appeal in the place of an al lusion to Confucius (line 16), signifying that the old regime of textual authority is replaced by the anonymous individual. In this way, poem 33, â€œMu Wu Ming,â€ can be read in dialogue with â€œLou Shi Mingâ€ contesting the utopian space of an ideal Confucian order by using a dystopian reality of the immigr antsâ€™ detention. Also like AngloAmerican modernists and, later, Asian American writers, these poets found it necessary to alter inherited poetic parameters, which oddly make the tradition new and fitting. In â€œMu Wu Mingâ€ the landscape becomes a site of recontextualization, such that the classical landscapes of mythical geographi es where immortals and dragons abound become modern. Liu Yuxi creates an expressive landscape in which his humble room is located, and then places this landscape within an imperial Chin ese spatial imaginary where the â€œwestâ€ means
62 â€œShuâ€ (Sichuan), and the â€œsouthâ€ means â€œYangâ€ (Yangzhou) and each is identified by means of synecdoche (Zhugeâ€™s park, and Y unziâ€™s pavilion). In this way abstract cardinal points of the compass register in the cultural geography of the â€œcelestial kingdom.â€ This mapping in Liu Yuxiâ€™s inscription places the â€œhumble roomâ€ w ithin the coordinates of notable and easily identifiable spaces of high cultu re and poetic composition (a pavi lion, and a garden). This also does the work of placing the poet whose humble hous e is away from the imperial center yet within the frame of the empire. Thus, while the po et is away from the corrupting influences of the court his refinement and the perfection of the state are integrated mime tically within a poetic tradition. The spatial, mythological, and even generi c considerations undergo a revision in poem 33. Consider, for example, how the immortals, dra gons, and literati in the Liu Yuxiâ€™s poem have become illiterate peasants, crying children and patrolling watchmen. Not only are the mythic constituents of the Humble Room replaced with more realistic characters, class dimension are introduced as the poet separates himself from â€œilliterate peasantsâ€ who are also trying to immigrate. The peasants also allow the poet to observe a â€œBabelâ€ effect as the immigrants converge in the wooden buildingâ€”they speak their own regional dialec t. This ironic inversion of the original poem represents a plausible reality of the speaker. For example, the poet complains, â€œOne can move about, if one has spare cashâ€ indi cating how class, or at least access to cash, was a determining factor in bypassing the Chinese Ex clusion Acts. The compla int about poverty is common in traditional Chinese poetry, and the in scription on the â€œhumble roomâ€ speaks to this motif, suggesting that though the pl ace is â€œhumbleâ€ it can house a w ealth of virtues. The Angel Island poet refuses to create virtues out of the su ffering that the detention caused. As a result, the poem suggests an exchange of values have ta ken place between the poems where the ideals of
63 the Confucian literati are substituted with the cl ass values represented in the Chinese Exclusion Act. The â€œLoushi Mingâ€ is literally re -placed; in as far as the poem is a ming , the single most important aspect of the genre is that the poem appears on the object that it describes. The poem about a literati retreat is repla ced with a poem on a very unique place designed for surveillance, discipline, medical evaluations, and the production of a passable id entity. These attributes of Angel Island are found in the way that the poet places the â€œwooden buildingâ€ within the coordinates of modern institutions of the hospital, and the army base. These pieces of architecture are relatively uniform in cons truction and purposeâ€”â€œst ate-control of the mechanisms of disciplineâ€ along the Western bor der of the United States (Foucault 330). As such, the poem shows how traditional Chinese po etry as it is imitated produces a subjectivity relative to the experience of entering into the architecture of American power. And this can be seen in the way that Liuâ€™s â€œmountainâ€ ( shan ), has been replaced with the barracks and â€œwaterâ€ ( shui with â€œislandâ€ (Angel Island). These subs titutions show that within the Angel Island poems, representing conditions of the detain ment creates a metaphoric eradication of the traditional shanshui poem with all of its values, cultural connotations, and inherent political ideologies. Thus, the â€œMu Wu Mingâ€ serves as the function of poetic memory, recording the details of the detainment, and commenting on th e meaning of the detainment. The displacement of the Chinese immigrants becomes aesthetici zed through a poetic realism which unhinges Liu Yuxiâ€™s ming , if not his magical hermitage, as a territo ry for moral admonition. This is a poetics of loss, where the poem cannot bring the virtue s of traditional landscap e and instead bring a world of isolation and alienati on, fragmented from a classical past and instead is gathered together for an unforeseeable des tination of the poet and the poetic tradition in which he writes.
64 Strassberg notes that by the end of the Tang dynasty, the shanshui poem had developed conventions as travel poetry quite different from European ones, â€œ[i]nstead of dialectically preserving the â€œothernessâ€ of a place as a vant age point from which to express ideological opposition, his [the poetâ€™s] desire for a poetic iden tification with Nature temporarily resolved feelings of alienation and isola tion in a transcendent sphere, one that was purified of specific social and political issues (44) .â€ In this regard, the Angel Island poems as a collection are profoundly conflicted. Many of the poets participate in the tradition of using tropes of nature as a means of identification, but while some use the detainment as the condi tion par excellence for self-purification of the socialpolitical order, others see the so cial-political as the arena through which the wrongs of Americaâ€™s ex clusionary immigration policy can be rectified. Indeed, this can be read as a strain between Da oist non-action and Confucian activism.12 The Angel Island poetsâ€™ construction of their ex periences through elements of shanshui poetry allow familiar themes to appear (exile, sorrow of separation from family or friends, solitary views from a tower, disappointment at the cruel fate of official policy, failing exams, thinking of home, see note 7). This represents an internal te nsion between the non-dialectical ideology of the traditional forms and the poems as an Exclusion Ac t Protest literature (or early As ian American poetry) which are written on the premise of a dial ectical relation between literatur e and social action. One of the ways that this tension is being wo rked out is through the notion of â€œt he otherâ€ in which alterity is formally represented (Chinese and Euro-Ame ricans are represented in an antagonistic relationship). It is through the en counter with â€œthe otherâ€ that the poems offer various solutions to the problem of exclusion. 12 James Liu describes the Confucian aspect of poetry has existed since the creation of the anthology, Shi Jing (Book of Odes), in the 6th century BC, adding that this poetic theory assu med, â€œpoetry should reflect the peopleâ€™s feelings toward the government and expose social evilsâ€ (67).
65 Identification and Modern National Identity In shanshui poetry many famous Chinese poets ra nging from Tao Yuanming to Du Fu who took on the affect of a poor farmer in their po etry were in fact members of an elite class (who despite their position did suffer at times ex treme poverty and deprivation). In addition to assuming the personae of farmers and recluses ther e is a tradition of male poets adapting a voice of a woman, especially that of an abandoned co urtesan or a wife separated from her traveling husband. Many of the Angel Island poems employ personae, complicating the notion that the poems are â€œwitnesses of history.â€ For example, poem 27 in the appendix employs a transgendered poetic voice (â€œI am like pear blosso ms which have already fallen; / Pity the bare branches during the late spring ( )â€ (lines 3-4). In this poem the speaker uses familiar tropes associated with femininity, such as pear blossoms, to compare passing beauty (often associated with abandonment) with feelings of due to the detainment. One of the first individual poets to be recognized in Chinese literary history, the minister Qu Yuan constructed a feminine subjectivity to voice his love and devotion to the emperor in the poem, Li Sao (â€œOn Encountering Troubleâ€). While it is easy to pick out in the conventions of the abandoned palace courtesan poem where gender lines are crossed, it is more difficult to decipher whether or not the poets were representing â€œotherâ€ voices across class lines. Many of the immigrants were indeed from impoverished rural communities around Guangzhou. So it is not surprising that a poet would say (in appendix poe m 52) â€œAlthough I had read through four or five loads of poetry and history, / I had only one blue shirt when I became old (
66 ).13 However, it is equally as plausible that the poet is using a persona for the aesthetic purposes of creating a sublime simplicity through the stoc k figure of the peasant farmer (which in traditional poetry also comes in the form of hermits, fishermen, and woodcutters). Regardless of the poetâ€™s economic situati on there remains a central but perhaps unintended irony in the use of a persona from a lo wer social strata. The poet was detained in Angel Island to prove to the Am erican government that he was not a poor laborerâ€”laborers were the one class of Chinese immigrants for whic h there were no loopholes. Furthermore, even detainees who fit the criteria of the exceptions to the exclusion act needed coaching in order to prove their own identity. One of the first chal lenges to the Chinese Exclusion Acts came from Chinese Americans who used the writ of habeas corpus forcing the US government to set up a system of interviews where an im migrantâ€™s identity could be veri fied. After complaints about the condition of the immigration de tention barracks in a â€œtwo st ory shed at the Pacific Mail Steamship Company wharf,â€ the Angel Island facil ity was established in part to â€œeffectively prevent Chinese immigrants from communicating w ith Chinese on the outsideâ€ (Lai et al. 13). The earthquake and fire of 1906 in San Francisco complicated this process because many of the original immigration documents that verified citizen ship status were lost or destroyed. Therefore, it was possible for Chinese immigrants to forge an identity if they had someone in the United States to claim that they were relatives and to provide a crib sheet to as sist the immigrants to prepare for the cross examination (Lai 20). Chines e men who attempted to migrate in this fashion were called â€œpaper sons.â€ 13 A qingshan ( ), â€œis derived from â€˜qingyiâ€™ or â€˜blue clothing.â€™ The lower social classes in China customarily wore blue colored clothingâ€ (Lai et al. 170).
67 While the â€œpaper sonâ€ phenomenon was a mo re obvious case of iden tity transformation, the entire process of interview turned all Chines e immigrants into possible paper sons who had to prepare for questions that the in spectors might ask. Many immigrants reported that one of their fears was failing the cross-examination even th ough they were not pape r children. The problem was so pervasive that the examiners themselves not ed that a paper son was much less likely to be tripped up than a family member who was not coached (114). The pr ocess of creating and enforcing the Chinese Exclusion Act created a Chinese body that had been transformed into a text. The Angel Island poetry pe rforms the pain and sorrow of individuals detained, encoding autobiographical details into the generic conventions of Chin ese poetry; however, it authors remain for the most part anonymous. According to Stephen Owen â€œ[t]here is a tendency to avoid metaphorical reading (except in a limited number of generic cases) th at is linked to the traditional Chinese readerâ€™s presumption that most shih subgenres were nonfictional. Poems were read as describing historic al moments and scenes actually present to the historical poetâ€ (57). This can be seen paradoxically in the wa y that the poets perform a discursive selffashioning of their identity, which is an unca nny doubling of the text-based identity of their paper work created by the Chinese Exclusi on Acts. Furthermore, traditional Chinese shi , particularly during the Tang dyna sty, which was model for the Angel Island poems, tended to prize the construction of a somber, elegiac t one. So while Cynthia Wong suggests the Angel Island poems are a form of self-laceration, her th eory is based on a read ing that does not account for the self-fashioning of the lyrical voice to achie ve a poetic ideal (3). This does not necessarily refute Wongâ€™s point, but instea d suggests the poems have tran sformed individual responses of the detainment into a ritualized and communa l lamentation. And it should make the reader suspicious of how the poems are used as â€œwitnesses to history.â€
68 Poem 38 is an example of how shanshui conventions are present in a way that reveals the poetic voice as a kind of performance. Being idle in the wooden building, , I opened a window The morning breeze and bright moon . lingered together I reminisce the native village far away, , cut off by clouds and mountains On the little island the wailing of cold, . wild geese can be faintly heard The hero who has lost his way , can talk meaninglessly of the sword. The poet at the end of the road . can only ascend the tower One should know that when the country , is weak, the peopleâ€™s spirit dies. Why else do we come to this place ? to be imprisoned? The first quatrain locates the poet in the barracks ( ), a real place, even within Angel Island, where nature would be something that the deta inees could look at becau se the barracks faced away from San Francisco. The realism is enha nced through the sensory description of the wind, the sounds of geese, the coldness, and the li ght of the moon which are conventional landscape motifs (which are all involved in the drama of longing for union and separation: moonâ€”loverâ€™s reunion, wind and moonâ€”sexual union, geeseâ€” loverâ€™s fidelity, mountainsâ€”aporia or separation, cloudsâ€”obscured fate). In addition to the set of easily r ecognizable associative symbols, the poet introduces suggestive allusions to the mountains and waters separating the poet from his home, like Xie Lingyun, and is at the end of his road, like Ruan Ji (while these are two of the figures that I revi ewed while discussing the shanshui poetry, there are many poets that
69 could be substituted as the reference to these lines ). In the second quatrain, the allusion becomes more complex as the poet indicates that he is re ferencing other poems on the walls. In line five the poet reuses the phrase, qiong tu (which appears in line 6 of poem 30, and line 5 of poem 62) in order to describe the a ffected resignation of the poet who â€œclimbs the towerâ€â€”alluding to the many landscapes composed from an elevated view, a tradition that the poet explicitly enters in the first line of the poem. That the poet â€œclimbs the towerâ€ at the end of the road and performs a meditative observation parallels the â€œheroâ€ who â€œ â€ or roughly â€œtalks sword.â€ The poet is referring to several of the poems that describe â€œheroesâ€ using their swords to take vengeance against the wrongs of the immigration syst em (for example, poems 25, 35, 45, 59). The parallelism of the quatrain (lines 5-6) structures the personae of poet and the hero as two possible literary performances by the Angel Island poets. The poet concludes that these poetic responses, like the detainment, are ultimately results of Chinaâ€™s weakened state (â€œOne should know that when the country is weak the peopleâ€™s spirit dies / Why else do we come to this place to be imprisoned?â€). The prized verisimilitude of the shanshui genre that appears in the first quatrain is undermined and perhaps even made ironic by the allusions to other instances of wall poetry in the second. Not all poems on the walls of Angel Island are shanshui poems. Poem 41 is an example of a poem that does not attempt to look back towa rds traditional content ev en though it is written in the traditional quatrain form: I have ten thousand hopes that the revolutionary armies will complete their victory And help make the mining enterprises successful in the ancestral land. They will build many battleships
70 and come to the U.S. territory, Vowing never to stop till the white men are completely annihilated At first glance poem 41 appears to follow the hero â€œtalking swordâ€ quality described in poem 38. One of the differences, however, is that instead of recalling mythic heroes of the past, poem 41 looks toward the future revolutionary armies. Furthermore, it is a vision of a modernized technology whereby science, industry, and modern warfare will revive the nation state (mining, and ship building). At its heart, the poem suggests that a political transformation through revolution will bring about these changes necessary to strengthen China, and according to the previous poet this would in turn re turn life to the â€œpeopleâ€™s heartsâ€ ( ) (poem 38 line 7). Instead of a Confucian ethic, the writer presents a pseudo-Darw inist vision of strength through modernization that would be manifested by the su rvival of the fittest. Both poems 41 and 38, say that the â€œsolutionâ€ to the immigration problem must be solved in China. Poem 41 is notable because the personal respon se to the crises of detainment is met in collective terms and as a â€œwitness to history.â€ The poet does not offe r insight into the individual experience of the detainment. However, as poe m 38 suggests, perhaps, like poem 41, we learn much less about the individual poe ts through the Angel Island poe ms than might be expected. The shanshui poem has long held the tradition of vent riloquizing as a means to overcome the separation of the exilic literati and the imperial center. Person a of stock figures like the monk, woodcutter, immortal of the mountain, and palace lady introduce a voice that is pedagogically constructed as a figure outside of, and thus uncor rupted by, the official so cial structure; this persona can speak in frankly and offer wisdom a nd truth that the poet official could not in the same way present on his own. Often times the dr amatic tension in such poems is the poet searching out such a figure in a quest that en ds in frustration. The performance of identity by
71 poets using this genre is a function of the ideals of the aesthetic, which is the endeavor to reveal â€œa totality in which all sides of the landscap e spontaneously and si multaneously exist in harmony. This undoubtedly reflects the fact that the poet in his aesthetic experi ence has returned to innocence and therefore allows all things to emerge as a harmonious wholeâ€ (Wang Kuo-Ying 473-474). Accompanying the figural transformation that takes place in this notion of return is the need for spontaneity and the figure of the man of nature, or the disregarded palace courtesan which would allow the poet to voice an emoti onal raw expression. While some of the Angel Island poems employ such personae as a way of producing emotional equivalents, poem 41 suggests that the personal transf ormation is a revolutionary one, such that the project of developing a modern nation beco mes a shared lyrical project. Angel Island Modernism The issue of an absent â€œauthenticâ€ identity in the Angel Island poems is not simply a problem that has been relayed to scholars who l ack necessary bibliographic data to categorize, date, and authenticate the poems and the author s is lacking. In this way, the poems resist conventional literary criticism, inviting the re ader to assume a New Criticism approach of treating the poems as self-contained texts. While the poems might be in conversation with each other, the call and response might be separated by as much as an entire generation. For example, by 1940 the regional differences of immigrants from the various counties around Guangzhou played a less important part of a Chinese immigrantâ€™s identity as it did in 1910 when Angel Island first opened. In poem 41 there is a reference to Chinaâ€™s revolution, recording a transformation within Chinaâ€™s modernity. Though the diction of the poems is influenced by Cantonese vernacular, the poems do not seem to contain self-conscious attempts to argue for a vernacular literature (as in the case of the Chinese May Fourth Movement). In fact, the opposite seems to be the caseâ€”there is a privileging of traditional poetics in the Angel Island poems,
72 which, as I have shown, works in opposition to the kinds of expressions the traditional forms are used to enunciate. There are a number of expl anations for this, such as the less formal requirements of tibishi or the poetsâ€™ education level. So while I argue that these poems are examples of modernism, the poems lack domin ant aesthetics that ch aracterize conventional attributes of modernism, such as intense investigation into the wo rkings of the mind of the artist, a self-conscious attempt to maintain the arts in the face of mass culture, or attempts to stylistically clear out a space of recognizable and indi vidual difference. I bring this up in order to suggest that these characte ristics that typically are used to de scribe modernism, might in fact be symptoms of a particular kind of modernism. While these key, proscriptive values that ar e attached to twentieth century modernism may be lacking, there are at least three ways th at the Angel Island poems can be thought of as performing modernism. First, th e Angel Island poems demonstrate a process of juxtaposing the jarring ruptures of modernity within the framework of the traditional Chinese poem, which is virtually at the expense of the traditional Ch inese poem. Second, as a part of the Chinese Exclusion Acts Protest Literature the poems use literary texts in order to promote a social transformation constructing images of modern Ch ina and modern United States from the vantage point of a subject whose traditional notions of identity are transformed from family and geographic locality on a regional scale to a biolog ical (racial) and cultural identity on a global scale (as the immigrants became entangled with changing methods that the United States INS used to enforce the Chinese Ex clusion Act, the immigrants a ssumed what might be called a â€œbiopoliticalâ€ identity). Finally, the poems represent a form of modernism through their â€œimaginative proximity to social revolutionâ€ (A nderson 325). In this sense, the Angel Island poets were modernists in their attempts to ar ticulate their place within the transformations
73 occurring in China, as well as within a transnatio nal circuitry that could allow them to envision a radically transformed China as having the ability to transform their status in the United States. The Chinese Exclusion Acts affected the im agined destinies of the immigrants and relegated them to a state of in-between-ness and radical displacement. It follows then that the Angel Island poems would be filled with disp lacements within the conventions of traditional Chinese poetry. One of the most obvious ways this has occured is the in corporation of modern people, places, events, technologies, and concep ts contiguous with the ancient, tradition-bound, and conventional motifs of a traditional Chinese lshi , and jueju poetry. The list of modern displacements that occur in the Angel Island poems includes: steamships (poem 62), national flags of foreign countries (poem 63), immigra tion petitions (appendix poem 15), battleships (appendix poem 40), bombs (poe m 41), Napoleon (poem 60), th e Japanese occupation of Manchuria (46), medical examin ations (poem 48), and the Angel Island immigration center (nearly all the poems). On the other hand, the classical references are also overwhelming, including figures such as poets Li Po, Ruan Ji, King Wen, Yu Xin, Wang Can, and Su Wu, just to name a few characters from Chinaâ€™s classical past that have literally been inscribed into America by the detainees. The poets create a mnemo-technics of cultural information, using the traditional Chinese poem to build an archive of classical and modern t opics related to their detainment. One of the basic rhetor ical features of the poems is the use of antithetical couplets that produce meaning through juxtaposition; the poemsâ€™ sharp disjunction between the modern and the traditional creates a disj unction of alienation and uncerta inty that reflect many of the detaineesâ€™ situations in the barracks. The concurrence take n visually, the smoke from a steamshipâ€™s stack mixes with the haze of clouds ascending the mountain in a classical landscape painting. For most of the poems the modern doe s not announce itself as a cataclysmic rupture
74 within the basic design or even meaning. Instead it dwells in th e banal details of the passage, ultimately polluting the traditional landscape with modern anxieties. In the main English-language anthology of Angel Island poems, Island , Lai et al. have not attempted to reconstruct the poems through th eir spatial relations from the walls of the barracks. This is partly because their work is not a result from looking at the walls themselves, but through looking at the poems as manuscripts th at were copied down by two of the detainees in the 1930s, and corroborating these handwritten copies with photographs and even rubbings.14 The poems anthologized actually ar e derived from several preser vation projects by travelers, photographers, and activists. There is no chronology asserted into the order of the poems, even though it would be possible to create one based on the content. Lai et al . chose to reconstruct their print anthology thematically. The effect is that the reconstruction serves in preserving a macro-poetic unity in ways other than the layout chosen by the poets themselves. Lai et al. create categories that allow us to piece the poems as fr agments within the larg er narratives of â€œThe Voyage,â€ â€œThe Detainment,â€ â€œThe Weak Shall Conquer,â€ â€œAbout Westerne rs,â€ and â€œDeportees, Transients.â€ Lai et al. also in clude a poem that was not on the wa lls of the building but was sent ashore from Angel Island to be published in a San Francisco Chinatown newspaper The Chinese World in 1910, during the first year of Angel Isla ndâ€™s use as a detention center for Chinese immigrants. Sandwiched between each section ar e testimonies of former doctors, immigration officials, translators, cooks, and detainees. This larger structure that Lai et al. create, as mentioned before, is the construction of a hist oriography of Chinese Americans for the purposes of reclaiming American history for Chinese Americ ans. For this to take place, the material 14 Rubbings are a feature of tibishi that transformed the site of poetic pr oduction into a source of print capital, because rubbings could be easily made of carved text, and since the rubbings are made by travelers or sold to travelers as souvenirs an inscribed poem might have a large circulation. Some famous tibishi only remains in the form of reproduced rubbings.
75 already had within its content th e historical variables necessary for the creation of the narrative. If the poems are bricks in this construction, Lai et al. use pers onal testimony as mortar to cement the larger structure of the hist oriographical project to place th e Angel Island poems within the context of Asian American cultural nationalism. In as far as the poems are concerned with the conditions of the detainment, their â€œmodernâ€ conten t allows for a historicist reading of the poems that give them value as historical documents, which is common for tibishi collections. But what is striking about the Angel Island tibishi and makes them different than, say, Tang dynasty tibishi compiled by contemporary publishers or even Qing dynasty compilations of Ming dynasty tibishi , is that the retrospective value of the witn essing the last vestiges of a once-flourishing realm vanishing into ruin is inverted. Laiâ€™s co mpilation does not look back at the exclusion-era United States as a glorious time, nor does it trea t the Angel Island poems as even aesthetically pleasing. The Angel Island poems are given value b ecause they represent to the anthologizers a transformation of national, raci al, and political consciousness through their entanglement with the US immigration system. And it is in this way that they tell the stor y of Chinaâ€™s modernity, the story of modernity in the United States, a nd the story of immigrants whose conception of themselves were radically transformed through a process of exterior izing and textualizing personal identity. The ruptures within the poems can also be found in the way that the poems are selfreferential in representing Chin aâ€™s modernity. As discussed prev iously, the Angel Island poems are a network of interreferential ity in terms of the poetsâ€™ allusions to figures from traditional Chinese literature that are lifted from other poems inscribed in the barracks. This dialogic process can be seen in the references to th e modern displacements within the poem. The lshi styled poem 40 begins with a couplet of conventional shanshui poetry: I lean on the railing and
76 lift my head to look at the cloudy sky, ( ) / All the mountains and rivers are dark ( ). These lines written in a nostalgic mode conforming to tradit ional patterns of mountains and water to indicate distance and se paration, hemmed in by the clouds obscuring the destiny of the traveler. However, by the sec ond couplet the poet introduces the Japanese acquisition of Manchuria, and the th reat that China faced to its te rritorial sovereignty (â€œEastern Mongolia [Manchuria] is lost and the date of her return is uncertain ( ) / The recovery of the Central Pl ains depends on the youth ( )â€ [lines 3-4]). The reference to the Japanese acqui sition of Manchuria allows a re asonably accurate date for the poem, which would be 1931-1937. The second couplet â€™s historical specificity is a direct provocation to the first coupletâ€™s temporal am biguity, especially as it rounds out with a proclamation that a vigorous revo lutionary â€œyouthâ€ is the only hope for the safety of China, and Chinese around the world. The disintegration of national territory s eems to parallel the disintegration of the conventions of the shanshui poem, as the poet looks forward to a new generation, and not back to the sages of an earli er realm. The emphasis on â€œyouthâ€ is not simply an isolated opinion of the author, but it exists in other Angel Island poems and was an important part of Chinaâ€™s cultural nati onalism projects like the 1919 May Fourth Movement, as well as energetic student movements among Guomindang and Chinese Communist parties. In San Francisco, there was a Guomindang Chinese Amer ican publication called â€œNew Youth,â€ (which shared its name with a more famous small journal on Mainland China). Mongolia and Manchuria are also topics in po em 66 that relate to Chinaâ€™s modernity to migration. The jueju -style quatrain reads as follows:
77 For one month I was imprisoned; my slippers never moved forward. I came on the Manchuria and will return on the Mongolia . But if I could make the trip to Nanyang, I would. Why should America be the only place to seek a living? The poem references four different places charting a transnational shift in the changing map of China as well as to the geographic imagination of the Chinese diaspora. However, the references to â€œManchuriaâ€ and â€œMongoliaâ€ do not refer to the te rritories that China lost after the end of the Qing dynasty in 1911, but to two of the larges t steamships in the Pacific Mail Steamship Company fleet (Barde and Bobonis 110). So while â€œManchuriaâ€ indicates an event in poem 40, in poem 66 it refers to transportation. Both signi fy a moment in Chinaâ€™s modernity amid global changes that created the impetus for immi grationâ€”the steamship and Chinaâ€™s eroded sovereignty were key ingredients for Chinese i mmigration at the beginn ing of the twentieth century. Poem 66 de-centers the flow of Chines e to America as a stage in Chinese American identity and instead shows that the geographic identification of Chines e immigrants was unstable and transnational, as the poet suggests â€œNanyangâ€ (or South East Asia, where 90% of overseas Chinese have immigrated) as an alternative to the United States. In fact many of the Chinese detainees were on their way to somewhere else. And so the Angel Island poems are not simply an intermediate point between a Chinese and a Chinese American identity, but an emblem of how the self-fashioning of identity is a tactic in negotiating th e modern nation, and raciallydetermined networks of power. This floating ambivalence to geographic affiliation intertextully connects poem 40 with poem 66 as a substitution of Chinese territory that was lost with the ship of the same name. In traditional Chinese poetics, from its first canonical poet, Qu Yuan, to some of the most famous figures, the boat has b een used as a representation of the poetâ€™s subjectivityâ€”a standard trope in the shanshui tradition (Eoyang 595). For example, Franois
78 Cheng describes how the poet Wei Cheng transforms into his boat as a vessel adrift in nature (30). If we were to read the same kind of poe tic maneuver being performed in poem 66, then it would mean that the poet becomes the steamsh ipâ€”a vessel represented by the names of territories geographically dispossessed from China. Not only does the poet incorporate an emblem of modernity, this emblem embodies the deracinated alienation of the Chinese immigrant undergoing a disintegra tion of a cultural identity. Poems 66 and 40 both show the construction of China and even America from the outside. The poetic performance of this situation comes from the literal in-between state of the poet that gave them a vantage point and a specific way of understanding th emselves as individual vis--vis the modern nation state. The interrogation process on A ngel Island created identities for the detainees that were not only framed in terms of nationality, but also ge nder, class, and racial identity. As Lai et al. point out in the introduction to Island , all immigrants were separated according to nationality upon arrival to San Franci sco, and those needing special processing (i.e. Asians and those suspected of contagious diseas es) were ferried to Angel Island. These detainees were separated according to nationality, gender, and even age (young children stayed with their mothers) (Lai et al., 15). The average stay for Ch inese immigrants was 14 days but for more than half of the detainees the detention lasted less than six days (Barde and Bobonis 136).15 Women were more likely to be detained and were less likely to meet the requirements for the exceptions to the Chinese Exclusion Acts (131). In 1924 th e United States ended it s â€œopenâ€ immigration policy by instituting immigration quotas (while at the same tim e keeping a general anti-Asian immigration policy), which meant that traveler s needed visas from US consulates (131). 15 Bard and Bobonis point to more than just politics as a source for the long detentions: â€œFinally, it must be noted that the brother of Anthony Caminetti, the commissioner general of immigration, ran the food concession at Angel Island. This may be why the Immigration Service was so serious about collecting payment for each and every meal. It would of course be cynical to wonder if detention spells were dragged out just for the benefit of the commissioner general's brother.â€ (111)
79 Therefore, after 1924 the energies of the immigra tion officials were direct ed towards verification of detaineesâ€™ identities (especially children of me rchants) and not the determination of exemption status (131). The overall ag enda of this process wa s to cater to th e politics of nativ ist fears that Asians would steal American jobs and xenophobic fears that America as a white (Anglo) nation would be destroyed by unassimilable Asians ( The WASP magazine was one of many racist publications devoted to propagandizi ng these issues), fears that w ould lead to the detention of over 250,000 Chinese and 150,000 Japanese (Hoskins 686). In this way the Chinese Exclusion Acts should be read in the same discursive vein as the Jim Crow laws that were designed to police and perpetuate a Euro-centric or white power structure within the United States. As a result of the legally-sanctioned detentions and harassment of Asians in America they became the only immigrant group whose population was redu ced between 1880 and 1920 (Hom 12). These immigration policies can be seen as a political attempt by the American government to control economics and culture through an explicit biological management of raceâ€”biopolitical control.16 Some of the poems record the reaction to the effects of being reduced to a biological unit that was labeled and separated; for example, poem 50 reads: It is indeed pitiable the harsh treatment of our fellow countrymen The doctor extracting blood caused us the greatest anguish. Our stomachs are full of grievances, but to whom can we tell them? We can but pace to and fro, scratch our heads, and question the blue sky Poem 50 describes the personal r eaction to the biopolitical inva sion through a play on â€œbloodâ€ and â€œheartâ€ by using the characters , literally â€œcut [or â€œscratchâ€] blood,â€ and which means sour-hearted or sad. The taking of the liter al blood and not consideri ng the figural heart of 16 Foucault describes biopolitics as a â€œseries of body-organ ism-discipline-institution is eventually juxtaposed and substituted by the series of population-biological pro cesses-regulatory mechanisms-state, even though some elements such as the police are part of the first and the second, both of discipline and securityâ€ (â€œBiopoliticsâ€).
80 the individual creates a horrific image of the pr ocess of de-individualization within a faceless state mechanism (â€œto whom can we tell th em?â€)â€”a mechanism that manufactures a mass identity. The poem shows that though the immigrants were outside of China territorially, in terms of â€œpopulationâ€ the immigrants were officially cast as outsiders to the United States. The anti-Chinese immigration laws were c oupled with anti-miscegenation laws, as well as property laws, and the legal systemâ€™s refusal to protect Chinese from racial harassment and violence, all of which led to the decline in im migration, and ultimately to the desire of many immigrants to return to China. But it also meant that the Chinese in America had to form alternative institutions and organizations to prot ect themselves from the lack of access to United States government protection. As mentioned previ ously, business, family, regional, and linguistic organizations were formed to protect the interest of Chinese in the United States, and to effect political change in China. Mark Him Lai suggests in Becoming Chinese American: A History of Communities and Institutions that these self-fashioned organizations, especially as they related to issues of legal petitioning, advocacy for detain ed immigrants, and edu cation created a Chinese American identity unique from a Chinese na tional identity, and excl uded from mainstream American identity. Within Ange l Island, the organization of Chinese institutions for the purposes of protection and advocacy can be seen in the â€œJi Ji Weiâ€ [zi zhi hui ] or â€œSelf-Governing Organizationâ€ organized by detain ees (Lai et al. 81). This gr oup would use boycott tactics in order to bargain for changes, as in the case of the hunger strike that repor tedly lasted three days to improve the treatment of detainees (78). The cultural preservation of traditional Chinese arts in America, like poetry and calligraphy, were ma intained by literary clubs and schools supported by Chinese American associations. Likewise, on Angel Island evidence s uggests that the poems that were carved on the walls were not simply individuals working independently on a shared
81 palimpsest, but members of a poe try club that functioned like the Ji Ji Wei (Zonkel). So the literary responses on Angel Island re flect not only the individual a nxiety of the immigrant in the face of an imposed biopolitical id entity that dehumanized the indi vidual, but also represent the organization of detainees as a bulwark against th e erasure of their existence. To this end the Angel Island poems can be read as a kind of populist modernism, where literature represents an attempt to assert the politics of an individua l voice in relation to organizations and mass movements. The Angel Island poems show a dialectic relation between national form and transnational displacement that can be used as a figure for a formation of both national and transnational identities. With English as the only language represented in the literary culture of the United States, the Angel Island poems reveal the ideological limits within the monoglot literature of an immigrant nation. This helps to clarify how Anglo-Amer ican avant-garde could use Orientalism, and primitivism, as an aesthetic expression of a virtual or symbolic alienation and defamiliarization. However, the Angel Island poets express the same ruptures in poetic subjectivity as actual effects of the Chinese excl usion laws and their experience as detainees. Both creative acts access meaning from a cultural logic of exclusion. Th e modernists and the immigrants both employ traditional Chinese landscape poetry as cultural interventions; however, these interventions are not symmetrical in an opposition to the biopoliti cal foundations of the Chinese Exclusion Acts. However, the modernis m was a protest agains t dominant Victorianinfluenced bourgeois culture. The Angel Island poets, too, riled against that 19th century Eurocentric ideology of empire, which create d Western imperial hi erarchies of race and civilization.
82 In no way can the Angel Island poems be understood as modernism in the conventional sense, and even the argument that the Angel Island poems represent a populist modernism is more an act of drawing analogies between two di fferent but similar literary activities. However, the Angel Island poems coincide with the tempor al arc of modernism beginning in the 1910s and ending around World War II. Along side of the development of avant-garde modernism was the uncanny application of traditi onal Chinese poetics as a respon se to mainstream American culture. Though again, the Angel Island poets cannot be understood as using the Chinese literary tradition in the same way as Anglo-American modernists. Likewise, the Angel Island poems constitute a sustained critique of the bifurcated white/other wo rldview of Victor ian culture (and the American imitations of Victorianism), which is another way to read th e rhetorical gesture of what is commonly taken to be modernist literature. In these similarities, the Angel Island poems become useful works for interrogating conventio nal (and convenient) approaches to defining modernism. For example, if the Angel Island poems are read in th e context of an intersecting set of material conditions, they would conform a descriptive modernism different than the proscriptive model inherited largely from the work of the New Critics. One such materialist reading can be found in Perry Andersonâ€™s descri ption of modernism not as an autonomous element within a piece of artwork or an artistâ€™s genius, but as three intersecting planes: a break with the â€œacademicismâ€ of an â€œar istocratic or agrarian class, â€ new technologies of the â€œsecond industrial revolution,â€ and â€œimaginative proximity to so cial revolutionâ€ (Anderson 324-5). Anderson identifies the â€œsecond indu strial revolutionâ€ as produc tion of the industrial products, like the â€œtelephone, radio, automobile, aircraft ,â€ not available to mass produced commodities such that most labor and consumption was direct ed toward â€œclothing, food, and furniture.â€ The poems with their at tention to the Tang dynasty style of kaishu calligraphy, Tang dynasty styled
83 poetic forms, and allusions reflect the values of the Confucian education system. The poems can be read as a continuation of the Exclusion Act Pr otest literature, demonstr ating an â€œimaginative proximity to social revolution,â€ and many poems express a desire that such a transformation would improve the condition of i mmigrants in the United States. Indeed, during the period when the Angel Island poems were written several revo lutions were being violently waged in Chinaâ€” many of the poets would have had more than an imaginative proximity to social revolution. The Angel Island poems can be unmistakably read as modernism in the way that Anderson describes. Modernism and modernity, connected through th e root of â€œmodernâ€ help to explain the immigrantsâ€™ construction of China in their â€œbecoming American.â€ The Angel Island poems as tibishi accumulate meaning th rough a second life as fragments combined in a historiography. The Angel Island poems not only can be employed for the sake of a national historiography, but fo r redefining modernism. This view of the collaborative project in modernism does not mean that the ideas were monolithic, or conformist; but it does mean that the canonize d authors should not be consider ed as singular geniuses, but an orchestrated effort forming a literary enuncia tion. The symbolists, Russian Structuralists, Imagists, the poems printed in Poetry: A Magazine of Verse , Blast , The Dial , The Little Review , and The Egoist , the New Critics, the artists of the Popular Frontâ€”all associated with modernismâ€”were the result of collaboration and a network of voices. In this way we can read modernism as a dialogic process, not contained by separate highly stylized texts, but sustained through a communication across textual and of ten imagined communities as a means of articulating real or imagined social transformations . Individual talent has figured as an integral part of the packaging, marketing, and circulating of modernism, yet it belies the concerted efforts of a movement in order to create such an i ndividual. The anonymity of the Angel Island poems
84 as a pragmatic effort to avoid punishment (that several layers of poems were painted over and puttied in by the administrati on hints that the officials of Angel Island saw the subversive potential of the poems), also makes obvious the n ecessary community of poets that exists behind a single poem. As Shumei Shih points out in The Lure of the Modern : Writing Modernism in Semicolonial China, 1917-1937 , the narrative of modernism is usually described through imperial flows of power. For example, the prim itivism and Orientalism that the high modernists used as â€œfoundâ€ objects came from the coloni es to the cosmopolitan centers, and later, modernism would flow back as proscriptive aesthetic tools to be used for emancipation by writers in the colonies (Shih 2). Shih indicates that such a model is a symptom of a Eurocentric theorization of modernism, even as it critiques modernist appropriations as imperial. She states, â€œNon-Western modernisms arose from diffe rent notions of modernity, nationhood, and nationalism, and in many cases were closel y linked to the history of colonialism and imperialismâ€ (3). Recognizing the Angel Island poems as a form of literary modernism opens up possible interpretations that do not re-inscribe overtly Euro-centric notions of American culture. In this way the Angel Island poems should be se en as participating in a cultural dialogue on American modernism as a radically transnational event from the Black Atlantic to the Angelic Pacific, and not simply displaced foreign wr iting during a time when â€œgreatâ€ monuments of modernism were achieved. In fact, the Angel Island poets created an enduri ng and literal literary monument with a continuing relevance compared to which none of the canonical modernists can boast.
85 Conclusion Currently the Angel Island poems are involve d with a new struggle as Angel Island has acquired â€œNational Historic Landmarkâ€ stat us (Hoskins 694). The national state parks commission has taken over control of monumentaliz ation of the facilities from the Angel Island Immigration Station Historical Advisory Committee, and in the process is taking over the narrative of how the poems fit in to a national historiography of immigration and assimilation. This narrative of national development is in co nflict with the Angel Island Immigration Station Historical Advisory Committeeâ€™s efforts to preser ve the Angel Island faci lities as a monument that signifies a breach in the United Statesâ€™ id eological construction of Manifest Destiny in which immigration is figured as a movement fr om Europe to America. The landscape of the national park itself becomes subject to and incor porated by national memory. The first couplet of poem 1 (Seascape like lichen for a thousand li twists No road to the mainland, the shore path is harsh ) presents a landscape as an emblem of separation and loneliness, where th e visual field represents an aporia between desire and destination. This moment of disc onnection is at once a trope of shanshui aesthetic, as well as a condition created by the Chinese Exclusion Acts . The act of appropria tion of the physical collection of Angel Island poems by the national parks services echoes th e way that the Angel Island poems have become anthologized in mainstream literary anthologies of modern American poetry. This act wrests the work of Lai et al. who have used the poems to construct a multicultural activist historiogra phy and instead forces the poem into a textuality, tradition, language, and reading practice that risks rendering them politically contained as well as being either pathetically simple or at best almost unintelligible. That a national hermeneutics would
86 relocate the lyric into a national rhetoric of assumed tolerance and American exceptionalism follows gestures of other forms of literary protest that at once attempted to create a break with mainstream American culture, but as fragments, become a part of a na tional literature.
87 CHAPTER 3 LOST IN TRANSLATION: CHINESE PERSONAE AND MODERNIST INVENTION IN CATHAY I bring you the spoils, my nation I, who went out in exile, Am returned to thee with gifts. I, who have laboured long in the tombs, Am come back therefrom with rich es â€”Ezra Pound, â€œEpilogueâ€ 1912 Rest me with Chinese coloursâ€”Ezra Pound, â€œA Song of Degreesâ€ 1913 In 1915 Pound sculpted out of Ernest Fell onosaâ€™s notebooks of Ja panese and Chinese literature a sleek anthology of less than twenty traditional Chinese poems, titled Cathay . The collection of translations includes â€œThe River Me rchantâ€™s Wife, A Letter,â€ one of Poundâ€™s most widely known and anthologized poems. In addition to the Chinese poems of Cathay , Pound inserted a translation of the Saxon poem, â€œThe Seafarer.â€ Through the ju xtaposition of these poems, unified by themes of separation and m ourning, Pound creates in archaic phrasing freeverse lyrics that suggest an un canny foreignness within the Englis h language itself. In doing so a macro-poetic design in the form of the collage emerges in the anthology, undoing the notion that the collection might be strictly about Chinese poems. The jarring di scontinuities in content point to the ways that Cathay represents an important developmen t in Poundâ€™s oeuvre as he began to apply various translation techniqu es to Chinese poetry for experi menting with longer forms, and abandoning the compression of Imagism for an expa nded lyrical assemblage of Vorticism. In addition to representing a step ping-stone in Poundâ€™s attempt to theorize a gestalt poetics, Cathay has been a central focus of critical scrutiny fo r modernist experimentation with Orientalism, primitivism, and medievalism. But more than just an event for literary modernism, Cathay represents a model for the strategies used by avant-garde poets to work traditional Chinese literature into modern American poetic discourse. As Steven Yao notes, Poundâ€™s Cathay stands as the formative translation not only for roughly
88 contemporaneous feats of collaborative tran slation specifically of Chinese poetry as Fir Flower Tablets (1921) by Amy Lowell and Florence Ayscough and The Jade Mountain (1929) by Witter Bynner and Kiang Kang-hu, but also more generally for the current approach to the rendering of othe r languages into English (Yao 32) In terms of Poundâ€™s position in the American literary canon, Cathay has come to represent a â€œsalvageable Poundâ€â€”the tran snational avant-ga rde poet engaged in a progressive (multicultural, even) cross-cultural poeticsâ€”who had yet to develop a fascination with Mussoliniâ€™s fascism, and become a contributing voi ce to the virulent anti -Semitism of the 1930s. The story of how Cathay came into being begins with a literary â€œhe says, she saysâ€ controversy. According to Zhaoming Qian in Orientalism and Modernism there are two different versions that explain how P ound acquired from Mary Fenollosa her late husbandâ€™s (Ernest Fenollosa) notebooks that were filled with translat ions and lectures on Chinese and Japanese arts. Mary Fenollosaâ€™s side of the story, as retold by Lawrence Chisolm, suggests that during a brief meeting an eager and inquisitive Ezra Pound, after expres sing interest in and some knowledge of Chinese literature, rece ived a promise that the notebooks would be passed on to him (Qian 1995, 23). The story told by T.S. Eliot (and Ezra P ound, himself, much later) is that after reading Poundâ€™s work, Mary Fenollosa felt, â€œ[Pound] wa s the only person who could finish up these notes as Ernest would have wanted them don eâ€ (23). In the former version, Pound actively searched out the poems, while in the latter, like a knight in a grai l legend, Poundâ€™s writing proved that he was worthy enough for the poems to â€œfind him.â€ The implication of this difference uncannily doubles the debates about Poundâ€™s tr anslations. Sinologists from James Liu to Steven Owen have gone out of their way to show how Cathay should be read as Poundâ€™s own creative poetry inspired by Chinese literature, but in no way representing it. In this model Pound actively creates an imaginary China through his en counter with Fenollosaâ€™s materials. However, commentators like Gyung-Ryul Jang and WaiLim Yip have suggested that Poundâ€™s Cathay
89 brings the real sense of the or iginal Chinese poems despite some of the egregious errors that came about due to Poundâ€™s ignorance of classical Chinese, compounded by inaccurate and confusing source materials from Fenollosa (Ha yout 36). Eric Hayout notes that most of the debates about Cathay have tended to shy away from â€œastrin gentâ€ postcolonial critiques, showing that most critics argue that Poundâ€™s misreadings are an inevita ble and welcome side-effect of cross-cultural exchange. For example, Derri da pronounced that Fenollosa and Pound were â€œprototypical grammatologistsâ€ in their attemp ts to theorize the graphic nature of Chinese writing (Derrida 334). Such critic isms reinforce a kind of â€œbuilding better than he knowsâ€ narrative, suggesting that Poundâ€™s po etic genius bridges the gap in his knowledge of Chinese; a genius providing something that actual knowledg e of the Chinese language would possibly have derailed. Imbricated within these characterizations of P oundâ€™s translation is Fe nollosaâ€™s desire to have his research applied to poetry and not philo logy; he states in his notebook, â€œthe purpose of poetical translation is the poetry, not the verbal definitions in di ctionariesâ€ (Kenner 198). Thus, in the very origins of Poundâ€™s wo rk with Fenollosaâ€™s material is a debate about Poundâ€™s access to the â€œspiritâ€ or essence of tradit ional Chinese literature that corre sponds to a larger question about the status of the free verse Cathay as poetry. Are the poems cr eative inventions? Do these translations bear the essence of the or iginal? It is in this regard that Cathay has been an important artifact for the critical inquiry into the preval ence of Orientalism within modernist aesthetics. There have even been meta-critical studies in to why scholars and write rs have continually investigated Poundâ€™s idea of Ch inese writing (e.g., Chen Xiaomei examines Chinese critical responses to Pound, and Steven Hayot studies Poundâ€™s â€œChinese Dreamsâ€ in contemporary literary criticism). These studies have tended to focus on how Poundâ€™s use of Chinese culture represents a part of an ongoi ng tradition of Orientalism w ithin European and American
90 philosophical and literature. In these studies, Poundâ€™s â€œcreative mi sreadingâ€ is one of the ways that the false dichotomy between creativity and accuracy of Cathay as a work of translations has been bridged. Cathay , and Poundâ€™s Orienting of Modernism It is perhaps more useful to think of Cathay not as a â€œmisreadingâ€ of Chinese culture but a performative representation of how Chinese cu lture has been a discourse in the â€œWestâ€â€” Orientalismâ€”and the aesthetic and representati onal possibilities such a discourse opened to Pound. Zhaoming Qian argues that museum culture of 1910s London provided Pound with an introduction to Chinese representational techniqu es that were foundationa l for his translations, which were also aided by a careful study of th e work of Orientalists like Laurence Binyon and Herbert Giles. Cathay is fundamentally different, however, fr om the work of such Orientalistsâ€” the former a curator for the British Museum, and the latter a colonial-administrator-turneduniversity professor. Instead of explicating Ch inese primary texts, Pound assumes the voice of the Orientalist in Edward Saidâ€™s sense of the term,17 and mimics the cultural authority implicated in such a voice. In doing so, Pound participates in the Orientalism, not of the academy, but of chinoiserieâ€” a European simulation of Chinese cultural products. It has never been much of a debate that Cathay is a work of Orientalism even though sc holars sympathetic to Poundâ€™s writing have suggested that China represents a differe nt cultural and historic al situation vis--vis European and American imperialism from Said â€™s Middle East, and thus requires a different critical apparatus than Saidâ€™s Orientalism . What might be more importa nt than criticizing limits of Saidâ€™s scope is accounting for the diffe rence between â€œOrientalismâ€ as a product of 17 Said writes: â€œAnyone who teaches, write s about, or researches the Orient--and this applies whether the person is an anthropologist, sociologist, historian, or philologist--either in its specific or its general aspects, is an Orientalist, and what he or she says or does is Orientalismâ€ (3).
91 professional Orientalists, and â€œOrientalismâ€ that Pound produces as an imitation of such professional work. For example, Poundâ€™s use of G iles is not different from Eliotâ€™s use of James Frazerâ€™s anthropological study, The Golden Bough , in The Waste Land , and through these learned texts the anthropologica l or ethnographic â€œOtherâ€ is pres ent textually in English through a rational and absolute voice of the academic . Arguing along similar lines , Yunte Huang states, â€œhis [Poundâ€™s] Imagistic poems w[ere] not a simple process of forgery, but a complex process of remaking culture. And it was a remaking that not only betrays Imagism as a modern ethnography of the Far East but also belies th e intertextual nature of ethnogra phy itselfâ€ (92). Huang sees this as an unintended consequence of P oundâ€™s desire to create a universal Kultur (92); however, I argue that while Poundâ€™s notions of an organic tradition inform Cathay , he is also aware of the position of the Orientalist as a seat of textual au thority. This performance of an authority figure has given the slender book a gr eat deal of intrigue. As s een from the influence of Cathay on American poets, Pound, like his Orientalist sources , participates in inven ting the Orient from a position of asymmetric power which allows him to use, and, in turn, shape â€œOrientalism,â€ a discourse on the Asian â€œother,â€ for his own e nds (Said 3). Acting out this position of cultural authority, Pound legitimizes his literary explora tions through the prism of a field devoted to ethnographic exploration. Pound perf orms this role as a poet who was never trained as an Orientalist, never held any pos t teaching the â€œOrient,â€ and neve r found employment as a â€œChinahand.â€ However, Poundâ€™s performance as an Orient alist does allow him the possibility to take certain risks as a poet while protecting himself from being vulnerable to criticism. It even opens up his repertoire to a poetry that goes against hi s prized aesthetic. For example, in December of 1911, Pound writes: As to the Twentieth Century, and the poetry wh ich I expect to see written during the next decade or so, it will, I think, move against poppy -cock, it will be harder and saner, it will
92 be what Mr. Hewlett calls â€˜nearer to the boneâ€™. It will be as much like granite as it can be, its force will lie in its truth, its interpretiv e power (of course, poetic force does always rest there); I mean it will not try to seem forc ible by rhetorical din, and luxurious riot. We will have fewer painted adjectives impeding the shock and stroke of it. At least for myself, I want it so, austere, direct, fr ee from emotional slather. (Pound 2005, 262) Taking this proclamation as a point of departure, I argue that Cathay allows Pound, acting as an Orientalist, to develop a compli cated set of masks and personae that could be used to enunciate positions and ideas, which would otherwise violate a set of sensibilities he publicly deplored. For example, Pound is able to explore in a greater range and intensity of pathos through elegiac verse that he had previously forsworn as Romantic and Victorian indulgences. The use of Chinese elegiac poems then serves aesthet ic, pragmatic, and figural purpos es such that Pound can have his cake (pound cake, perhaps) and eat it, too. He can create lyrical compression, squeezing out â€œrhetorical din,â€ while producing poems of compla int, nostalgia, and sorrow. In this sense, Pound is able to use Cathay to present his central figure of â€œgraniteâ€â€”suggesting both the tombstone (elegy) and the stele (t he flat stones upon which Chines e poetry had been traditionally carved and preserved as official canons of the state)â€”as the â€œaustereâ€ surface that the poet can sculpt with forceful and poignant â€œtruth.â€ Cathay in Context While Orientalism itself is a heterogeneous zone of contact in which power is not always distributed along linear paths, basic conditions have to be met in order to make this discourse possible. Thus, it is not surprising that Cathay was written at a time when there was a clear legal distinction that categorized Ch inese as â€œotherâ€ in Europe and the United States. Chinese immigration to â€œwhiteâ€ countries like the United States, Engl and, Canada, and Australia was limited and even criminalized during the second half of the nineteenth century, causing Chinese communities in these countries to shrink, and ex perience a legally-enforced marginalization and become in political terms a disenfranchised peop le. This leads to the second cultural context
93 necessary for Poundâ€™s Cathay . Since the end of the nineteenth century, Chinese anarchists, revolutionaries, scholars, and students began to argue that traditional Chinese literature actually served as a stumbling block in China, and thus was ideologically incompatible with the needs of representing Chinaâ€™s encounter with modernity. Some even argue d that modernizing literature was as paramount as modernizing industry. The revolution of 1911 formally ended the literatiMandarin system of the Qing dynasty and the un ique place of poetry in Chinese government. And in 1919 the May Fourth Movement would in augurate the official beginning of modern Chinese literature. This shows that Poundâ€™s Cathay became an event in American poetry precisely at a time when China was undergoing re volutionary ruptures. Even in imitations of traditional Chinese poetry written in Chinese by immigr ants in America, such as in the forms of Cantonese folk songs and the regulated verse of the Angel Island poems, the poets have changed the social function of how traditional forms are us ed. We can read this as a way of understanding how Poundâ€™s poems appear at a time when traditi onal Chinese literature became â€œtraditionalâ€ (as opposed to â€œmodernâ€) even in China. This narrative circumscribes Cathay as representing Chinese culture at a time when the American Chin ese Exclusion Acts and a year after the passing of the British Nationality and Status of Alie ns Act 1914 had legally es tablished the underlying fact of Orientalism as a discourse on the â€œother.â€ These two contexts, the exclus ion of Chinese from the West and the ruptures between traditional and modern Chinese literature, were occu rring at the height of foreign incursion into China, beginning with the eight army invasion (consisting of European, American, and Japanese forces) in response to the Boxe r Rebellion of 1899 and ending with the Japanese invasion in 1937. With the pillaging that occurred during the invasion (culminating in Lord Elginâ€™s torching of the Summer Palace), more and more Chinese art objects were made available to a widening
94 clique of amateur and professi onal Western Orientalist curators and collectors, like Charles Freer. One famous example of this was the high-profile race among English, French, German, and American Sinologists and adventurers to acqu ire a rare frescoes and manuscripts from the Dongguang caves along the northern r oute of the Silk Road in nor thwestern China. During this period not only were large contingents of polic e and soldiers garrisoned in China, but also gunboats patrolled the inland waterways to protect Western interests. By the beginning of the twentieth century, sixty years af ter the first foreign concessi on was granted after the Opium Wars, Europeans had begun to become more prof icient at reading, and writing and translating Chinese. Part of the reason for this was because European and American missions had become well-established, large-sc ale repositories for Chinese linguistic and cultural materials. These Anglo-American protestant missiona ries in their zeal for mass conve rsion were distinct from the long-standing Jesuit mission, which meant th ere was more direct communication between churches in the United States and Europe and th e Chinese hinterlands. In England and the United States works of famous Sinologi sts like James Legge and Herber t Giles became available to a wide English-reading audience. The cultural exch ange was deepened by forced trade treaties by Western countries, and capital investments in infrastructure and industrial production which devastated cottage industries and local econom ies (and led to large scale internal and transnational migration) especially in regions like the Pearl River valley where the foreign concessions operated. The ending of the Qing dynasty in China was the height of the Meiji restoration in Japan, which was a country undergoing intensive mode rnization. One of the paradoxes of this modernization was an increased interest in trad itional culture, which was arguably grounded in a need to develop a historiography of progre ss for the purposes of national ideology. This
95 historiography was also necessary to justify Japanâ€™s imperialist incursions into Chinaâ€”a China, according to this narrative, that influenced many of Japanâ€™s cultur al traditions, but never itself developed into modernity; therefore, traditional Ch inese culture was a helpful gauge of Japanese progress, and China would need a developed coun try to modernize it. Ernest Fenollosa was in Japan during this period of Meiji restoration. He was an activist for Japanese preservation of traditional arts, and sustained study of ancient Chinese literatures and languages, and was recognized for his contributions in this aren a by the Meiji government. This brief â€œmaster narrativeâ€ of Meiji Japanese modernity shows th at Orientalist discourse s were heterogeneous, and not simply a function of a master/s lave dialectic. It also shows that Cathay emerges from an extraordinarily turbulent time, where the grea t fleecing of China that was going on was not simply the imperial might of a single Western na tion dominating China, but the deterioration of Chinese sovereignty into what Sun Yat-sen called a â€œhypo-colonyâ€ (also translated as a â€œsemicolonyâ€), where several powers jockeyed for authority. As Ruth Rogaski states in Hygenic Modernity: Meaning of Health and Disease in Treaty-Port China : â€œ The resulting multiplicity of boundaries, architectures, government policies, an d interactions among Chinese and foreigners embodied Chinaâ€™s unique experience under imperialismâ€”at once not a colony, yet still the site of multiple colonialismsâ€ (1). P ound is peforming the role of Oriental ist at a time when influence in China was a measure of Americaâ€™s status among na tions of the world, having a lot to do with still-present mythic notions of the Chinese market as a gateway to the potential for inexhaustible trade. Paradoxically, it is the context of the imperial incursion into China and the nationalistic exclusions of Chinese from Europe and America th at gave Orientalists their materials and their discursive authority to speak for the â€œother.â€ With the authority of Fenollosaâ€™s notes, Poundâ€™s
96 designs are afforded access to cultural capital that legitimizes several aspects of his professional ambitions: experimentation with free verse forms; his break with the imagist school that came with the formation of the vorticist clique; his experience of displacement as an expatriate; the value (both critical and monetary ) of his own work; his reputation as an eye for talent; and his reputation as an international, erudite poet. As Pound began explain his synthesis of the Confucian tradition in essays lik e â€œMang Tsze [sic],â€ he demonstrates that the China that meant something to the â€œWestâ€ was a discursive China th at existed outside of th e history of the modern world. He says: â€œForeign loans for munitions do not enter the Analectsâ€ (Pound 1987, 92). This reference to Chiang Kai-shekâ€™s ai d requests during the Japanese inva sion is used to underscore a larger point about traditional Chin ese literature in which he states , â€œSerious approach to Chinese doctrines must start with the wiping off any idea that they are merely Chineseâ€ (87). Pound demonstrates that the texts which he is dealing with have a unive rsal value; however, the â€œmerely Chineseâ€ with a historical and political existenc e may no longer even be worthy of the tradition that came out of the Chinese classical past (in the same article he stat es, â€œI understand that a living Kung has stated in private conversation that his Most Illustrious An cestor [Confucius] is now more regarded here [the â€œWestâ€] than in Pekin [sic]â€ (92)). Poundâ€™s Chinese poetry, then, like his interest in imitating Browingâ€™s masks and medievalism, or reconstructing Provencal poetry, can be read as a project of ruins. Cathay is about translating poe try that is, like the remains of castles, a suggestion of what has been lost in the modern world. Traditional Chinese culture can be introduced, yet â€œwiping off any id eaâ€ that the â€œmerely Chinese,â€ thus relegating the poems in Cathay as outside of modern history as th ey are thrust into Poundâ€™s attempt to articulate a historical event in transforming modern verse. P oundâ€™s Chinese poetry then is not
97 Chinese in the sense that it has anything to do with the nation of China and its people, but in the Orientalist sense of China as a discursive realm. Using Cathay as a literature of ruins, Pound is able to reproduce themes of loss and mourning within the individual poems as authenti c emotional complexes lost to modernity. This is one of the reasons for Hugh Kennerâ€™s claim that Cathay â€œparaphrase[s] an elegiac war poetry nobody wroteâ€ (Schweik). Susan Schweik states that Pound uses Chinese poetry to create personae not only to represent the grief of the so ldiers in France, but those left behind on the home front in London. Ming Xie in Ezra Pound and the Appropriation of Chinese Poetry sees the Chinese poems as a paradox in Poundâ€™s theories of poetic personae. She locates a passage by Pound as a central issue of mourning in Cathay : â€œI began this search for the real [â€œsincere selfexpressionâ€] in a book called Personae , casting off, as it were, complete masks of the self in each poem. I continued in a long series of transl ations, which were but more elaborate masksâ€ (91). In this passage Pound disc usses a progression from his 1909 Personae to his work on translating Cathay in 1914, describing that in his poetry th e Romantic lyrical, â€œsincere self,â€ did not exist. The masks worn by dramatic personae substitute for the individual as a collective expression, which in Cathay become not the individual lyrica l response of the Romantic or Victorian poet (which Pound castiga ted in much of his early critic ism as a detestable slather of emotions), but an attempt to access a more authen tic communal expression of loss as would have been performed in his â€œorganicâ€ cultures of medieval Provence, ancient Greece, and dynastic China. This search not only led him to the same conclusion about the problems of reproducing â€œauthenticity,â€ but also led him to more elaborate masks of the self. As elegies, the Chinese poems that Pound selects from Fenallosaâ€™s noteb ooks, as I will show in this dissertation, are persona poems. They also suggest a ritualized mourning where the poetry served a social
98 function of being read upon separa tions, or to be inscribed into landscapes that evoke the sense of loss. Pound is performing Chinese poems that themselves are poems of mourning, and more importantly mourning the absence of this social function of arts in the early twentieth century. According to Andrew Thacker, â€œOne of the most fascinating forms of â€˜newnessâ€™ in London at this time was the imagined geography of the â€˜Orientâ€™ on display in museums, galleries and exhibitionsâ€ (32). This fascination with th e newness of Chinese and Japanese art products filling museums and private collections was not without anxiety for the Chinese community in America and Europe. China, and the â€œEast,â€ as a fashion trend in the early twentieth century was just one of many recurring waves that began in the late seventeenth century. This was a phenomenon not particular to England, but very im portant in the United States from the time of the revolution onward. While Chinese luxury items, tea, and chinoiserie would become privileged throughout much of American history, people of Chinese descent living in America were often relegated to the margins despite a long history of protests and social activism aimed at fighting such exclusion. As John Kuo Wei Tchen notes, â€œThe signals to the Chinese community were clear: within Anglo-American Orientalism, Chinese would forever be viewed as foreignersâ€ (290). As a cultural signifier, Ch ina has represented both intimate domestic inclusion (tea, silk, luxury goods), and incommensurable foreign excl usion (a threatening Yellow Peril). This dichotomy can seen in the way representations of Chinese culture in American Orientalism where positive representations of Chinese culture are made through associations with nature and negative associations are constructed through de pictions of Chinese cities. The predominant feature of Japanese and Chinese art (including watercolors, prints a nd calligraphy) collected, distributed, exhibited, and imitated in Europe an d America were landscape s in the mode of the Chinese shanshui (landscape) aesthetic, it makes sense that Poundâ€™s Cathay would signify on the
99 landscape. Pound writes: â€œThere is another sort of completeness in Chinese. Especially in their poems of nature and of scenery th ey seem to excel western writers, both when they speak of their sympathy with the emotions of nature and wh en they describe natu ral thingsâ€ (Pound 2005, 303). As seen in Cathay , Pound seems to feel most comforta ble representing landscapes through the prism of translation. Not only are landscapes associ ated with the elegy, but they are associated with one of the prominent features of American a and American transcendentalism. Poundâ€™s use of the shanshui can be seen as a way of radically r econstructing a mode of American arts inherited from the transcendentalists and the fi reside poetsâ€”the landscape . This is another way Poundâ€™s Cathay gives him access to romanticism (in this case the American variant) on his own terms. While the poems within Cathay tend to focus on character, significant and often clichd â€œOrientalâ€ landscape images are create d in establishing mood. Even prior to Cathay Pound had begun to use Chinese landscape motifs within his poetry, such as the â€œblack boughâ€ in his famous poem â€œAt a Station in the Metro.â€ The representation of the â€œmodern Westâ€ as a displaced â€œancient Orientâ€ initiat ed what has become a tradition in twentieth century American poetry whereby the pastoral elegy has been reclaimed by proxy through traditional Chinese poetry. â€œDiscoveringâ€ in the Orient and â€œnatureâ€ to supplement a la ck in the United States was a strategy in American literature used by the tran scendentalists as a sp ace clearing gesture to recognize American cultural independence from Europe. Kuberski identifies within this postcolonial strategy a reaction as well to the Industrial Revolution: â€œThe deification of nature by romantic writers in England and America was al so the construction of a discourse of nature accomplished contemporaneously with industr ialization, the beginnings of Egyptology, paleontology, and zoology, and the erecting of a new country in the wildernessâ€ (31).
100 Transcendentalists like Emerson brought the notio n of pure natural signs as the project for American writing if not to realize at least to mimic. However, as Kuberski suggests, the transcendentalist inte rest in the semiotics of nature during the Industrial Revolution is one that is fraught with anxiety, because the unique possibility of American literature was disappearing as it was coming into being (33). Similarly, Chinese li terature allows Pound to create elegies as if symbolically recovering the transcendent al sign of nature writing. In this way, Cathay cannot only be read as the individual melancholy but a metaphoric collectiv e mourning for modern America poetry which is stunted and lacking. In Cathay and, later, The Chinese Written Character as a Medium for Poetry , Pound finds a way of representing nature, finding a more â€œnaturalâ€ poetic sign in the Chinese character. China, then, like nature, signifies an imaginary space forced â€œoutsideâ€ of American modernity. The representations of nature as at once inside and outside American culture parallel that of representations of Chinese culture during the Chinese Exclusion Acts. The paradox of being an insider and an outside r applies to Pound, tooâ€” he insisted on self-imposed exclusion and exile from America as a precondition for his access to finding what is lacking in American poetry. It was during this exile that he had the opportunity to acquire Fenollosaâ€™s notebooks which helped him to propose modernist solutions to compensate for such a lack. Ramazani in Poetry of Mourning describes some of the diffe rences between World War I elegies. He states that the high modernists obs cured the act of mourning for the mass deaths on the battlefields, saying, â€œalthough Po und and Eliot abstain from overt elegy, veiling their grief in irony, myth, and â€˜direct treatment of the â€˜thing,â€™â€™ Pound laments the â€˜myriadâ€™ slaughtered in the First World Warâ€ (1). Wryly, Ramazani introduces modernist poetics of mourning using the verb â€œto veilâ€ as a way to describe how they masked expressions of emotions. Of course, â€œto veilâ€
101 corresponds metonymically to the veil which is worn during mourning. It masks the private face of grief, but it publicly signifies that which it conceals. Ramazini, in showing how Eliot and Pound indirectly created elegiac verse, pres ents a chronology of P oundâ€™s poetic development situating the hard, granite, â€œd irect treatment of the â€˜thingâ€™â€ of 1913 Imagism to the outrage Pound expresses for the war dead in 1920 â€œHugh Selwyn Mauberleyâ€ (allude d to in the word â€œmyriadâ€). An important part of this deve lopment poetically, and ev en chronologically, is Cathay which occurs in between the condensed fr agments of Imagism and the long sprawling Mauberley. Taken as a poetics of mourning Cathay represents a continuity of the depersonalized masks and condensed fragments woven into longer verse forms and written in a more lyrical and emotional language. Cathay represents one of his major movements in supplementing the overt, highly emotional rhetorical languag e of Victorian elegies with an equivalent stylized mask of mourning. The poems of Cathay can be thought of as masks meant to signify various features of Chinese poetry that Pound was taking from Fenollo saâ€™s notebook. It can also be said to signify an act of remembering and mourning. The indi vidual poems function within a macro-poetic design, expressing a range of pat hos that shifts from private me lancholy to a sublime loss of collective ruin. It is not surprising that Pound chooses Chines e poems to express these emotions. While Pound does not portray any of the Chinese figur es in Cathay in blatantly racist terms, the connection of masked emotions with the way th at Pound uses the poems as a kind of mask for his own expression of mourning is not far from th e nineteenth century racist discourses of the Oriental (and especially Chinese) face as an inscrutable and impenetrabl e mask. It is also not surprising that Pound chooses Chinese poetry as a way of expressing sorrow because similar racist discourse identifies the â€œOriental,â€ especial ly Chinese, with the feminine from which the master narrative of the (colonized ) Orient as passive, feminine, emotional finds its natural
102 opposite in the active, masculine (imperial) Occident. The gendered dimenstion of early twentieth century Orientalist c onstructions of China allows Pound to create emotional poems without threatening his masculinity or his sense of being a modern ist. Without a coherent system of notation in Cathay , Western readers are left to approach the text through thei r personal archive of orientalist discourses on China. Poetry as Art Object On the cover of the first edition of Cathay , Pound presents a textual conundrum through his use of the Chinese character, a game Pound intensifies in his Cantos . Like the figure of the veil that provides a public sign of mourning as it c onceals the individual pat hos, it is a play of presence and absence. Against a plain brown background the character ( yao ) appears on the coverâ€™s upper left-hand corner. In the lower right-hand corner is written â€œCATHAY,â€ below which, a nd staggered to the right, is written â€œEZRA POUND.â€ The simplic ity of the brown paper cover heightens the impact of the gra phic nature of the English and Chinese words, in addition to lending an unassuming grace to the slim volume (Figure 3-1). Furthermore, it mimics the darkened parchment of an old scroll upon in which an old piece of Chinese calligraphy might be found. The Chin ese character is written in the balanced and blocky kaishu style of calligraphy, thus bringing to the foreground an art of writing that expresses meanings and aesthetic sensibiliti es through the graphic quality of the script and not solely on the lexical meaning of the word. Th e cover can be seen as a threshold to the ideas implicit in the arrangement of te xts within the anthology, reflecti ng Poundâ€™s Vorticist poetics. As an image, the cover appears to have an asymmetr ic balance with the str ong suggestion of a line Figure 3-1. Cover of Cathay
103 moving from through the words in the lower left cen tered along a diagonal axis, hinting at a kinetic potential through a rhythmic spacing of words in a stair-step layout that cites the abstract paintings by Wyndham Lewis and the sculpture of Gaudier-Br zeskaâ€”Poundâ€™s fellow artists of the Vorticist movement. As the poet of the group we can read his attempt to structure the written sign within that aesthetic movement, which he describes as, â€œroughly speaking, expressionism, neo-cubism, and Imagism gathered together in one campâ€ ( GB 88). On the cover the English text, â€œCathayâ€ and â€œEzra Pound,â€ become subordinate to the more intricate, , predicting Poundâ€™s mobilization of Chinese characters as a model for his ideogrammic method. Already in the cover design ther e is the suggestion that what the reader is beholding is a Chinese art objectâ€”calligraphy. With the prom inence of the character, which seems to supplement the English title, one would expect it to translate directly to â€œCathay.â€ For the average English or American reader, any Chinese character would carry th e semiotic function of representing Chinese writing rega rdless of the actual se mantic meaning. Also it would be logical to assume that the character would translate to the English word on the cover, â€œCathay,â€ or perhaps even something like â€œpoem,â€ or â€œsongsâ€ th at would be patterned to suggest the textâ€™s title. But the title does not mean any of these things in Chinese, â€œCathayâ€ translates to Shenzhou or â€œmysterious state.â€ , yao , however, means brilliant, i lluminating, or radiating. The way that Pound juxtaposes two writing systems re-i nscribes a difference of asymmetrical lexical meanings corresponding to asymmetrical gra phic representations of the written word. While yao would become an important part of Poundâ€™s Confucian terminology in the Cantos , on the cover of Cathay it represents the first mask that the reader encounters. Again, it is a play of presence and absence. The meaning of the character is not immediately available from
104 the context, and even if one read Chinese, it woul d be difficult to ascertain what the character has to do with Cathay . Grammatically speaking, yao could be meant to supplement the title as a modifier. â€œIlluminating,â€ as an adjective might be better suited as a quotation from a critic on the back cover for marketing purposes; however, glossing it as â€œillumination,â€ in the medieval sense of image-text, the character graphically creates connotations with the title . Mingfei Shi points out that in the Chinese aesthetic tradition of the three perfections (calligr aphy, poetry, and painting) words and images â€œbecame mutually inclusive, te chnically and aesthetical ly alike,â€ which is something that Pound would have gathered from Fenollosaâ€™s notes (262). The interplay between text and images, or text as images was not onl y important for Pound, but a distinguishing feature of the European avant-garde, for example at th is time Apollinaireâ€™s calligrammes, â€œidogrammes lyriques,â€ began to appear in Paris (Smock 115). Poundâ€™s idea of the Chinese character as a condensed fragment of thought is one of his mo st challenging and fundamentally flawed, which is to create a poetics of â€œIlluminationâ€ in both the sense of text as image as well as text as radiating direct thought. As Timothy Materer says, â€œPound belie ved the poetâ€™s task was â€˜to probe, experiment, accumulate until thingsâ€”some thi ngs at any rateâ€”shone with their intrinsic lightâ€ (31). This â€œintrinsic li ghtâ€ helps us to correlate â€œ yao â€ with his task as a translator of sculpting â€œunquestionable poems.â€ In the poetry of Cathay , almost all of the personae through their mourning scrape against some thing that might be represented as a moment of epiphany, the revelation of some truth. At the same time most of these moments of epiphany are carefully managed stagecraft that the pers onae present. As the character suggests, Poundâ€™s attempt to reveal an â€œintrinsic lightâ€ come s at the price of concealment. Like the Chinese character on the cover, th e English title helps to foreshadow the Orentialist tradition performed in Poundâ€™s translation. The title â€œCathayâ€ invokes some of the
105 earliest sustained European discourses on the â€œOrient.â€ Cathay has no geographic correspondence to the mapped world of 1915. Ca thay, rather, is an imaginary landscape associated with Marco Polo, and early Eur opean modernity. In fact, even when Jesuit missionaries claimed they had had arrived in Chinese cities described in Marco Poloâ€™s book, â€œmany Europeans were not persuaded that China and Cathay were identical,â€ because Cathay supposedly had a large number of Christ ians (Lach 1576). So as an art object, Cathay is not related to a geographic place bu t a space of historical imaginary and within the imaginary geography of Orientalism. Marco Poloâ€™s Cathay represents one of the first attempts to map the Orient (and many historians doubt this mapping came from firsthand experience), and so it follows that Pound positions his translations as a project of discovery and exploration of Chinese poetry. As such, Cathay is not a taxonomy of Chinese literature thr ough periods, authors, or geographical regions rendered linguistically into contemporary English, it is a figure representing a new discursive territory accessible through th e route that Pound takes. For example, Pound recreates the elegiac Chinese poems into a fr ee verse English poem, which does not depend upon rhyme, meter, nor stanza forms, and is a radical shift of such regulated forms used for English elegies (the term â€œelegyâ€ originally refers to sp ecific Greek metrical forms based in couplets that were used in mourning). Thus, th e title â€œCathayâ€ does not only evoke Chinese poetry in the same indirect way as the Chinese character on the cover, it also indicates Poundâ€™ s use of translation as a search for â€œnewâ€ territory and thus it represents the site of a literary experiment. Pound was crafting his image as modern poetr yâ€™s Marco Polo after his break with his former Imagism circle. He was promoting his ne w association with Vorticist aesthetics, for which Cathay became a convenient sample. Pound, in his Memoir to Gaudier-Brzeka , describes Vorticism as a poetics of images:
106 All poetic language is the language of explor ation. Since the beginni ng of bad writing, writers have used images as ornaments. The point of Imagisme is that it does not use images as ornaments . The image is itself the speech. The image is the word beyond formulated language.â€ (88) In this passage, we find Pound lampooning the conve ntions of literary criticism (e.g., â€œsince the beginning of bad writingâ€). At the same time, he takes seriously his work as a Copernican revolution, using the discoverer figure to describe the poet. Thus, instead of Cathay as The Story of Marco Polo (a book published in 1897, which Pound had read and quotes extensively in his Cantos ), Poundâ€™s Cathay is the story of the â€œword beyond form ulated language.â€ It is precisely at the point of â€œFormulated Languageâ€ where poetic experime ntation and Orientalism through the trope of the explorer converges. Getting be yond the formulated language meant using free verse and breaking the line of poe try, despite the fact that th e original poems depended on the â€œformulated languageâ€ of closed forms regulated by meter, rhyme, and tones. However, for Pound, Chinese literature is decontextualized and a signifier of a c onvention-free â€œword beyond formulated language.â€ Pound figurat ively travels to China in orde r to restore a lost Edenic language that the Chinese character â€œilluminates,â€ as it is an â€œabstractâ€ illumination (in the sense of medieval image-text). Just as Marco Poloâ€™s Cathay caused a rupture in the prevailing Holy Roman cosmology that assumed that â€œCathay ran off into a region of continual darkness, a bog or marsh where all manner of strange beasts, hobgoblins, and monsters roamed and howledâ€ (Brooks 2), Poundâ€™s China of Cathay is a rupture in the â€œformu latedâ€ verse even though it depends upon the â€œformulatedâ€ discourse of Orientalism. The cover of the first edition of Cathay , thus, reveals a trace of the Chinese language that has been repressed by Orientalism and modernist experimentation. Upon entering Cathay , however, the Chinese script disappears, and the reader is left to negoti ate traditional Chinese poetry through the poet-explorer, Pound.
107 At the very end of Cathay Pound provides a defense for his decisions as a compiler of an anthology. Pound says: But if I give them [more translations], with the necessary breaks for explanation, and a tedium of notes, it is quit e certain that the personal hatred in which I am held by many, and the invidia which is directed against me because I have dared openly to declare my belief in certain young artists, will be brought to bear first on the flaws of such translation, and will then be merged into de preciation of the whol e book of translations. Therefore I give only these unquestionable poems. (260) The â€œunquestionable poemsâ€ Pound insists are proof not of his knowledge of China, but of his ability to recognize genius, and solicit talent; thus, Pound conj ures an equation between the â€œcertain young artistsâ€ (modernists) and the â€œunq uestionable poems,â€ enfolding ancient Chinese poems into the cause of avant-garde modern ism. Poundâ€™s editorial comments that close Cathay brings the â€œunquestionable poemsâ€ into the poeti cs and politics of modernism and away from anything that has to do with China. The d ecision to use the anthology as a fulcrum for explicating aesthetical excellen ce and not as a mode of excha nge between langua ges and cultures is instructive in interr ogating the name of the anthology, whic h has more to do with Marco Polo of late medieval Italy, and Eu ropeâ€™s entrance into modernity than China. Pound suggests that supplying enough ethnographic background necessary for rendering translat ions intelligible would drive a wedge between the poetry and the power of his de tractorâ€™s critiques. Somehow, the failure and thus deprecia tion of Chinese poetry would be caused by a contextualized medieval Chinese culture. Nevert heless, Pound presents poetry as a universal genre despite the fact that the â€œunquestionable poemsâ€ needed to be crafted into poetry from their fragmented state as linguistic equivalences in Fenollosaâ€™s note books. The comparison between the Chinese poems that are excluded because of the preponderance of their particular cultural formations and the Chinese as excluded subjects act might be tenuou s at best, but it does provide a wrinkle in Poundâ€™s own presentation of poetry as a universa lly accessible world liter atureâ€”certain Chinese
108 poems would be great if it was not for their â€œChineseness,â€ which s eems to be a trait that would lower their value. Even though Pound states that â€œ[t]he point of Imagisme is that it does not use images as ornaments ,â€ he clearly draws from the chinoiserie tradition of imitating an idea of Chinese art for the purposes of dcor. The Chinese character on the cover clears out a market space through creating difference, as well as associations with chinoiserie art objects. As Andrew Thacker explains, Chinese and Japanese cultural product s were a significant f eature of museum and exhibition culture at a time when Pound had obs erved the ways that Marinettiâ€™s futurism exploited London as a â€œmarketplaceâ€ (35). While Marinettiâ€™s exhibiti ons of Futurismâ€™s modernist art attracted large crow ds, so did â€œnewâ€ representations and exhibitions of traditional Chinese culture (31). At this time, the Chinese art market had a contingent of interested and very rich speculators ranging from Ch arles Freer (whose collection is now a part of the Smithsonian in Washington, D.C.) to Wallace Stevens, who acquired Chinese art objects from Harriett Monroe (Qian 2003, 155). It is not a stretch to see Pound applying th is cultural fever to the value of his Chinese poems in Cathay . According to Lawrence Rainey, modernists like Joyce and Pound the took advantage of econom ies of scarcity when publis hing their books in order to simulate the art market speculation and generate profit indexes to make up for the relative small market their writings held. In 1917 Pound noted the appreciation of his poetry through this mechanism, â€œYr. best ad is the quiet statement that at auction recently a copy of Mr. P's [first book] â€˜A Lume Spentoâ€™ publishe d in 1908 at $1.00 (one dollar) was sold for $52.50â€ (Rainey 211). Pound equates his value as a po et with the value given by specu lators and collectors in the rare book market. The appreciation of the value of the translations of Chinese poetry can be seen as much financial as critical, especially cons idering the sentence in th e closing paragraph of
109 Cathay where Poundâ€™s fear was that attacks on hi s character would be applied to Chinese translations, which â€œwill then be merged into depreciation of the whole book of translations.â€ Poundâ€™s metaphor clearly links aesthetics and economics such that the treasures of Cathay are not just poetics, but the actual sale of books, and their subsequent value as art obj ects. This is a circular arrangement, because such an appreciati on of Chinese literature in turn reflects an appreciation of Poundâ€™s value as a poet. Cathay became a part of the â€œChina tradeâ€ that had long established in British and American culture si nce the seventeenth century where â€œâ€˜thingsâ€™ Chinese had become one of the forms of currenc y for gaining cultural â€˜distinctionâ€™â€ (Tchen 13). Pound uses Cathay to enter into the near mythic â€œChina Marketâ€ during a moment in the early twentieth century when America, Japan, and Eur ope had almost torn down the closed doors of the Qing dynasty and had the freedom to try to access its supposed limitlessness. In addition to the cover of Cathay the reader is confronted with a visually striking colophon that further frames the subsequent translations: FOR THE MOST PART FROM THE CHINESE OF RIHAKU, FROM THE NOTES OF THE LATE ERNEST FENOLLOSA, AND THE DECIPHERINGS OF THE PROFESSORS MORI AND ARIGA The colophon performs the hints at the perfor mance that will follow, announcing and paying tribute to the dead. A reader of English would realize from the comma in the second line that â€œRIHAKUâ€ is subordinated to â€œFROM THE NOTES OF THE LATE ERNEST FENOLLOSA,â€ as well as to the â€œDECIPHERINGS OF TH E / PROFESSORS MORI / AND ARIGA.â€ The reader will also note that Pound is not transl ating Chinese. Pound through a sleight of hand announces that he is translating translations. The translations that we ar e receiving are not from any â€œoriginalâ€ source but through se veral sources tended to by specia lists initiated in the arts of
110 â€œCathay.â€ In the title page it is possible to read both the avant-garde modernist interest in the occult alongside the avant-garde modernist intere st in making the medium self-reflective. This way â€œmedium,â€ not only represents the vessel for textual circulati on, and communication, a medium is one who can communicate with the dead. Pound also merges the â€œscienceâ€ of Sinology with the â€œoccultâ€ as a kind of cipher for the poems of â€œCathay.â€ Orientalism aids this project by carrying a long hist ory of associations and connot ations with th e mysterious, supernatural, and spectral. The title page creates a syntactic ambi guity (e.g., â€œFOR THE MOST PART FROM THE,â€ and â€œFROM THE NOTES OF,â€), preparing the reader for the transla tions that bear the mark of this obscurity. With vague statements Pound admits that he do es not read classical Chinese, leaving the reader with the assumpti on that poetry will not clearly chart China or Chinese culture as an object of study. At the sa me time, the reader can be reassured that Poundâ€™s â€œOrientâ€ is that familiar, vague and somewhat mystifying far away place. The first line of the colophon uses the romanized Japanese name for the Chinese poet Li Bo, tracing the movement of texts from China to Japan to E ngland. Secondary parties, and even secondary countries preclude a direct encounter. The fact that the poems come from a notebook Pound to re-inscribe the connotations of poet with explorer , both working with â€œfoundâ€ materials. For this reason Pound scholar s have identified Cathay as a blueprint for his later Cantos often published as drafts, which read like notebooks. Cathay is then a cipher for rec onstructing what is poetic, through cutting and pasting, through editing, a nd through divining that â€œunquestionable poemâ€ from the expressionistic Chinese characters, the Orientalistâ€™s note book, and the professorsâ€™ decoding.
111 Like a magician, Pound does not explain his tricks, instead uses a smoke screen on the title page as a way to conceal his own secret cipher, Gilesâ€™ History of Chinese Literature , a likely sinica clavis for Cathay (Kenner 194-195). While their poetry is very different, Gilesâ€™ prose is strikingly similar to Poundâ€™s abrupt , authoritative sentences. For ex ample, Giles discusses Li Bo by saying: â€œOne more extract may be given, chiefly to exhibit what is held by the Chinese to be of the very essence of real poetry,â€” suggestion . A poet should not dot his i â€™s. The Chinese reader likes to do that for himself, each according to his own fancyâ€ (Giles 155, italics are mine). It would seem that the poems are being framed by a colophon that serves the mimetic purpose of revealing an ambiguity to come, because that is one of the features of the poetry that he was translating. This would also harmonize with the Orientalist fashioning of chinoiserie dcor, as well as the Chinese landscapes Pound examin ed at the British Museum. The metaphoric mistiness of ambiguity, and the misty ( menglong , ) aesthetic of Chinese watercolors mixed with the elegiac material Pound found in Fenol losaâ€™s notebooks, allows Pound to not only attempt to revise the English elegy but also to reclaim the kinds of Pre-Raphaelite poetry that he wrote before becoming a â€œmodern.â€ So while he s eems to be reaching out to a literary tradition thatâ€™s furthest away, he is actually searching homeward towards some of his early impulses as a poet The purpose for this long close reading of the cover, title page, and closing editorial notes of the first edition of Cathay is not simply to judge a book by its cover. Instead the goal is to uncover some of the problems that are hidden with in the text. Chiefly, P ound refigures traditional Chinese literature into American poetry through non-presentational, metonymic framing devices. Poundâ€™s framing is fascinating because he show s the concealed â€œwiresâ€ that he employs in creating his anthology of Chinese poems; but at th e same time he is supplementing any fidelity to
112 an ethnographic â€œChinaâ€ of the Chin ese poetry with the fidelity to a poetics of the supplement (a translation of previous transla tions). By this I mean Pound indi cates that his poetic realm is textual and virtual, which is an inherent cont radiction with his modernist goal of achieving a poetry that is essential and authentic, and it belies the truth-function of translation that professional Orientalism depends upon. The extr a-poetic material we have seen thus far functions as a way to allow the reader to come to Poundâ€™s terms in establishing a modern English elegy in the ruins of ancient Chinese poetry. Poundâ€™s assemblage of Chinese poems in Cathay is different from the attempts that collections that preceded his like Gilesâ€™s A History of Chinese Literature , which develops chronologically through Chinaâ€™s dynastic history, or Marquis dâ€™Henrvey de Saint-Denysâ€™s Posies de lâ€™epoque des Thang that covers poetry from th e Tang dynasty. The design Poundâ€™s collection does not assume an explicit historiography to frame China; instead Cathay is organized around the theme of mourning and loss. In a 1918 essay on Chinese poetry, Pound quotes Li Bo awkwardly saying â€œIn China a â€˜c ompilerâ€™ is a very different person from a commentator. A compiler does not merely gather together, his chief honor consists in weeding out, and even revisingâ€ (Pound 2005, 298). Indeed, Pound was the original â€œcompilerâ€ of Imagism, and is perhaps most famous ly known for his weeding of Eliotâ€™s The Waste Land . Implicit in this comment, which is meant to co mpliment Li Boâ€™s stature as a poet, is Poundâ€™s own project of weeding and revising Fenollosa â€™s notebook. Instead of performing what today would be considered an application of literature to Area Studies, Pound can be said to use the anthology for not only literary fashioni ng, but professional self-fashioning. Personae and Invention in Cathay Though Cathay does not chart a teleological or de velopmental progression of Chinese literature, it does begin with an early poem. The first poem in Cathay , â€œSong of the Bowmen of
113 Shu,â€ is poem â€ in the Shi Jing (the poem is also called â€œ Cai wei ,â€ or â€œPicking Osmundâ€). Here we are, picking the first fern-shoots And saying: When shall we get back to our country? Here we are because we have the Ken-nin for our foemen, We have no comfort because of these Mongols. We grub the soft fern-shoots, When anyone says " Return," the others are full of sorrow. Sorrowful minds, sorrow is strong, we are hungry and thirsty. Our defence is not yet made sure, no one can let his friend return. We grub the old fern-stalks. We say: Will we be let to go back in October? There is no ease in royal affa irs, we have no comfort. Our sorrow is bitter, but we would not return to our country. (lines 1-17) The poem laments the suffering of soldiers in persistent border wars far from home. The poem describes cycles of the seasons , each bringing new and deeper tales of hardships and grief, representing a leitmotif that will be repeated throughout the collection. From the title it is clear that Pound is dependent upon the Fenollosa, becaus e on Romanized Chinese â€œShuâ€ refers to the old kingdom located in what is now Sichuan pr ovince which did not exist until long after the Shi Jing was collected. Pound does not use â€œShuâ€ to mean Sichuan but to mean the kingdom of Zhou taken from the Fenollosaâ€™s commentary the first line of the poem, in the form of the Romanized Japanese Kanji18 (Wai 169). This detail allows us to see how Pound sh ifted between the Romanized Chinese poetic texts in the note books and the margin notes to aid both the translations as well as the tran sliteration. Pound is performing as an Orientalist, and thus the 18 Reprinted in Wai-lim Yipâ€™s, Ezra Poundâ€™s Cathay , see Figure 3-2.
114 details given in the poem must s upport his act. In this way he pa rticipates in the discourse on China. Yet, instead of clarifying moments of Chinaâ€™s past Poundâ€™s poe try mimics Sinologyâ€™s discourse on China as a heterogeneous linguistic Babel, doubling the aesthetic of Cathay as a realm of artistic fragments pieced together by Pound. The commentary in Fenollosaâ€™s notebooks tells the story of the author of the poem, â€œBunno,â€ or King Wen19 who was a commander of the western forces during the Zhou dynasty.20 Fenollosaâ€™s note tells us that â€œBunnoâ€ was later sainted for his actions as commander (170). The distinction between â€œChouâ€ and â€œShuâ€ in the geographic imaginary of literary Chinese is that Shu has been romanticized, and often exoticized due to its remoteness, its wildness, an d its borders with the â€œWest.â€ Zhou figures more as central and idealizedâ€”a golden age of sage kings; Confucius often discu ssed the Zhou dynasty as having a culture of exemplary wisdom, refinement, and order. According Feno llosaâ€™s notes, â€œBunnoâ€ of the Zhou dynasty is 19 According to the authoritative Mao commentary of the Shijing , the author is really a general of King Wen of Zhou. 20 Which Fenellosa wrote in Japanese romanization, â€œShu ,â€ with Chinese Wade-Giles romanization in parenthesis above it â€œ[Chou]â€; Pound wrote as â€œShuâ€ (Yip 170). Figure 3-2. â€œSong of the Bowmen of Shuâ€ from Fenollosâ€™s notebook (Yip170).
115 praised for the treatment of his soldiers who ha d to defend the Western border of China against the barbarian tribes. Fenollosa suggests that as commander, he wrote the poem from the perspective of the common soldie r â€œto show his sweet sympathy to them and soften their grief and painâ€ (Yip169). These notes reveal one of the characteristics that define the collection of poems in Cathay , the poems that Pound chooses are wr itten by poets who themselves are adopting personae. In â€œSong of the Bowmen of Shuâ€ the commander speaks as a common foot soldier. Yet, Pound suppresses th e background information by not no ting this in his version of the poem, erasing the mechanisms at play in hi s creation of Chinese subjectivities. While this goes unnoted, it marks a subtle pattern that emerges in Cathay , reflecting Poundâ€™s interest in Robert Browningâ€™s dramatic personae. In a 1918 essay on Chinese poe try Pound says, â€œIt is interesting to find, in eighth-century China, a poem which might have been slipped into Browningâ€™s workâ€ (Pound 2005, 301-302). This quote re fers to Browningâ€™s use of dramatic personae which Pound identif ies in the same essay as â€œthe mo st interesting form of modern poetryâ€ (301). However, Pound signifies on the vo ice of the professional Orientalist to develop an identifiable Chinese poetic voice; in other words he must perform Chineseness via discursive conventions. In late-nineteenth century drama this was done literally by European-American actors in yellow-face in plays such as Orphan of China , Yankee in China , Irishman in China , and The Cockney in China (Tchen 20). Poundâ€™s performance is similar to plays like Orphan of China , which, according to John Kuo Wei Tchen, assumes a universal and essential humanity (20). What is more, the subject of the poem from which he is deriving his persona is that of a poet who is performing this subjectivity; theref ore, Pound is putting on the mask of the mask wearer. Poundâ€™s ancient Chinese writers are alwa ys already modernist poets, and never â€œmerely Chinese.â€
116 Thematically, â€œSong of the Bowmen of Shuâ€ aligns Cathay with 1915 London where Poundâ€™s friends and fellow modernists, such as Hulme and Gaudier-Brzeska (both received copies of Cathay ), had gone off to war in France. The poem begins with a sp ring arrival to the front: â€œHere we are, picking the first fern-shoots / And saying: When shall we get back to our / country?â€ (lines 1-3). This firs t rhetorical question asked by the bowmen evokes soldiers in France during World War I as well as Pound as an expatriate in England. The question creates a dramatic tension in the failed, undelivered, and often-futile addresses. For example, in â€œBowmen of Shuâ€ the first rhetorical question is answ ered by line 18 where the speaker says, â€œbut we would not return to / our countr y.â€ As the poem comes to an end the first rhetorical question is replaced with a closing question: â€œOur mind is full of sorrow, who will know of our / grief?â€ Francis Morretti describes this poe tic device, saying: â€œFor with the rhetorical questions the orator puts a second voice on the stage, rather than allo wing a second orator to sp eak. Better: he invents a second voice in order that there be no second oratorâ€ (67). In the Chinese poem, it is not a question but a statement ( , â€œsay return say retu rn, another year goneâ€). Pound dramatizes the pathos in th is line by transforming the statem ent into a question, and thus intensifies the absence from home by rhetorical ly creating an address th at hears no reply. This meaningful connection to the war an d the life of the expatriate allows the poet to participate in the anguish of separation. The narrator of the â€œSong of the Bowmen of Shuâ€ is also a reader of nature. As Bruce Fogleman describes, the organizational principal of the anthology can be seen through the first part of the â€œBowmen of Shuâ€ as a â€œcycle of growth and decayâ€ where human joy and grief enters into corresponding sequences (50) . Seasonal phases develop thr oughout the collection of poems creating a â€œmodern sequence,â€ which is â€œa grouping of mainly lyric poems and passages, rarely
117 uniform in pattern, which tend to interact as an organic whole. It usually includes narrative and dramatic elements, and ratiocinative ones as well, but its structure is fina lly lyricalâ€ (Fogleman 59). The repetitions of sorrow (â€œWe have no comf ort because of the Mongols,â€ â€œothers are full of sorrow,â€ â€œSorrowful minds, sorrow is strong,â€ â€œO ur sorrow is bitter,â€ â€œOur mind is full of sorrowâ€), and strained endurance (â€œWhen shall we get back to our country?â€ â€œwe are hungry and thirsty,â€ â€œOur defense is not made sure,â€ â€œThere is no ease in Royal affairs,â€ â€œhis horses even are tired,â€ â€œThe enemy is swift, we must be careful â€) echo the thematically represent the rhetorical repetition of the Chinese poem. In the Chinese vers ion the first twenty fou r-character couplets in the original Chinese version, ( caiwei literally pick fern-shoots) and ( yue gui , literally â€œto say â€˜returnâ€™â€ ) are each repeated three times. As in the previous discussion of the Chinese character on the cover of Cathay , there is an asymmetric semiotic mapping of coded equivalences, shifting the signi fication of structures from Fenollosaâ€™s notebooks to Poundâ€™s poetic texts. In this case, P ound uses thematic repetition in vers libre in order to represent the repetitions in the Chinese lines. Poundâ€™s mimicry of word repetition allows him to innovatively perf orm the Chinese line with an added difference. Instead of repeating the same image of â€œpicking ferns,â€ for example, Pound introduces â€œfern shootsâ€ that become â€œfern stalksâ€ th en â€œfern husksâ€ as the poem progresses with the seasons. Likewise, Pound presen ts images of flower blossoms, willows, and snow as emblems of time passing. This repe tition amid change incorporates standard chinoiserie patterns to show Chinese-ness (bloss oms, willows) as well as a Chinese shanshui aesthetic of repeating a landscape through seasons, or from different vantage points. Jiangqing Zheng identifies this process in Poundâ€™s work as a spec ific aesthetic strategy. Zh eng calls it â€œre-imaging poemsâ€ found in works like Poundâ€™s â€œSeven-Lakes Cantoâ€ (123). Using a similar approach,
118 Zhaoming Qian argues that Poundâ€™ s understanding of th is aesthetic comes from his encounters with Chinese landscapes at the British Museum as well as from Whistlerâ€™s paintings (Qian 2003, 14). Qianâ€™s inclusion of Whistle râ€™s paintings (famous for thei r appropriations of Chinese landscapes, and their hybrid repres entations of Chinese and Japane se costumes, styles, and dcor within a European mise-en-scene) as a mode l for understanding Chinese landscape explains Poundâ€™s attempt to construct a poet ry that suggests the structure of the original but does not exactly repeat the rhetorical techniques. To complicate matters, Pound creates an unbalanced set of near equivalents between different poetic trad itions. For example, th e transformation of the ferns from shoots into husks, mixing cycles of nature with elegiac brooding, might be better understood as an imitation of Theocritusâ€™s pastoral lyrical sequence, the â€œI dylls,â€ than of â€œCai Weiâ€ from the Shi Jing . Moreover, the mix of 3rd century BC Latin bucolic poetry, and 6th century BC Chinese poetry can be understood as a theory that posit s not only equivalents between language systems, but equivalents between cultural traditions. After reading Cathay on the Western Front, Gaudier-Brzes ka wrote, â€œthe poems depict our situation in a wonderful way. We do not eat the young nor old fern-shoots but we cannot be over-victualled where we standâ€ (Pound 2005, 354, note 3). Not only does the poem connect the soldiers of ancient China and modern Europe through their shared hard ship, line 3 introduces a shared enemy: â€œHere we are because we have the Ken-nin for our foemen.â€ While Pound does provide an annotation, â€œKen-ninâ€ is the Japanese Romanization for Xianyun, which was an ancient name for Xiongnuâ€”nomadic tribes thought to be the origins of the â€œHuns.â€ The large-scale battles between these tribal nomads a nd Chinese armies led to the construction of the Great Wall. In one of the largest migrations acros s central Asia, the Huns invaded deep into the
119 Eastern Roman Empire, conquering central Europe. â€œHunâ€ of course is the derogatory term for German soldiers that the Anglophone allies us ed during World War I. Pound also calls the Xianyun, â€œMongolsâ€ (â€œWe have no comfort because of these Mongolsâ€). Even though the connections are historically and ethnically inaccurate, Pound uses the Xianyun and the Mongols interchangeably, such that Classical Rome and Ch ina can be seen as fighting virtually the same foe. This foe shares the name with the same en emy that Poundâ€™s friends were fighting in France. As an elegy, Poundâ€™s work performs more than simply reconstructing the sorrow of a general trying to share a common soldierâ€™s grief an anci ent Chinese poem; the poem connects archives of struggles to maintain culture amid nomadic inva sions. In this way Pound adds another layer of repetition to the cyclical pa ttern occurring in the poem, ex emplifying the vortex as the determining figure of the Vorticist movement , and rhetorically casting his anthology as a bulwark of culture against impending ruin at the ha nds of the barbarians. Th is, after all, is how he viewed himself as a poet in the modern worl d. Such a depiction cert ainly challenges the latenineteenth early twentieth century depictions of the Chinese as a â€œYellow Perilâ€ when, in fact, Pound is representing Chinese conf ronting their own version of the â€œYellow Perilâ€ with the barbarians at the gate. As in â€œSong of the Bowmen of Shu,â€ sorrows and landscapes mark one of Poundâ€™s most famous poems, â€œThe River Merchantâ€™s Wife: A Letter,â€ which begins: While my hair was still cut st raight across my forehead I played about the front gate, pulling flowers. You came by on bamboo stilts, playing horse, You walked about my seat, playing with blue plums. And we went on living in the village of Chokan: Two small people, without dislike or suspicion. At fourteen I married My Lord you. I never laughed, being bashful. Lowering my head, I looked at the wall.
120 Called to, a thousand times, I never looked back. At fifteen I stopped scowling, I desired my dust to be mingled with yours Forever and forever, and forever. Why should I climb the look out? (lines 1-15) Pound changes the title from (â€œ Changgan Xing â€ â€œBallad of Changganâ€), indicating that the ballad has been transformed into an epis tolary quandary between a wife and a â€œRiverMerchant,â€ (whose occupation sounds like some thing from Marco Poloâ€™s travels). This represents a shift in metonymy from place, â€œChanggan,â€ to a social position, â€œmerchantâ€™s wife.â€ Poundâ€™s title of the poem provides a new frame such that instead of encountering a ballad, the reader is permitted to read the intimate disclosure from a wife to her husband. At the same time the reader is faced with a poetic voice that uses the letter as a form of self-fashioning. Therefore, Pound is creating a character whose subjectivity is only accessible through a self-fashioned text, prepared carefully for the rhetor ical effect it would have on th e intended readerâ€”the absent husband. Poundâ€™s persona creates a poem that mi mics his own construction of a persona. The original author of th e poem, Li Bo (Pound identifies him using the Japanese Romanization, Rihaku), being a poet who traveled extensively, crea ted a poem that can be seen as pedagogical, poetically demonstrating the idea l response a wife would or should have during her husbandâ€™s absence. It is also possible that Li Boâ€™s was writing erotic poetry. His audience, male, would recognize a sexually-charged subtext of a wife remembering her wedding night and waiting for her husbandâ€™s return with anticipation. Sinologists have speculated that this was a way Li Bo would have written a love poem to hi s wife for the same reasons the poem might be considered erotic, because social conventions tend ed to repress explicit displays of affection (Bush). Though these aspects of the poem are mu ted in Poundâ€™s version, the poem represents another case of Pound translating a poet who is creating a persona of an â€œother.â€ Unlike the
121 â€œSong of the Bowmen of Shu,â€ where a general mi micked the voice of the foot soldiers, â€œThe River-Merchantâ€™s Wife: A Letterâ€ a man voices the womanâ€™s complaint. It is not surprising to see such a pattern where the construction of the pe rsona follows discourses of power. Just as in a rigid military hierarchy the general-poet is able to assume the voice of the common soldier, in a patriarchal social order the male-poet assumes th e voice of the female. It is in this sense of speaking for the other from a position of cultural authority that Pound employs. Cathay demonstrates that speaking for the â€œotherâ€ as an inherited power institu tionalized within poetry. Poems like â€œSong of the Bowmen of Shu,â€ and â€œThe River-Merchantâ€™s Wife: a Letterâ€ serve as models for his project of Cathay , in which Pound has the power to speak for the officially excluded other in Europe and Americaâ€”the Chinese. As Susan Schweik notes, â€œ[t]he poem, like many Western texts, exploits th e Western projection of sexual oppr ession onto the â€˜Orient.â€™â€ The rhetorical advantage of this form of appropriation is that it allo ws the poet to speak from a point of weakness and vulnerability and thus from a position of moral authority. Pound complicates the aesthetic mode of chinoiserie by using conventional representa tional strategies to represent the â€œOriental womanâ€ but showi ng in her letter that through writi ng she is performing her own self-fashioning. As a letter, the poem allows for the performa nce of emotions to be regulated through the stanza organization creates indirect hints and su ggestions. The poem contains four stanzasâ€”each one is organized by the arrangement of memori es, and not meter. The first three memories describe the process through which the wife reve als how as a child she was betrothed, yet later came to love and thus miss her husband. This very early recollection projects memory as the site of destiny. The everyday life of the poetic subject becomes one that is enfolded into the drama of forging a marriage who â€œwent on living in the v illage of Chokan: / Two small people, without
122 dislike or suspicionâ€ (lines5-6) . This narrative is always framed by the fact that it is being composed and that the author of the letter is already aware of an emotional economy that privileges fidelity. Emotional attachment is an en actment of a rhetorical situation structured by a social norm. Furthermore, the assemblage of fragments and images of memory can support a larger narrative framework merely by their juxt aposition, creating a montag e. In this way the negative space separating the stan zas functions as a na rrative devise aiding the compression of the lyric, and not simply a syst em of separating sequences of r hythm or rhyme. Not only do these juxtaposed memories create a larg er narrative from the smaller ones, the breaks in the free-verse lyrical arrangement also emphasize the separation between the couple. Becau se of the irregular stanza length, and because the last memory in the f ourth stanza transforms from a memory into a declaration, the wifeâ€™s memories appear spontane ous (Schweik). It is in this sense that Pound gives the Li Boâ€™s River-Mercha ntâ€™s wife the agency to create an image of herself for her husband. As Schweik suggests, it is an image that the wife can control analogous to the epistolary quandary of the women in Engla nd whose husbands were fighting in France. The poem as an elegy addressing absence, organi zed by fragments of memory as a means of preserving relationships, speaks to those who suffered from th e separation during the war. As the bride passes from childhood into her late adolescence, the everyday enfolds into a phenomenal moment of her marriage. This event amplifies and transforms memories of small details (â€œI never laughed, being bashfulâ€ (line 8)) into complete enrapture (â€œI desired my dust to be mingled with yours / For ever and for ever and for everâ€ (line 13)). This repeated affirmation (â€œFor ever, and for ever, and for everâ€) of marriage is a complete inversion of time in Shakespeareâ€™s â€œMacbeth,â€ which is infinitely emptied out into a dreadful lack of meaning (â€œtomorrow, and tomorrow, and tomorrowâ€). The fo rces that have wrenched â€œtwo small peopleâ€
123 into always already having been destined fo r union also create the conditions for mourning. Separation transforms the affirming fulfillment of a union remembered in the repetition of â€œforever,â€ into the dreadful no tion of the perpetual grief of repeating empty tomorrows (â€œAt sixteen you departed/You went into far Ku-to ye n, by the river of swir ling eddies,/And you have been gone five months. / The monkeys make so rrowful noise overheadâ€ (l ines 15-18)). Ming Xie describes the way that Pound is at once modern and emotively lyrical by showing the complex psychological interaction between the tone of playful, child ish innocence, carefree and ironically insouciant (â€œI never looked backâ€), and the sorrowful gravity of a young wife suddenly made older by the loneliness and anxiety of separa tionâ€ (â€œOn â€˜The River-Merchantâ€™s Wife: A Letterâ€™â€). Poundâ€™s â€œwifeâ€ crafts a cycle of memories that crystallize into a sudden transformation. This carefully composed descrip tion of an epiphany in the form of a letter suggests that she is not unaware of the effect that her memories might have on her reader. As a letter writer the wife shares P oundâ€™s knowledge of stagecraft. Just as one of the challenges of the poem is the difficulty in determining how much of the wifeâ€™s memory is crafted merely to pull off an effect, for one who is unfamiliar with the Ch inese it is difficult to determine the extent to which Poundâ€™s version of Li Boâ€™s poem is merely used as a framework for a literary experiment. Her letter represents Imagist writing par excellence , creating then super-positioning images, â€œwhich presents an intell ectual and emotional complex in an inst ant of time,â€ such that â€œit is the presentation of such a â€˜complex â€™ instantaneously which gives th at sense of sudden liberation; that sense of freedom from time limits and space limits; that sense of sudden growth, which we experience in the presence of the greatest work s of artâ€ (Pound 1913, 200). This is a dialectical process in which Li Boâ€™s â€œThe River-Mercha ntâ€™s Wifeâ€ enacts Poundâ€™s modern poetics. In performing the role of Orientalist translator , Pound actualizes his notions of Imagism and
124 Vorticism. Critics like Steven Yao have described the wife as having control over the discourse by the way that she composes her letter, so that Poundâ€™s poem serv es as a progressive representation where the woman has an indepe ndent voice and control over the coupleâ€™s discourse even within a rigid pa triarchal system. While this may be true, at the same time it is through the woman that the writer can control his creative poetics. In this sense the rivermerchantâ€™s wife is at least as much Poundâ€™ s mask and muse, as she is a sympathetic representation of the women in wartime London. The closing stanza of the poem ends the wife â€™s recollection, shifting from the memories of her husbandâ€™s departure to her observations of nature in his absence. With careful economy the wife creates distinct features of the distan t landscape that her husband departed into, and the traces of his loss that remain in her immediat e surroundings. The view of these items is framed by her outward gaze, such that they are saturated with the si gnificance of her emotions. For example, in line 18 the wife employs pathetic fall acy, using the cry of the monkeys to project her psyche of the poetic into the atmosphere. The wi fe indicates that the c oupleâ€™s separation upsets even the natural world. These cries follow an image of the treacherousness of her husbandâ€™s occupation, symbolized by â€œswirling eddies (â€œY ou went into far Ku-to-yen, by the river of swirling eddies, / And you have been gone five monthsâ€ (line 16-17)). Th e eddies literally place Poundâ€™s vortex (Vorticism) into the poem. Them atically the vortex of the wifeâ€™s swirling memories, complement emotionally the dangers of the river, a nd the design of the poem. The poemâ€™s elegiac mood intensifies as the wife descri bes how moss, like the river eddies, has erased even the smallest traces of the husbandâ€™s presence: You dragged your feet when went out. By the gate now, the moss is grown, the different mosses Too deep to clear them away The leaves fall early this autumn, in wind.
125 The paired butterflies are already yellow with August Over the grass in the West garden. (lines 23-25) In addition to covering up the footprints of th e husband, the moss allows the viewer to witness garden going into a state of disrepair and ruin, harmonizing thematically with the fall of autumn leaves. The Chinese garden has been a continual sign of Chinese cultivati on and high civilization and has been mimicked by the British since the 17th century, noted for a landscaping technique that designedly employs overgrown and asymmetr ic layouts to produce a more â€œnaturalâ€ look (Porter 155). Chinese garden in ruin creates a ly rical mise-en-scene that helps to locate the elegiac quality of Chinese poetry as itself a tale of decay. While arguing that Pound re-shapes the elegiac tradition, Ming Xie traces an intelle ctual lineage of the ele gy through Coleridge who says, â€œElegy presents every thi ng as lost and gone, or absent and futureâ€ (94). The Chinese symbol for perpetual fidelity, the butterfly, an embl em of love even beyond the grave, is another example of this.21 At the same time as using his imagist techniques Pound is able to incorporate recognizable tropes of â€œOrientalâ€ aesthetics through the motifs of the butterfly. For example, Giacomo Pucciniâ€™s â€œMadame Butterflyâ€ had by 1915 become a famous works. In his adaptation of John Luther Longâ€™s short story, the Japanese heroine kills herself af ter the separation of American husband abandons her. The connection between the Asian woman and the butterfly is one that would have already been recognized by Poundâ€™s audience as being fraught with tragedy. These motifs of ruin and tragedy aid in constr ucting the psyche of the poem as a work of chinoiserie intensifying the dramatic moveme nt of the wifeâ€™s recollections. 21 The butterfly lovers motif can be found in a legend about Liang Shanbo, and Zhu Yingtai. Liang cross-dressed in order to study, and as a student met Liang. The two developed a close relationship, but Liang never guessed Zhuâ€™s identity until he saw her dressed as a woman. He wanted to marry her, but he was already to be married. Heartbroken he died young. When paying respects at his tomb, the ground broke open, Zhu Yingtai jumped in, and the two emerged as butterflies.
126 In this last section of the poem the orde red and syncopated free verse gives way to rambling, and decidedly less poetic lines: â€œIf you are coming down through the narrows of the river Kiang, / Please let me know beforehand, / And I will come out to meet you / As far as Chofu-saâ€ (lines 26-29). The ending of the poem supple ments the more lyrical verses with an anticlimactic, reserved closing that transforms the poetic disclosure of the wifeâ€™s anxious anticipation with the formal business of the lett erâ€”when you arrive at such a place, let me know, and Iâ€™ll go and meet you. Here, Pound complicates this Chinese child-bride such that she is not simply a stereotype of the â€œOrientalâ€ figure amid a chinoiserie -fashioned background. She is also represented as a prototypical m odernist writer recording an epiphany amid the common tasks of everyday life. As a tribute to Browning, Pound leaves the reader puzzled as to whether or not the wife really has those emotions or if she had composed them for the pleasure of her readerâ€”her husband. Since the poem was originally written by Li Bo, the question retu rns to the kinds of effects he is trying to create though the river-merchantâ€™s wife. Fo r English and American readers this indeterminacy is parallel to the questi on of whether or not Poundâ€™s Chinese poem is the simulacrum of Poundâ€™s poetic self-fashioning â€œChi nese dreams,â€ or if Pound is demonstrating poetry as always already demons trating that there is no absolu te subject beneath the textual constructions, and the state of ab solute absence represented by the presence of language is the real object of mourning. In the wifeâ€™s letter , however, a pedagogy of mourning emerges whereby memory serves as a space for the renewal of m eaning, and nature serves as a signifier of the unspeakable, personal loss, through which to appeal to communal sorrow and shared remembrance. One of the first Chinese poems from Cathay made public, â€œThe Exileâ€™s Letter,â€ was published in the March 1915 issue of Poetry: A Magazine of Verse . The poem functions as a
127 form of advertisement for the rest of Cathay which was also reviewed and advertised in Poetry . As a representative sample of Cathay for American readers, the poem uses many of the same devices as appear in â€œSong of the Bowmen of Shuâ€ and â€œThe River-Merchantâ€™s Wife: A Letterâ€: To So-Kin of Rakuyo, ancient friend, Chancellor of Gen. Now I remember that you built me a special tavern By the south side of th e bridge at Ten-Shin. With yellow gold and white jewels, we paid for songs and laughter And we were drunk for month on month, forgetting the kings and princes. Intelligent men came drifting in from the sea and from the west border, And with them, and with you especially There was nothing at cross purpose, And they made nothing of sea-cr ossing or of mountain crossing, If only they could be of that fellowship, And we all spoke out our hearts and minds, and without regret. Pound creates a layered textuality using a letter as a vehicle fo r poetic discourse. This move deconstructs the possibility that the personae of Cathay are representations of Chinese subjects by framing them as already existing artifices of se lf-fashioned texts that th ey carefully prepared for others. This representation of textuality mi mics Poundâ€™s translations as being derived from already existing translationsâ€”referencing the â€œO rientalist,â€ and not th e â€œOrient.â€ Having the poems represent letters is another form of mi mesis, one in which textual transmission across distances within the poems of Cathay for early twentieth-century readers represent what Yunte Huang calls â€œintertextual tran sposition,â€ which â€œreveals a pi cture of incessant textual movementsâ€ that allowed Pound to create Cathay in the first place (92). The poetic epistles, then, represent a kind of â€œbeing-out-of-placeâ€ to borrow Dean MacCannellâ€™s term, in which the disjointedness of the persona (e.g., the exile) pr ovides an uncanny metaphor for the intertextual travel of the ethnographic material (Fenolloso â€™s notebooks) into Poundâ€™s final version (Purdy 206).
128 â€œThe Exileâ€™s Letterâ€ is the longest of the poems and its structure offers a prototype for the organizational strategies, borrowed largely fr om Whitman, that Pound would enact in the Cantos . For instance, in the poem, Poundâ€™s anaphori c â€œAndâ€ cobbles together sentences on the syntactic level, and images on the semiotic leve l. Like â€œSong of the Bowm en of Shu,â€ and â€œThe River-Merchantâ€™s Wife: A Letter,â€ poetic images occur in the paratactic ordering of Poundâ€™s figural vortex that suddenly draw s the persona into a state of deep, elegiac reflection. Anaphora not only shapes the free verse into a tight parata xis, but frees up the diction from necessarily having to serve a metrical structure thus allowing a more conversational tone. This in turn gives the letter the appearance of greater intimacy through the illusion of a free â€œartlessnessâ€ within the composition process of the letter writer whose id eas are coming spontaneously to text in a rough but ordered stream of conscious ness, like the English â€œChineseâ€ garden where the underlying aesthetic style is to appear as if completely spontaneous and natural. Poundâ€™s identification with his persona is cl earest in â€œThe Exileâ€™s Letter,â€ where Pound biographically speaking, left America to become a poe t. It is not surprising that this is the poem that Pound chooses for Poetry , a publication for which he is th e official â€œforeign correspondent.â€ In â€œThe Exileâ€™s Letter,â€ the persona, like th e Pound, and most likely, like Li Bo, composes a poetic attempt to bridge a gap made by the l ong distances. Distance spat ializes two temporal disjunctions that define the main conflicts of the poemâ€”the sepa ration between the time of the memory and the â€œnowâ€ of the letter writing, as well as the separation between the letter writer and the addressee in the â€œnowâ€ of the act of writing. For example, Pound writes: And then I was sent off to south Wei, smothered in laurel groves, And you to the north of Raku-hoku, Till we had nothing but thought s and memories in common. And then when separation had come to its worst, We met, and travelled in Sen-Go (lines 13-19)
129 The poem then proceeds to monumentalize the br ief time the two shared when they met and traveled together. During these recollections, Pound translates the exile â€™s experiences using exotic imagery of sensual lavishness, ta king up nearly thirty lines of the poem: And what a reception: Red jade cups, food well set on a blue jewelled table, And I was drunk, and had no thought of returning. And you would walk out with me to the western corner of the castle, To the dynastic temple, with wa ter about it clear as blue jade, With boats floating, and the s ound of mouth-organs and drums, With ripples like dragon-scales , going grass green on the water, Pleasure lasting, with courte zans, going and coming without hindrance, With the willow flakes falling like snow, And the vermilioned girls getting drunk about sunset, And the water, a hundred feet deep, reflecting green eyebrows ---Eyebrows painted green are a fine sight in young moonlight, Gracefully painted--And the girls singing back at each other, Dancing in transparent brocade, And the wind lifting the song, a nd interrupting it (line 49-68) The passage is excessive in its representa tion of pleasureâ€”aesthetic, narcotic, sexualâ€” celebrating a shared memory between two men. In recreating this moment, the exile exoticizes the past in the part of Cathay where the Orientalism becomes most intense: dynastic temple, blue jade, dragon scales, vermilioned girls getting drunk at sunset, reflecting green eyebrows, young moonlight, and dancing in transparent brocade. All of these images correspond more or less to the Chinese text. Li Boâ€™s remembered homo-socia l revelry that is glorif ied in the poem connects Cathay and World War Iâ€”one of the subtexts of the poem is its address to his modernist friends who are fighting on the Western Front. One of the ways this is made evident in â€œThe Exileâ€™s Letterâ€ is through the exoticized female body, fr amed by the male gaze who becomes a shared pleasure among the men. The painted courtesans figure as a substitute for the intimacy shared
130 between the close male friends. The exile does not write the letter because he misses the courtesans, but because he misse s his friend. As this scene fold s into the tale of separation women, too, disappear as the intense image of re velry creates an inevitable sense of loss. By the end of the poem, the exoticism has departed and the mundane hardships of the exileâ€™s present take over. We l earn that the exile did not pass the government examination; he then travels the country looking for favors, only to return home a failu re with his hair is beginning to turn white (lines 72 -74). The poem closes with a lame nt of their separation. In this sense the remembered past becomes an exotic fa r away country, like China in relation to Europe. Furthermore, the splendid richness and vigor of youth, when compared to the real suffering of the present, creates an unspeakable loss (â€œWhat is the use of talking, and there is no end of talking / There is no end of things in the hear tâ€ (lines 80-81)). Even though loss creates an absence of speech, it is supplemented by writing. The elegiac chiasmus produced by the contrast of the rich past, and impoverished present unde rscores a failure of sp eech that is expressed through writing. To create the image of failed speech, Pound closes the poem with ambiguous diction: I call in the boy, Have him sit on his knees here To seal this, And send it a thousand miles, thinking. (lines 82-85) As a dangling modifier, the word â€œthinkingâ€ overl aps the consciousness of â€œthe exileâ€ who is the letter writer with the letter itself. And the letter bears the trace of the writerâ€™s memory in what appears as a proto-Derridian formula for the priority of writing: If the trace, arche-phenomenon of â€œmemory,â€ which must be thought before the opposition of nature and culture, animality and humanity, etc., belongs to the very movement of signification, then signification is a priori wri tten, whether inscribed or not, in one form or another, in a â€œsensibleâ€ and â€œspatialâ€ element that is called â€œexterior.â€ (Derrida 70)
131 The poem uses writing to represen t the exteriorâ€”the excluded. Li ke the Chinese character on the front of Cathay , the letter communicates an â€œexteriorityâ€ to the word-less loss of the composition of an elegy. Subtly, speechlessn ess expresses unspeakable emoti ons that have already been written such that there is no need for words. Moreover, it is an â€œexteriorityâ€ th at announces Li Bo and thus Pound as â€œthe exileâ€ who are envoys of the exterior. Exteriority is repeated in the idea of the mask. In this way, â€œThe Exileâ€™s Lett erâ€ is similar to the â€œRiver-Merchantâ€™s Wife: A Letterâ€ in that writing, memory, and emotions are devices that indicate that mourning is not an end in itself, but a ritualized gesture to mainta in bonds and social rela tions despite absence. Unlike the poems that evoke the loss of cl ose personal friendships, â€œLament of the Frontier Guard,â€ describes a war of horrific scal e, and the tenuous exis tence of soldiers who must endure it. As a â€œlamentâ€ it is also the poem that connects soldiers, war, and mourning. Like â€œSong of the Bowmen of Shu,â€ the speaker be gins with a question. Unlike the â€œSong of the Bowmen of Shu,â€ the poem is not written by a general posing as a soldier, but inst ead, Li Bo, the poet writing in a five-characte r-per-line regulated verse that had become popular in the Han dynasty several hundred years earlier. In this sense, Li Bo is affecting an air of nostalgia and putting his poetry within a particular trad ition and literary history. Li Boâ€™s poem (â€œGu Feng #14,â€ â€œThe Old Airs XIVâ€) is a writ ing that invokes past forms much like Cathay . While the particular poem revisits a political, military, and social anxiety embodied by the perilous western frontier that not only was a problem during the time of the Shijing poets, several hundred years later the Chinese emperors of Tang dynasty exhausted their resources pushing the boundary westward into Persia, pushing Chinese infl uence westward along the Silk Road. Li Bo was born on this northwest frontier, but moved at an early age into what is now Sichuan
132 province. As a model, â€œLament of the Frontier Gu ard,â€ not only mimics Li Boâ€™s attempt to recreate older forms of poetry, but al so to use the older forms with allegoric subtexts for the poetâ€™s present world. Like the bowmen of Shu, the husband who leaves his wife behind, and the exile who has thoughtfully sent his letter, the narrative voice in â€œLament of the Frontier Guardâ€ is someone who travels far from home, a nd must endure the unpredictable and violent onsla ught of bare lifeâ€”nature and barbarians . Like these figures in Cathay who stand the risk of either forgetting or being forgotten, the soldier begins his lament with â€œhow shall you kno w the dreary sorrow at the North Gate?â€ The images of the poem rela te to the ravaged West ern Front of early 1915 during World War I: A gracious spring, turned to blood-ravenous autumn, A turmoil of warsâ€”men, spread over the middle kingdom, Three hundred and sixty thousand, And sorrow, sorrow like rain. Sorrow to go, and sorrow, sorrow returning. Desolate, desolate fields, And no children of warfare upon them, No longer the men for offence and defence. (lines 14-21) In this passage Pound picks up on classical Ch inese repetitions, wher e the repetition of characters in classical Chinese is a method of creating plural nouns . â€œSorrowâ€ is repeated in a vortex, whirling in the consciousness of the na rrator. Modified by â€œlike rain,â€ â€œto go,â€ and â€œreturningâ€ Pound overlays the panorama of â€œdes olate, desolate fieldsâ€ with the clouds of emotion that extends from the viewer across th e frame of the war-torn expanse such that the velocity of the emotion correspond s to the immensity of the loss. As in the imagist aesthetic, poignantly demonstrated in â€œThe River-Merch antâ€™s Wife,â€ the suddenness of the emotion corresponds to the capaciousness of the desolate landscape and the enormity of the death count. â€œThree hundred and sixty thousandâ€ is a direct translation from the Chinese
133 ( [360,000 people / sorrowful sorrowful tears like rain]). Pound has found a Tang dynasty poem that sounds eerily similar to battlefield statisti cs from World War I. The tragic lament of being forgotten that begins the poem is accelerated by the sheer numbers, as the individual sorrow disappears into the enormity of the landscape as a mass tragedy of loss. Pound recreates a landscape cursed with so rrow: â€œBy the North Gate, the wind blows full of sand, / Lonely from the beginning of time until now! (lines 1-2). Eight lines later the landâ€™s curse is revealed as having been the result of â€œBarbarous kingsâ€: Who brought this to pass? Who has brought the flaming imperial anger? Who has brought the army with drums and with kettle-drums? Barbarous kings. (lines 10-13) Like â€œSong of the Bowmen of Shuâ€ the analogy between the subjects in the Chinese poems and the modern soldierâ€™s life extends beyond pers onal loss, or even the death of hundreds of thousands. The barbarians that threaten the north ern gate, and the barbarians (â€œthe Hunsâ€) that threaten the Western Front, correspond to a mo dernity where â€œcultureâ€ is under siege, and the individual is transformed into the mass. In terms of the mass, Poundâ€™s translation as a wartime elegy approaches some of the Great War poets in showing communal mour ning for the sacrifice of the individual soldiers for the glory of the nationâ€”poetic an alogies of the tomb of the unknown soldier whose very identity is synonymous with the state. In â€œLament of the Frontier Guardâ€ Poundâ€™s translation reveals soldiers who are sacrifices in far off frontiers as a result of the whims of â€œbarbarousâ€ sovereigns. Poundâ€™s Chinese voices do not sing â€œdolce dco r est,â€ but instead are outraged by the intensity of the destructive and violent force that renders even the landsc ape the blood color of â€œdreary sorrow.â€ In this sense the poem is an anti-war poem, but safely contained in a long ago,
134 far away place. Ming Xie notes that â€œdrearyâ€ comes from the Anglo-Saxon dreorig , meaning â€œdark with spilled blood,â€ which connects the dic tion in this poem linguistically to the AngloSaxon poem, â€œThe Seafarer,â€ that appears in Cathay (Xie 270). The sangui ne color interconnects the loss of life with the landscape, serving as a kind of objective correlatio n with the mood of the elegy. Furthermore, it connects the guards as ab ject subjects of a limin al spaceâ€”the border. The soldierâ€™s risk of being forgotten does not simply make them vulnerable to an enemy that might breach the border, but, ironically, by the inhospita ble, cursed border itself: â€œAnd we guardsmen fed to the tigersâ€ (line 24). Tigers and â€œBarbarous Kingsâ€ bear a relation to the guards in that the sovereign â€œimperial angerâ€ has the power to manu facture in his subjects a de-humanized life fit for a de-personalized death. This reverses the stress on the individual sacrificing identity for the good of the state, and the love of the soverei gn. Pound constructs a paradox whereby the center of the â€œmiddle kingdom,â€ like the barbarian outsider, are co-conspirators in the destruction of the individual. Poundâ€™s translation de scribes an intersection where th e state, the nomad, and the war machine combine to form mass violence that transforms and curses the very landscape. The subject that is able to describe this is on th e border, and thus able to see the center of the kingdom from its periphery. â€œLament of the Fron tier Guardâ€ presents a persona whose position as both outsider and insider bears witness to the destructive violen ce of the state. One of the elements of Cathay that transforms it from a collection of chinoiseries into a modernist bricolage is Poundâ€™s inclusion of his 1912 tran slation of the anonymous Anglo-Saxon poem â€œThe Seafarer,â€ which begins with th e hardships of medieval maritime travel: May I for my own self songâ€™s truth reckon, Journeyâ€™s jargon, how I in harsh days Hardship endured oft. Bitter breast-cares have I abided, Known on my keel many a careâ€™s hold, And dire sea-surge, and there I oft spent
135 Narrow nightwatch nigh the shipâ€™s head While she tossed close to cliffs. Coldly afflicted, My feet were by frost benumbed. Chill its chains are; chafing sighs Hew my heart round and hunger begot Mere-weary mood. Lest man know not That he on dry land loveliest liveth, List how I, care-wretched, on ice-cold sea, Weathered the winter, wretched outcast Deprived of my kinsmen; Hung with hard ice-flakes, where hail-scur flew, There I heard naught save the harsh sea And ice-cold wave, at whiles the swan cries, Did for my games the gannetâ€™s clamour, Sea-fowls loudness was for me laughter, The mews singing all my mead-drink. Storms, on the stone-cliffs beaten, fell on the stern In icy feathers; full oft the eagle screamed With spray on his pinion. Not any protector May make merry man fari ng needy. (lines 1-28) As a compiler, Pound binds the Anglo Saxon and Chinese literary pasts through juxtaposition. While archaic diction and phrasi ngs distinguish the poem, stylis tically, from the Chinese poems in Cathay , the inter-poetic images, mostly of rele ntless cycles of raw nature, connect the individual poems in a gyroscopic ci rcuit that stamps the entire work with a Vorticist aesthetic. In addition to the attention to changing seasons a nd passing time within the poem, the macro-poetic superposition of â€œChineseâ€ and â€œAnglo Saxonâ€ texts suggests a comparative movement between the poems. Thematically, â€œThe Seafarerâ€ repeats the mo tifs seen in the Chinese translations. An alienated figure separated from family and co mpatriots narrates the poe m (â€œDeprived of my kinsman,â€ [line 16] â€œThere come now no kings nor Caesarsâ€ [line 84]). The poetic voice turns out to be a reader of nature who experi ences profound communicati on through the pain and exposure that come from depending upon a sh ifting and oft harsh natural environment:
136 Bosque taketh blossom, cometh beauty of berries, Fields to fairness, land fares brisker, All this admonisheth man eager of mood, The heart turns to travel so that he then thinks On flood-ways to be far departing. (lines 49-53) Just as traces of the form and content of th e Chinese poems help Pound to organize his freeverse, alliteration as the domi nant rhetorical structure of the Saxon poem can be found in Poundâ€™s repetition of words with hard velar cons onants. The mood of the poem is one of elegiac resignation that develops through th e remembrance of the painful se paration of long travel of the cold, hard sea and climaxes with the closing im age of pouring gold coins on the graves of lost â€œbrothersâ€ whose â€œburied bodies / be an unlikel y treasure hordeâ€ (lines 100-101). Again, as in the â€œExileâ€ poem, the masculine homosocial bonding that appears in the poem can be thought of as an address to his friends on the Western Fr ont. This interpenetrati on of the biographicalhistorical and the figural-literar y allows the far away and long a go to operate as tactics for a poetic enunciation of Poundâ€™s here and now of 1915. As Hugh Kenner points out in The Pound Era , the hunger, loneliness, and disjunction of th e characters that are juxtaposed between the Chinese and Anglo-Saxon poems should be read in relation to the letters that Pound was receiving from his friends, like Gaud ier-Brzeska, from the Western Front: The rain has stopped for several days & with it keeping the watch in a foot deep of liquid mud, also sleeping on sodden ground. The frost having set it we have the pleasure of a firm if not a warm bed & when you become a warrior you become hardened to many evils. (Kenner 203) The production of the poetic addresses in Cathay occurred contemporaneously with the exchange of letters that Pound was making with Gaudier-Br zeska. The physical conditions of the front, the external conditions of wetness, cold, and dirt in Gaudier-Brzeskaâ€™s letter bear witness to a connection between the external world and a su bjective response to it. The narrative that Gaudier-Brzeska builds, too, is one of loss, such that even â€œpleasuresâ€ on the front, are a form of
137 suffering. More than any other poem in Cathay â€œThe Seafarer,â€ expresses these physical hardships in similar waysâ€”sta nding watch cold, tired, hungry: And dire sea-surge, and there I oft spent Narrow nightwatch nigh the ship's head While she tossed close to cliffs. Coldly afflicted, My feet were by frost benumbed. (lines 6-9) From Poundâ€™s correspondences with his friends on the front, it is possible to read the polyphonic potential of Cathay as a world literature condensed for the audience of the modernist authorâ€™s small circle, which like â€œilluminationâ€ as the m eaning of the Chinese character on the cover of the book, has been coded and occulted. Poundâ€™s Cathay , as an elegy, uses medievalism, like Orientalism, as a dramatic mask representing the alienated and excluded to address loss and abandonment. â€œThe Seafarerâ€ delivers catalogue s of complaint, but also the drive-spring of his desire: â€œMoaneth alway my mindâ€™s lust / That I fare fort h, that I afar hence / Seek out a foreign fastnessâ€ (lines 37-39). The seafarer, like the poet, and the readers of Cathay , too, are seeking something of the foreign, (why else would one read a translation?) but more than that, this is a song of â€œtruthâ€ told by the world-weary sojourner about the passing of time â€œEarthly glory agest and searestâ€ (line 91). Foreignness somehow makes au tomatically accessible authenticity and truth. Like â€œThe Exileâ€™s Letter,â€ persona and textuality overlap such that the singerâ€™s â€œtruthâ€ and the songâ€™s â€œtruthâ€ are interpolated through a performance of â€œt ruth.â€ Again the reader of Cathay is faced with the destabilization of a text where the persona within the text is already exterior to the â€œI,â€ the â€œmy,â€ the â€œown,â€ and the â€œself,â€ becau se the lyric is a performed event. The self becomes other. As the poem unfold s the discourse markers shift from â€œIâ€ (as in â€œI fare forthâ€) to â€œheâ€ to indicate the â€œIâ€â€™s imagined others that range from the general â€œeverymanâ€ to those who live a life of â€œarrogant richesâ€:
138 For this there's no mood-lofty man over earth's midst, Not though he be given his good, but will have in his youth greed; Nor his deed to the daring, nor his king to the faithful But shall have his sorrow for sea-fare Whatever his lord will. (lines 40-44) The complementary otherness of â€œIâ€ and â€œheâ€ in â€œThe Seafarerâ€ shares a common fate of being excluded from the fullness of generation (â€œTh ere come now no kings nor Csars / Nor goldgiving lords like those gon eâ€ [line 84,85]), the fullness of rich es, and even the stability of the state. These anxieties correspond to the theme of lost patronage, a nd the loss of a place of poetry in the modern nation. â€œSeeking out a foreign fast ness,â€ represents a line of flight that is reciprocal to alienation and disl ocation the seafarer observes in his homeland. It makes sense, then, that â€œThe Seafarer,â€ lies at the heart of the anthology both spatially and thematically, because it spells out the disjointedness of both time and space that Poundâ€™s performance of an Orientalist entails. Conclusion: Cathay and the American Poem Poundâ€™s juxtaposition of â€œThe Seafarerâ€ w ith Chinese poetry written around the same time period demonstrates a contrast betw een the Anglo-Saxon and the poets behind Cathay , which parallels Marco Poloâ€™s travel accounts wh ich contrast between Europe and the opulent â€œEast.â€ Poloâ€™s Cathay was an embodiment of Europe â€™s lack, particularly in material wealth in comparison with the courts of the â€œGreat Kh anâ€ described by Marco Polo as a pinnacle of luxury. The juxtaposition of the eighth century â€œThe Seafarer â€ with the eighth century (and earlier) Chinese poems might suggest that AngloSaxons possessed an inferior elegiac verse as seen in the relative coarseness of diction of â€œT he Seafarer.â€ However, such a comparison shows the extent to which it is impossible to really perform any authoritative cultural or linguistic analyses between the poems, because they are used as masks in the performance of Poundâ€™s poetics. While the difference in diction and rhet orical devices between the Chinese poems and
139 â€œThe Seafarerâ€ signifies different linguistic and cultural nuance, and perhaps because â€œThe Seafarerâ€ was written a few years before Pound started working on Cathay, the poems harmonize in theme and style more than they clash. Afte r describing medieval Pr ovencal poets Pound says in his 1934 ABC of Reading , â€œWithout the Foregoing MINIMUM of poetry in other languages you simply will not know â€˜where English poetry co mesâ€™â€ (57). In this statement Pound infers that even poetry within the English tradition mi ght as well be written in Chinese to modern readers. Pound further complicates his juxtaposition by saying that â€œApart from the Seafarer I know no other European poems of the period that you can hang up with the â€˜Exileâ€™s Letterâ€™ of Li Po, displaying the West on par with the Orientâ€ ( 51). This retrospective analysis shows that in Cathay that though the past is necessary for a cultural rebirth, even â€œEnglishâ€ literature needs to be translated. Anglo-Saxon poetry as a foreign language to English speakers (represented by Pound through archaic diction, heavy alliteration, and periodic lines with hard closing stresses) is an uncanny reversal of the much mo re accessible Chinese poetry of Cathay that is written in a more familiar, if not conversational English idiom. That a majority of Chinese poetry is superior, or richer than English poetry, a ccording to Pound, suggests that an American literature that rides the back of European literature is fundamentally lacking. In this regard, Pound seems to play out anxieties of nineteenth century American poets, particularly the transcendentalists, who tried to argue for a unique American literature that is independent from European literature, representing an authentic American voice. Pound reiterates this claim, not by saying no to Europe, but by making a pact with Whitman22 to embrace the literatures of th e entire world and incorporate them into an American poetry. Cathay as a treasury of poems re presents the treasures of 22 Whitman, in poems like â€œPa ssage to India,â€ embrace a 19th century notion of the transmigration of culture, such that Americaâ€™s manifest destiny reunites civilization with Asia, allowing for a complete interconnected spiritual, primitive culture (Asia) with rational, industrial culture (Europe and the United States). Pound echoes the global reach of Whitmanâ€™s sentiments in his 1914 essay â€œThe Traditionâ€ where he states that â€œa return to origins invigorates because it is a return to nature and reasonâ€ (Pound 2005, 268).
140 â€œEasternâ€ poetry brought into modern Ameri can literature. It is for this reason that Cathay can be read as an intervention into American national culture. Poundâ€™s performance as an Orientalist follo ws the American tr anscendentalist and romantic vision of the Oriental as the bearer of the natural sign. Fenollosa writes in â€œChinese Written Character as a Medium for Poetry,â€ â€œChinese notation is something much more than arbitrary symbols. It is base d upon a vivid shorthand picture of the operations of natureâ€ (Pound 2005, 308-309). Fenollosa, himself a New Engl ander associated with Romantic Transcendentalism, is likely picking up on Emers onâ€™s idea that, â€œnature is the incarnation of a thought, and turns to a thought again, as ice b ecomes water and gasâ€ (â€œNatureâ€). In this syllogism â€œChinese notationâ€ represents an unmediated â€œshorthandâ€ for thought, which means that the Chinese written sign actu ally contains the presence of thought. Both the natural sign of Emerson and the Chinese sign of Fenollosa offer a utopian horizon for American culture, because it represented the possible virtue of American literature , defining a people who left the consumptive Old World of European behind, and cu ltivated a civilization of the â€œNewâ€ out of the tabula rosa of the wilderness. This story of American literature situates its virtue in constant retreat. From Cooperâ€™s early novels to Faulknerâ€™s Bear, American li terature has recorded nature in retreat as an emblem of a loss of American identity, and correspondingly, the demand on literature to address this loss. Whitman, anothe r transcendentalist, too, weighed in on these possibilities of American literatur e by suggesting that it is the great hulking democracy of the United States with its destiny manifested through its ever-expanding new circuitry that connects the civilization of the Old World of Europe with the even olde r world of Asia. And American literature is the worldâ€™s literatu re made whole, connecting the primitive with the modern through an ever westward cycle of â€œcivilization.â€ In 1909, after Pound left America, he wrote that he
141 could finally read Whitman. Pound also writes, â€œI honour him for he prophe sied me while I can only recognize him as a forebear of wh om I ought to be proudâ€ (Pound 2005, 187). Poundâ€™s performance as an Orientalist is a part of the great drama of an American national literature as a discursive and institutional formation. Pound in cludes himself among explorers such as Marco Polo filing reports from Cathay in fulfillment of Whitmanâ€™s prophecyâ€”this, of course, is no prophecy at all, but simply lite rary self-fashioning. Therefore, the Chinese masks of Orientalism represent Poundâ€™s imperial ge sture implicit in taking on Whit manâ€™s poetics, as well as functioning as a dramatic mask for this poetics to become Poundâ€™s brand of modernism. China of Cathay conceals the aspects of Whitman that P ound did not like in addition to, and more importantly, giving American poets a lineage and tr adition that seem self-evi dent and a return to prior lost origins. Pound creates Cathay by supplementing the work of an Orientalist, Fenollosa, with his own research into Old English, Latin and Tr oubadour poetryâ€”poetry that he translates, and mimics. These as lost or forgotten traditions, in Poundâ€™s view, contain technical secrets to â€œliberationâ€ as he states in his essay the â€œArt of Poetryâ€ (Pound 2005, 192). In â€œThe Wisdom of Poetry,â€ written in 1912, Pound says, â€œThe Art of Poetry consists in combining these â€˜essentials to thought,â€™ these dynamic particles, si licet , this radium with that melody of words which shall most draw the emotions of the hearer toward accord with their import, and with that â€˜formâ€™ which shall most delight the intellectâ€ (192). Po und makes it clear that he is searching out the technical design of a poetics that embodies â€œthoughtâ€ and represents â€œliberation.â€ This is the assumption that Pound has when he uses to the Chinese character, , or illumination, on the cover of Cathay . This presence of the Chinese character on the cover, and th e utter absence of them within the text of the poems, shows not only that Pound follows Fenollosaâ€™s wishes that his
142 notebook not be sentenced to philology, but also P oundâ€™s views on the role of the poet. He says in the essay â€œThe Art of Poetry,â€ â€œPoets in form er ages were of certain uses to the community In Provence the gai savior was both theatre and op eraâ€ (192). He also says that in â€œages of doubt,â€ which are presumably modern times, that â€œt he poet presents as that which appears as truth to a certain sort of mind under certain c onditionsâ€ (193). Pound describes the role of the modern poet as not producing truth as such, but producing a performance of truth. And of almost a century of ink spilled on discussing the ve risimilitude of the Chinese representations in Cathay , most critics have missed that Poundâ€™s Chinese refe rences, while positively being an intertextual bulwark for his performances, are performances. Pound shows this by compiling poems in Cathay almost exclusively from texts that signify a performance of an identity. Pound, as an Orientalist, performs ancien t Chinese poets, like the troubado urs, as lost and forgotten modernists. To perform as an Orientalis t, however, is to perform with in a discourse that, as Said points out, is within the power structure of empi re (3). Or as Dirlik much more recently has pointed out, Orientalism represen ts the asymmetric power structur e of the contact zone (113). In this sense Poundâ€™s decision to compile Cathay as he did confirms that his representations of China are a series of masks. It legitimizes his not only theories, but practice of poetry. The figure of the mask is a prominent one in modernismâ€”fr om Baktinâ€™s ideas of Carnival, to Picassoâ€™s cubist primitivismâ€”the mask represents a game of presence and absence whereby the wearer can cross social boundaries and br each social taboos in a ritu alized or performative manner without the risk of losing her/his face. Poundâ€™s masks give him access to an elegiac poetry of mourning and intimacy. They give him access to the pathos of soldiers on the front lines in World War I. They allow him to express the anxi eties of those on the home front who must keep
143 up appearances and not appear sappy. They allow hi m to use nature as a subject that did not look or feel like the Romantic and Vi ctorian poetry that he wished to supplant. These poems as masks represent a further experimentation with his Am erican, Whitman-inspired free-verse projected through a prism of Orientalist tran slation. In this sense traditi onal Chinese poetry was his ideal America that contained an absolute potentia l for experimentation and making new, while representing the â€œnaturalâ€ sign of thought. At the same time his use of Orientalism clearly is guided by the assumption that the role of the poet is to create a poetry th at â€œappears as truth.â€ The reason for this is that Orientalism depends on its ability to perfor m representations of a people in a truthful discourse of ethnography, me tonymic to a space that exists in the â€œEast.â€ Poundâ€™s Cathay is a representation of an idea of this truth discourse. Embedded in this problem is Poundâ€™s imagist dictum that an image is th e â€œdirect treatment of the thingâ€ (Pound 2005, 252). But this is an incomplete gloss on what Pound says, he states that it is a â€œdirect treatment of the â€˜thingâ€™ whether subjective or objectiveâ€ (205). In Cathay the images, or the â€˜thingsâ€™ are not Chinese poetry, but emotional st ates of separation, sorrow, and mourning. Furthermore, Pound states that an image is not the poem itself, but â€œThe image is the poetâ€™s pigmentâ€ (283). The poetry, on the other hand, is an artful combination of thes e pigments, represented by the performance of the Orientalist, and using Chinese personae as masks to create his elegies, and to fashion himself into an American tradition whil e at the same time wanting to transforming it. Taken retrospectively, Cathay as a mask for Poundâ€™s performance can be seen in a different figural light, as that which masks. The American po ets who accepted that subjective truth of Poundâ€™s Chinese poetry have participat ed, perhaps not consciously, in a continual masking. Cathay has been an inspiration and a model for many, mostly male, Anglo-American poets who wrote elegies and nature poetry us ing Chinese poetry as a way of representing
144 expressions of beauty or emotional vulnerabil ity within a muted, conve rsational minimal surface (often at the expense of the highly-stylized and often excessi vely emotional Chinese source materials) as found in the translations and im itations of poets like Sam Hamill, Robert Bly, Kenneth Rexroth, Carolyn Kizer, Charles Wright, and Gary Snyder. The Poundian tradition of â€œChinese Dreamsâ€ (as Eric Hayot calls such cr eative and critical uses of Chinese outside of China) has to a large extent masked the Chin ese-language poetry written in America, modern Chinese poets in China (and throughout the Ch inese Diaspora), and Asian American poets writing during the time of the Chinese Exclus ion Acts. Poundâ€™s kind of Orientalism, the performance of Chinese poetry that belies even th e assumed truth discours e of the Orientalist, has resulted in representations of China to become distinct â€œpoe tryâ€ to be privileged over the writings of the â€œmerely Chinese.â€ In this way the aesthetic representation of traditional Chinese poetry as an intertextual reference in m odern American poetry conceals the political representation of Chinese modern ity, and the plight of Chinese Americans who were engaged in writing a different kind of el egy. The elegiac mourning of Cathay that appears in the repetition of sorrow, displacement, and exile, then, perh aps represents not only a conscious attempt to speak to soldiers of Ypres, or even Poundâ€™s own ambitions to displace Romantic and Victorian poetry, but a trace of a repressed historical and political American memory, unconsciously representing the painful real ity of separation, anxiety, and alienation caused by the Chinese Exclusion Acts that are hidden behind the exquisite lyrics of a fantastical Cathay .
145 CHAPTER 4 H.T. TSIANG'S POEMS OF THE CHINESE REVOLUTION : WHITMAN, HISTORIOGRAPHY, AND THE MODERN CHINESE/AMERICAN POEM At the end of his life, H.T. Tsiangâ€™s literary career as an activist for racial equality and proletarian solidarity had disappeared into th e miasma of Hollywood film. Beginning in the 1940s Tsiang played a series of stock figures in stereotypical roles ra nging from Hosannah Wong in Keys of the Kingdom , a houseboy in Oceanâ€™s 11 , a cook in Panic in the Streets , to a Japanese spy in Betrayal from the East . The generic roles in these f ilms embody stereotypes of Asians. More disturbingly, Tsiangâ€™s roles reflect the way that Hollywood films reinforce racial boundaries that have been constructed through o fficial policies of the United States. These Hollywood roles project an image of Asians as treacherous, Chinese as weak, and Asian Americans as subservient feminized labor, which are representations that Tsiang spent much of his literary and artistic career battling. The disappearance of Tsia ngâ€™s work as a radical writer of revolutionary literature and his pa rticipation in Hollywoodâ€™s system ic production of racist genre films is symptomatic of the general erasure of not only Asian Amer ican contribution to American literary history but also Asian Amer icans from the history of the American left. According Robert G. Lee, â€œalthoug h Asian immigrants to the United States have and continue to be overwhelmingly working people, their experien ce of struggle has been made almost totally invisible in the master narrative of American la bor and radical historyâ€ (256). To put it another way, since the 1940s Tsiangâ€™s literary achievements have not only been marg inalized as leftist revolutionary writings, but they have been marginalized within the field of leftist revolutionary writings.
146 Though largely an invisible man in American letters, H.T. Tsiangâ€™s irrepressible personal story and his provocative plays and novels have remained stubbornly as a fossil record within subterranean layers of Americaâ€™s radical past. Ts iangâ€™s literary achievements as a writer in the United States are unprecedented. For example, Tsiangâ€™s 1929 Poems of the Chinese Revolution introduces and unusual vision of th e Chinese communist revolution to American audiences as a tool for promoting an international revoluti on. In order to represen t the revolution, Tsiang employs prominent features of the Chinese May Fourth Movementâ€™s literary experimentation into modern American poetry. In a unique transpacific exchange, Tsiangâ€™s Poems of the Chinese Revolution offers an internationalist attempt to create an image of a proletarian poetry with a historical and material context that disavows the traditional methods a nd motifs of classical Chinese poetry. This occurs at a time when Orie ntalist translations of pre-modern dynastic Chinese poetry were first becoming wide ly available to American readers. Revolutionary Beginnings As of now there are no definitive biographies of H.T. Tsiang, and there are still many gaps in published accounts of Tsiangâ€™s life. From what exists, we know H.T. Tsiang entered the United States on a student visa ( one of the few available options for Chinese to enter the United States during the time of the Chinese Exclusi on Acts) escaping political persecution and possible execution in 1927 (Ma). Tsiangâ€™s parents were farmers in Tongzhou, Jiangsu Province on the east coast of China (Ma).23 Tsiang studied English at South East University in Nanjing, a subject for which he won first place in a nation-wide co mpetition that would later earn him a chance to 23 Throughout the chapter I will use standard Mandarin pinyin Romanization except in quoting from Tsiangâ€™s work. Tsiang uses Standard Cantonese Romanization for Cantonese, and Wade-Giles Romanization for Mandarin. For example Tsiangâ€™s name, , in pinyin Romanization would be Jiang Xizeng. However, in Wade-Giles Romanization his name would be Jiang Hsi-Tsng, but in Standard Cantonese it is Tsiang Hsi-tsang. It makes sense that Tsiang would use Cantonese Romanization, due to the large numbers of Cantonese speakers in the United States, and the time he spent in Guangzhou before immigrating to the US.
147 study in the United States. He attended universit y at a time when Chinese students and scholars were leading efforts to modernize Chinaâ€™s po litics, economics, and m ilitary by insisting on revolutionary cultural transforma tions. Politically activ e, Tsiang traveled to Guangzhou (Canton) after his graduation in 1925 to work for Sun Yat-senâ€™s office in the Guomindang (Nationalist Party). The rise of workersâ€™ uni ons and the political violence between leftist and nationalist that swept through the coastal ci ties of China between 1925 a nd 1927, some of which Tsiang observed firsthand, became the contents of Poems of the Chinese Revolution . Because the history of 1920s China figures pr ominently in Tsiangâ€™s poetry, I will briefly describe some of the major events that occu rred. After the 1911 revolution, China was ruled by the Beiyang government, which had weak admini strative control over the country, allowing warlords to control vast regions of the country and foreign imperi alist powers to function as (and to compete for the position of) de facto overseers of important coastal economic districts from Manchuria in the north to Hong Kong in the south. In 1925 Sun Yat-sen died and Chaing Kaishek took control of the Guomindang. He marche d north from Guangzhou, wresting control of the country from Beiyang and warlord forces, setting up a new central government in Nanjing. On May 30, 1925, British soldiers shot students a nd workers protesting the foreign occupation in Shanghai. The event is significant because it re flected the organization of labor against both imperialist and domestic exploita tion. Furthermore, the event woul d indicate the end of the union between the right and left wings of the Gu omindang whose campaign north was assisted militarily and economically by the Soviet Uni on. Chiang Kai-shek attempted to consolidate power, and in 1927 ordered a purge of communi sts within the Guom ingdangâ€”over 5000 leftist Guomindang members were executed.
148 According to some sources, and Tsiangâ€™s poetry, he was involved in the first years of the heterodox Chinese Communist Party that consisted of various groups such as anarchists, labor union organizers, Leninists, and Tr otskyites. One source suggests that he participated in the Canton Soviet in 1927, which after three days came to a violently end (Ma). Tsiang was arrested in China in 1927 but would flee Guangzhou to the US , taking a scholarship at Stanford where he wrote for the overseas Chin ese publication â€œYoung China.â€24 He also began his own publication, A Chinese Guide to America . None of his Chinese writings fr om these publications have been translated into English. Leong Gor Yunâ€™s 1936 hist ory of Chinese-American culture reports on Tsiangâ€™s first round of controve rsy, writing for Chinese-language publications in the United States: [I]t [the split between the left and righ t wings of the Guomindang] brought into the limelight Tsiang Hsi-tsang, the editor of Young China . Tsiang, a self-styled Communist, was ejected bodily from his office by a group of right-wingers. Shortly afterward the leftwingers would have nothing to do with hi m. He was later arrested by American authorities as a propagandist for the Communi st Party, and held for deportation. But he had good connections with important American s, and was freed. He came to New York, and is famous as the man who wrote, published, and sold two books in Englishâ€” China Red and The Hanging in Union Square . (154) According to the New York Times , it was not the US governme nt, but the Guomindang that requested his arrest and extradition (â€œArticle 13â€ 130). Tsiang was able to avoid deportation with the help of the intellectuals like John Dewey, as well as organizations like the International Labor Defense and the American Civil Libertie s Union (â€œArticle 13â€ 130). He moved to New 24 According to the October 22, 1939 New York Times , this account conflicts with the brief biography of Tsiang written by the Tongzhou Dianshi Univers ity professor Ma Shigao. According to Ma, Tsiang was a leftist that fled China when the Guomindang was cracking down on radica l elements. According to the New York Times report, Tsiang supported the right wing of the Guomindang and departed a left-wing dominated Guomindang of Guangzhou and he became more radical after studying in Stanford University. Bo th versions suggest the intensity and danger of political affiliation in the 1920s as well as the transnational reach of political affiliationâ€”th e Guomindang requested Tsiangâ€™s extradition to China to punish him for his leftis t writings while he was in Stanford. (â€œArticle 13, â€ 130): 130;
149 York to study at the New School of Social Res earch. In 1940 he was held in Ellis Island and entered a writ of habeas corpus plea to contest the governmentâ€™s assertion that he violated the terms of his student visa established in the Chinese Exclusion Act (â€œChinese Writer to Face Courtâ€ 8). Tsiang was singled out for his left-wi ng politics by the INS in coordination with the justice department, following a strategy that US law enforcement officials used against potential subversive elements of the Chinese American comm unity in a much more systematic fashion in the 1950s, deporting even United States citizens of Chinese descent who were thought to be communists (Lai 30). During his first thirteen year s in the United States he had worked odd jobs, like washing dishes at the Howdy Club in Green wich Village, as well as producing, directing, casting, writing, managing, advertising, and acting in his plays that were performed in union meeting halls near Washington Square (Lyons). The period between his arrival in the United States and his 1940 detention in Ellis Island was his most productive period of writing. After his hearing with the INS he was allowed to stay in the United States, but he would never again publish another book or publicly su pport leftist movements. As James Smethurst reports: The artists and intellectuals associated with the Popular Front, with a few exceptionseither recanted, as did Langston Hughes, Canada Lee, Budd Schulberg, and Josh White, fell silent, as did Sterling Brown and Frank Marshall Davis, or found themselves virtually unemployable and/or unpub lishable pariahs, as did Paul Robeson, W.E.B. Du Bois, Meridel Le Sueur, H.T. Tsiang, and Edwin Rolfe. (149) Before 1940, when Asian Americans had only limited access to English-language presses Tsiangâ€™s works were published by small left-wing presses, which is one of the reasons why his writings represent the earliest published Eng lish-language novels by Asian Americans. In the early 1940s Tsiang moved to Hollywood where he lived until his death in 1971. He continued his work as a stage actor and stage di rector in a small theater (Daugherty). More notably, he became a film and TV actor playi ng typecast roles hauntingly familiar to those
150 characters that would fill hi s poetry and prose from the 1920s and 1930s (Ma). It would not be until after the Civil Rights Movement in the 1960s that radical Asia-A merican writers would gain mainstream access to print, which coincide ntally marked the end of the immigration and naturalization laws that had their origins in the Chinese Exclusion Act. Over the past decade, Tsiangâ€™s work has gained a second life. Pr ominent works of Asian American Studies scholarship, like Elaine Kimâ€™s Asian American Literature and David Palumbo-Liuâ€™s Asian/American: Historical Cr ossings of an American Frontier have described the importance of his novels. However, his poetry ha s not received the same critic al recognition, even though some poems have recently been anthologized in collections like Juliana Changâ€™s Quiet Fire , and more recently in Rutgers University Pressâ€™s 2005 The New Anthology of American Poetry . As mentioned previously Tsiangâ€™s Poems of the Chinese Revolution is notable for its representation of Chinaâ€™s May Fourth Movement literature, a Chinese literary movement contemporaneous with Anglo-American â€œHigh M odernism,â€ involving both political protest as well as linguistic experimentati on with the hope of modernizing if not revolutionizing Chinese political and intellectual culture. Tsiang also presents an Englis h-language vision of the Chinese revolution before Mao Zedong. In as far as Poems of the Chinese Revolution engages an American audience and is written by an author w ho would spend the rest of his life in the United States, it can be seen as a work of Chinese American writing, br inging a transpacific context to the revolutionary writings of the American left. Tsiangâ€™s poetry is a challenge to the way tr aditional Chinese literature is used as an intertext in Modern American poe try, simply from the fact that Tsiangâ€™s Chinese poetics arrives out of a modern historical and political context. The traditional Chinese lit erature that has been received into American poetry, wh ether through translation or allu sion, is often stripped of its
151 context, linguistic nuances, and constructed as an ahistoric, monolithic â€œorientalâ€/â€classicalâ€ Chinese poetry. Thus, the center-periphery narrative that charts primitivism and Orientalism in American modernismâ€”exotic artifacts from organic and ancient traditions from the periphery which in turn helped modernist to rethink art, represent the modern condition, and restore the Culture of the imperial cosmopolitan centerâ€”is questioned by a modern author who is ethnically Chinese, writing verse for American publications. In Poems of the Chinese Revolution China does not figure as a â€œGolden Age,â€ nor is it a usable past in the way that Anglo-American modernists used primitivism and Or ientalism for cultural authority. Race, Labor, and Revolution Throughout Tsiangâ€™s Poems of the Chinese Revolution , the Chinese laborer emerges as a central figure. In the first two poems of the collection, â€œRickshaw Boyâ€ and â€œChinaman, Laundryman,â€ Tsiang pairs representations of tr ansnational Chinese laborers in Shanghai and America. â€œRickshaw Boyâ€ Ta! Ta! Ta! Ta! Pulling rickshaw! International park, no dogs nor â€œChineseâ€ admitted, None but the rich â€œChineseâ€ may be permitted. Ta! Ta! Ta! Ta! Pulling rickshaw! O, I shall die! Blood pouring from this mouth of mine, I shall die in the streetâ€™s wet slime! O missionary, you whip me with an extra dime, Rushing to the station to meet your loving boy on time! (lines 58-68) â€œChinaman, Laundrymanâ€ â€œChinamanâ€! â€œLaundrymanâ€! Donâ€™t call me â€œmanâ€!
152 I am worse than a slave. Wash! Wash! Why can I wash away The dirt of otherâ€™s clothes? But not the hatred of my heart? My skin is yellow, Does my yellow skin color the clothes? Why do you pay me less For the same work? Clever boss You know How to scatter the seeds of hatred Among your ignorant slaves. (lines 1-16) â€œRickshaw Boyâ€ is set in Shanghai, which is indicated by the allusion to the infamous Huangpu park, â€œInternational Park, no dogs nor â€˜Chineseâ€™ admitted, / None but rich â€˜Chineseâ€™ may be permitted!â€ (6, line 60-61). â€œChinaman, Laundrym anâ€ takes place in the United States. The narration in both poems is written in the first person through a subjec tivity that gains its identity from race and class divisions. When Tsiang was writing, the rickshaw driver and the laundryman had become recognizable to an American audien ce because these labor-intensive jobs were clichs of stereotypical Chines e employment. These two forms of employment appear in works of both Chinese modernism and Asian American literature, notably Lao Sheâ€™s famous short story, â€œCamel Xiangzi,â€ and much later in the century in Maxine Hong Kingstonâ€™s Woman Warrior . Tsiang identifies these jobs with what Julia Kristeva calls the â€œabject,â€ whereby their labor is associated with exclus ion and rejection (Kristeva). The rickshaw boy is metonymically connected with refuse, the â€œstreetâ€™s wet slime,â€ and the Chinese American laundrymanâ€™s labor is related to his â€œyellow skin,â€ which obliquely re ferences the Chinese Exclusion Act designed to exclude the â€œYellow Peril.â€ The â€œYellow Perilâ€ was a discourse that originated with Kaiser Wilhelm II posing East Asia as a menacing thre at to European civilization that demanded a
153 German military presence; this figure of East Asians as a global threat would become entrenched in American popular culture in the Fu Manchu stereotype that would be used not only in entertainment but also in discourses of labor union protection and fo reign policy (Blue 122). That this discourse appears when European and American nations enjoyed the height of their imperial power over China, speaks to the rhetori cal power of the abject as a perceived threat. Kristeva describes the abject as: â€œfrom its pl ace of banishment, the abject does not cease challenging its masterâ€ (Kristeva). Instead of disappearing silently into an exo tic background of the mysterious East, or an American Ch inatown, these Chinese laborers speak loudly, announcing their outrage at being exploited. For example, â€œRicksha w Boyâ€ identifies one of the most obvious symbols of Imperial domination, the barring for 60 years of Chinese from Huangpu park in Shanghai by European imperialist powers;25 the narrator of â€œChinaman, Laundryman,â€ cries: â€œMy boss says, / â€˜China man, / go back to China / If you donâ€™t feel satisfiedâ€™â€ (7, lines 39-40). Th e poems draw unmistakable similarities between the Chinese laborer in the United States and the Chinese laborer in China. â€œRickshaw Boy,â€ and â€œChinaman, Laundrymanâ€ provide an orientation for Poems of the Chinese Revolution , establishing a consistent voice, tone, and point of view that continue throughout the su bsequent poems. These consistencies give a political coherence across nationa l boundaries. The Chinese worker emerges as the hero in Tsiangâ€™s poems, not because of an y cultural marker of Chinese exceptionalism, but because they represent a revolutionary potential w ithin a system of global capital. In the poems, Chinese identity is primarily posited as a produc t of racist and imperialist policies, and not through any essential cultural characteristic. The two poems re veal a connection between the labor of the Chinese workers and a world economy structured on racial difference: â€œMy skin is 25 According to Bickers and Wasserstrom, the park was opened up to the public in 1928, which was the same year that H.T. Tsiangâ€™s poems were written (445).
154 yellow, / does my yellow skin color the clothes ?â€ (lines 10-11). The figures of the rickshaw boy and the laundryman both show how race comp licates the understanding of class. Tsiang consistently tries to show the forces of nati onalism, imperialism, and racism as capitalist hegemonic efforts to destroy a uni versal class-consciousness. A Poetics of the Hypocolony The figure of the Chinese laborer as the oppr essed victim of tran snational capitalism allows Tsiang to correlate racism and exclusion with imperialism. In this sense Tsiang creates a poetics of the hypocolony, modeled on Sun Yat-senâ€™ s explanation of Chinaâ€™s subaltern position vis--vis the industrialized world. Sun first used this term in hi s 1924 revolutionary address, â€œSan Min Zhu Yi,â€ or Principles of the People. â€ Sun Yat-sen called Chin a a â€œhypocolony,â€ that was â€œsubject to many powers and he nce inferior to a colonyâ€; thus , the Chinese were â€œnot slaves of one country but of allâ€ (Wang 340, Sun 38). This notion of being colonized by all includes Chinese communities in various nations around the world (Sun had spent much of his youth overseas, and his brother worked for a plantati on in Hawaii) (Wang 337). From the perspective of the history of the United States, the hypocolon y finds its complement in â€œcolonial practices emphasiz[ing] the control of different peopl e, their labor, and their means of communal identificationâ€ (Rowe 7). In this way, American imperialism occurred both abroad as well as through what John Carlos Rowe labels the â€œint ernal colonizationâ€ of natives, and immigrant groups within the territorial bounds of the United States (7). Sunâ€™s theory of â€œhypocolony,â€ in addition to marking a continuity between the raci st treatment of Chinese abroad and the erosion of Chinese sovereignty, indicates the displacement that Chinese intellectuals felt as they tried to come to a consensus about the Chinese revolu tion. Many, like Sun, either spent time abroad where they witnessed â€œinternal colonization,â€ or in areas of China controlled by European, Japanese, and American forces. Many saw Chines e nationalism as a way to legitimize political
155 action. They felt a consensus was needed to form a coherent world-view in the face of the disjointedness brought on by being subjects of a â€œhypocolony.â€ Many students, activists, and intellectuals of the May Fourth Movement, despite their widespread litera ry, artistic, linguistic, pedagogical, and philosophical cont ributions, ultimately wanted â€œthe strengthening of China in the shortest possible periodâ€â€”a strength that meant possessing the military, economic, and political might to remove European and Japanese powers from their territori es and to prevent an invasion from Japan (Wang 359). Li terary, artistic, li nguistic, and philoso phical interventions were incorporated into the pr oject of Chinaâ€™s modernization as a weapon for nationalist liberation. Figure 4-1. (above) Chinese coolie laborers contracted by British in Southeast Asia (Zhou Hong 23). Figure 4-2. (right) Fore ign-run factory in China (Zhou Hong 23). Tsiang, who had traveled to South China to work in Sun Yat-senâ€™s office, and later participated in the Canton Soviet, had witnessed the violence that could occur in the name of the security of the nation (Ma). It is not surprising to find within his poetry an ambivalence toward the nation state. For a decade after Poems of the Chinese Revolution was published, Tsiang continued this theme in his novels and plays. For example, one of the earliest fictional narratives by a modern Chinese American author, â€œsimilarl y rais[ing] the question of mixednessand the
156 disappearance of â€˜Chinaâ€™ as an id ealized point of national identific ation, with particular reference to a political as well as cultural attachment to an Asia undergoing prof ound political and cultural changeâ€ (Palumbo-Liu 49). Palumbo-Liuâ€™s description of Tsiangâ€™s novel And China has Hands shows that Tsiangâ€™s project of interjecting mode rn Chinaâ€™s political struggles into American literary culture consistently presents his distrust of nationalism at the same time as it represents the politics of resisting the conditions of the transnatio nal hypocolony and, by extension, capitalism. Tsiang says in his foreword that The Poems of the Chinese Revolution is to be written in â€œvarious languages,â€ because Tsiang says that â€œI believe it must stir the worldâ€ (3). This faith points to the utopian horizon of Tsiangâ€™s coll ection. Tsiang endeavors to cast the Chinese revolution in a way that shows China as active, and can alter political co nsciousness within the United States. But more than that, the project of translations situates poe try as a universal genre of expression that can be reconstructed in the particulars of various national languages. Therefore, poetry, like revolution, is universal in Tsiangâ€™s equation. Tsiang asserts that it is the Chinese worker who is also a transnational, multilingual worker whose presence in the universal genre signifies the radical pot ential for global revolution. Tsiangâ€™s Poems of the Chinese Revolution offers an alternative vision to policies to â€œHanchauvinismâ€ and the anti-Japanese nationalism that Chiang Kai-shekâ€™s government and the Chinese Communist Party would employ. Instead, he suggests that the issue is not with the Chinese nation but all laborers of the world. This is not surprising, becau se his audience is the (mostly white) American left. Tsiang poetically constructs the Chinese laborers as an allegorical â€œeveryman.â€ In this sense he places the historic al destiny of the oppressed Chinese laborer in the front lines of the revolution. The Chinese worker s are paving the way for the liberation of the oppressed of the entire world. Tsiangâ€™s poetry serves as a didactic medium for reporting what is
157 happening on the front lines of the revolution to the backwaters of America. In doing so he at once implicates and provincializes his American a udience in relation to the events that occur in China. His figure of the Chinese laborer does not deal in technical details of Marxist historiography, nor the distinct ion between Chinese laborers in Shanghai who work for the interests of transnational capit al, and the Chinese peasants in the countryside whose economic relationships at the time were largely feudal. Poems of the Chinese Revolution does not offer details as to how the utopian horizon of a global revolution wi ll unfold into an actuality. But Tsiang does suggest that the basic conditions for this universal struggle exist, and that to write poetry is to participate in a universal genre, which can serv e as the battleground for this revolutionary consciousness. The fifth poem, titled â€œGum Shan Ding,â€ addr esses one of Tsiangâ€™s anti-heroes that appear within the collectionâ€”the transnationa l capitalist Chinese who, like Chaing Kai-shek, have accumulated wealth and are perpet uating the corrupted economic system.26 The poem centers on Gum Shan Dingâ€™s misrecognition of the ra cism in America, the corruption within the mainland Chinese government, and most importantly the consequences of capital investment on the Chinese worker. Tsiang writes: When you are on the golden shore of America You are without worry, No longer being poor. Your chief concern Is to manage with all your wealth. Donâ€™t talk to me about China! â€œI am a rich merchant. No more â€˜fatherlandâ€™! I am an American citizen.â€ 26 According to Tsiangâ€™s notes, â€œGum Shan Ding,â€ is a â€œsarcastic nickname given in China to those workers who return from America. The literal meaning is â€˜gold mount ain foolâ€™â€ (12). â€œGum Shanâ€ is Cantonese for â€œGold Mountain,â€ which refers to San Francisco, but sometime s refers to the whole of California or even the US.
158 Yet there are worries. That is too bad. Face not so white, Nose not so high. When I pass by All men call me, â€œChinaman!â€ â€œChinaman!â€ (lines 8-23) Gum Shan Ding, within Tsiangâ€™s re volutionary framework, represents an antithesis of Tsiangâ€™s Chinese laborer. For example, instead of inte rnationalism, the bourgeois Gum Shan Ding uses his American citizenship as a way to disregard the Chinese re volution. At the same time his citizenship forces him to passively accept the indi gnities of racism in the United States. Tsiangâ€™s Gum Shan Ding says, â€œI am a rich merchant,â€ wh ich signifies one of the few classes of Chinese permitted visas and residency during the Chines e Exlusion Acts. Gum Shan Dingâ€™s identity is formed through race and class divisions create d through capitalism and imperialism. However, Gum Shan Ding in the US is isolated, cut off from his past as well as the future revolutionary horizon. Tsiang, at the end of the poem, says â€œYou [Gum Shan Ding] are not alone, / All of us are foolsFools! Fools! Fools! / Oh, you fools, awake!â€ (12, lin es 59-63). The Gum Shan Dings of the world have the power of transformation if only consciousness is filtered through a revolutionary conscience. This message is im portant considering that the poem was first published in July of 1928 in the Daily Worker . As Paul Buhle points out, â€œthe Daily Worker came to stand for, and to dialogue with, that very middle class, the largest Communist constituency outside ethnic groupsâ€ (179). In â€œGum Shan Dingâ€ there is a construction of an interconnected race and class-based exclusion similar to that occurr ing in the United States in the populist writings during late 1920s, but especially during the Great Depression. For example Angelina Grimkâ€™s 1930 untitled poem reads as follows:
159 I am the woman with the black black skin I am the laughing woman with the black black face I am living in the cellars and in every crowded place I am toiling just to eat In the cold and in the heat And I laugh I am the laughing woman whoâ€™s forgotten how to weep I am the laughing woman whoâ€™s afraid to go to sleep. (Nelson 47) Grimk uses irregular line lengths , anaphora, attention to negative space, and an assertive lyrical â€œIâ€ of Whitman-like proportions to chart topogra phically the contours of a voiceless subaltern subjectivity. Cary Nelson in Revolutionary Memory describes the poetry of V.J. Jerome, a Polish Jewish immigrant and later an active member of the Communist Party who wrote â€œA Negro Mother to Her Child,â€ as connect ing labor to class and race (47) . In the early 1900s Morrison I. Swift describes racism as the lynchpin connectin g capitalism with imperialism and nationalism in poems like â€˜Butcher McKinleyâ€™ (23). Tsiangâ€™s in terest in exposing race and class, and offering revolutionary alternatives, was sh ared by many writers on the left. Gi ven this literary context in addition to the fact that Tsiangâ€™ s supporters were liberal profe ssors from Columbia University, we can see Poems of the Chinese Revolution operating in dialogue with the populist literature of the 1920s and 1930s that was re-forming American modernism. Tsiangâ€™s poems contribute to this literary movement by alteri ng set binaries of black and white within the American activist tradition (a tradition that dates back to the abolitionist moveme nt) to include the conditions of Chinese Americans during the exclusion act a nd Chinese revolution. Th rough the introduction of the Chinese American subject, Tsiang expands th e critique of American racial conflicts, and shows how such conflicts are supra-national. Bringing the May Fourth Movement a nd the Chinese Revolution to America The third poem, â€œShantung,â€ represents anothe r set of Chinese labor ers in Shanghai. In this poem Tsiang offers a vision of the potential for solidarity between Japanese and Chinese
160 workers as a way to end Japanese imperialism. The narrator in Shangha i addresses the Chinese laborers in Shandong who are being occupied by Japanese forces: Don, Don, Don, the drum is calling; Lun, Lun, Lun, the arti llery is roaring. Japan is in Shantung far away We can still work for a living. Hashi yi, hashi yi, buzzing bee, buzzing bee. God has damned me, Hard work comes to me. My mouth is thirsty, My stomach was never so empty, Why donâ€™t you teach me to live without bread, Papa, mama? (lines 1-12)  Brother, sister, I have a message for you. Are ye a worker, are ye a farmer? We are alike then. Brother, sister, We have no wrong when we are born; We toil yet we have no bread; We spin yet we have no shirt; We do building yet we have no shed. (lines 20-27) Tsiang uses diction to produce an illusion of a working class vernacular for his proletariat Chinese laborer hero who, again, represents abje ct exclusion as a unive rsal figure of social revolution. For example, â€œShantungâ€ begins with the â€œDon, Don, Don, the drum is calling; / Lun, Lun, Lun, the artillery is roaringâ€ (lines 1-2). Tsiang gives notes for these lines explain that â€œLunâ€ and â€œDonâ€ are examples of Chinese verbs acting as onomatopoeia in the poem (Tsiang 9). The inclusion of the Chinese language linguistica lly locates the poem within the contested space of the Chinese nation, Shandong province, where Japa n has invaded. It also connects the narrator in the poem with Tsiang, whose persona has alre ady been crafted in th e introduction of the book as a translator and political exile who is bringing the voice of the â€œChinese Revolutionâ€ to
161 America (4). The polyglot lines that open â€œS hantungâ€ transform a line from a Whitman poem into Chinese: â€œBeat! Beat! drums!â€”Blow! bugles ! blow!â€ (from â€œBeat! Beat! Drums!â€ Line 1). The linguistic reconstitution of â€œBeatâ€ into â€œD onâ€ allows Tsiang to translate the Chinese laborerâ€™s vernacular into a Whitman poem. Tsiang â€™s choice to use Whitman as a model for his poetry follows what Henry Nash Smith describe s as â€œthe intrusion of the vernacular into consciously literary usageâ€ (650). Whitmanâ€™s intere st in the vernacular is similar to the May Fourth writersâ€™ because Whitmanâ€™s use of th e â€œEnglish languageâ€ represents a postcolonial attempt to create a national cultural identity by transforming the language of the colonial power into something new. Tsiangâ€™s idea of an intern ational Chinese workerâ€™s speech, however, strips the American-ness from Whitmanâ€™s notion of ever yday language. Jonathan Arac points out that the vernacular is a concept linked to â€œnationalist myths of purityâ€; Tsia ng replaces the idea of national language with the language used by the figure of the internati onal revolution (45). The plainspoken diction of the Chinese laborer juxtaposed with English text reflects the work of the Chinese laborer, performed next to European-Ameri can laborers. Tsiang is able to poetically and linguistically organize labor, mime tically representi ng the goal of Poems of the Chinese Revolution . Tsiangâ€™s reports in the fore word, â€œI hope that these poe ms are material from which to form some concept of the Chinese Revolution, and in that, they will have served their purposeâ€ (4). The poem, â€œShantung,â€ is one exam ple of how Tsiang reports in the workersâ€™ vernacular the historical specificity of Chinese Revolution, and at the same time uses the workersâ€™ vernacular to establish the universal necessity of the Chinese Revolution . In â€œShantungâ€ Tsiang situates the Chinese wo rker in Shanghai, a location from which the lyrical voice addresses the reader for much of Poems of the Chinese Revolution . The most important reason for locating the worker here is because Shanghai was an emblem of Chinese
162 modernity with a foreign-built Bund, capitalist industrialization, modern infrastructure, and cosmopolitan culture. These qualities also signi fy Shanghai as a site where Chinaâ€™s economy could produce a proletariat consciousness as a necessary component in revolutionary class warfare. Shanghai was a place where students, wo rkers, and business workers had coordinated political action against the United States during the boycott of 1905. Shanghai was also the site of much labor unrest during th e 1920s, which is why in Marc h of 1927 the leftwing of the Guomindang was able to secure Shanghai from warlord control without much resistance. The labor movement and collaborations between worker s and students created a heterodoxy of leftist movements that was a signature of the Chinese Communist Party until well after Chairman Mao consolidated power after the Long March in 1935. The narrator in â€œShantungâ€ reports on the military aggression of the Japanese in the occupied province of Shandong. The conflict ove r Shandong province began at the Treaty of Versailles when the allies signed German conce ssions over to the Japanese â€”the event that began the 1919 May Fourth Movement. The poemâ€™s subtex t is that Chinese na tionalism alone would not transform the plight of the worker, which wa s the basic political strategy for the right-wing of the Guomindang. In fact, the narrator implie s that the modern nation-state structurally preserves the conditions for race-based exploitati on and produces a violence that is even worse than Japanese imperial aggression: Brother, sister, there is a message for you. Japan occupies Shantung, But the toilers of Japa n, they are with us; Not Tanataka the oppressor, Not Tanaka the murderer, But the toilers of Japan will join usâ€” We together will crush Tanaka. (lines 31-37)
163 Surprisingly, the message that Tsiangâ€™s Chinese la borer hero brings is an internationalism that humanizes the Japanese at a time when Chin ese nationalism was being built on the back of demonizing, anti-Japanese rhetoric. By 1928 Japan had occupied Manchuria, and war had broken out between China and Japan with heavy fi ghting taking place in Shandong province, which served to intensify Chinese nationalism. Unlike much of the political discourse emerging from Chinese intellectuals on Japan during this time, Ts iang suggests that a difference exists between the Japanese people and the impe rial nation-state of Japan whos e policies were influenced by leaders like Tanaka. Tanaka wa s famous for supposedly writi ng an apocryphal 1927 proposal to Emperor Hirohito that said the conquest of the world would have to begin with China (Staphen 733). The revolutionary vision of Tsiangâ€™s worker in Shanghai would not be shared by the Maoled Chinese communist army, because nationalism and anti-Japanese propaganda became key features of Chinese Communism. This was especi ally true when the war against Japan extended into the 1930s and 40s. Tsiangâ€™s internationalist revolutionary vision in â€œShantungâ€ is not pacifist. It is as sanguine as th e anti-Japanese Chinese nationalism, only the violence is directed against global capitalism: â€œAway w ith the exploitersâ€” / When the sky with blood is red, / We all will have our bread!â€ (lines 42-47). This vi sion of revolutionary violence permeates Poems of the Chinese Revolution . In the penultimate poem, â€œSacco, Vanzetti,â€ Tsiang joins American leftist poets by memorializing Sacco and Vanzetti. On a macro-poe tic level, Tsiang is creating a collage which coordinates the Chinese revolution with Amer ican national politics. Even though Sacco and Vanzetti are presented as victims of racial a nd class oppression (â€œBut you are the Wop, the fish peddler, the / workerâ€ [16, line 59-60]) and are ca lled â€œmartyrsâ€ (line 71), they are memorialized in an unsentimental fashion: â€œYou are dead, / Ne ver, never / To live againâ€ (lines 73-75). Tsiang
164 first quotes Vanzetti â€œYou did sa y: / â€˜I wish to forgive some people for what they / are now doing to meâ€™â€ (lines 55-56), and then responds to Vanzettiâ€™s final words by saying â€œIsnâ€™t it a great insult / To say â€œforgiveâ€ to your honorable master?â€ (lines 62-63). Ju st as Tsiang avoids memorializing the nation state, Tsiang avoids sanctifying Sacco and Van zetti, preferring to honor their memory by showing them as members of an affiliation of workers who are struggling for the sake of a shared humanity. Their deaths are treated as ordinary deaths; however, Tsiang uses the memorialization of Sacco and Vanzetti in the minds of revol utionaries as the sign of an optimistic future. This is evident in Tsiangâ€™s si mplified eulogistic imagery of the dead autumn flowers blooming in the spring: â€œWe shall again s ee the pretty flowers (line 89). Tsiang closes the poem with: â€œListen to the war cries of your li ving brothers! / This is the incense / We are burning / To youâ€ (lines 102-105), which through a slight ethnogr aphic referenceâ€”the Chinese tradition of burning ince nse for the deadâ€”returns the reader to China and the Chinese revolution. This very small detail at the very end of the poem, which helps to give events in the United States relevance in the Chinese revoluti on, is Tsiangâ€™s site of transnational poetic enunciation. Including a poem about Sacco and Va nzetti is also a way for Tsiang to include himself as a poet of the American left. Accord ing to Buhle, â€œThe Sacco-Vanzetti execution proved the injustice of the capital ist system and (despite political infighting with the anarchists) the ability of the Communists to bring together concerned intelle ctuals in a defense campaignâ€ (172). In the poem â€œMay 30thâ€ dedicated â€œ To the Martyred Students and Workers Killed in the Shanghai Massacre ,â€ Tsiangâ€™s poetry again performs the act of memorialization. This time he describes the protesting workers and students who were killed a nd wounded by British forces in 1925 Shanghai. â€œMay 30thâ€ is one of the most direct cas es where Tsiang employs poetry to
165 perform the service of revolutionary memory, archiving the evidence that structures his historiography. Like â€œSacco, Vanzetti,â€ it is a po em that memorializes th e dead to serve a living revolution. Across great Chinaâ€™s sundials The sun and moon plied their shuttle The day came, the nightâ€” Now my tears flow again, It is May 30th. Oh brothers: Were you fools or heroes To march to the international settlement? Your bodies only of flesh and blood; Which was stronger, The egg or the stone? O hear: Your Children call for their fathers. Your widows burn paper money and sob. Your father mourns, he has lost his strong sons and will starve. (lines 1-25) While the poem addresses the Chinese proletaria t and student protesters , Tsiang ends with the world beyond them: â€œYou will live while it blazes, / The fire of World Revolutionâ€ (lines 29-30). Just as in â€œRickshaw Boy,â€ and â€œChinaman, Laundrymanâ€ the Chinese laborer extends beyond the boundaries of China, and merges with, as in the poem, â€œShantung,â€ laborers in a global revolution. Throughout Poems of the Chinese Revolution , Tsiang accumulates evidence of imperial and racist aggression us ed in protecting capitalist intere sts. For example, in â€œMay 30thâ€ Tsiang writes: â€œBut see: / Chiang Kai-shekâ€™s new wife has a beautiful diamond ringHe has glory and power/ While you are deadâ€ (lines 16-21). Instead of creating oppositions between Chinese/Japanese, Chinese/British, or Chinese/ American, he shows that even among Chinese there is class conflict. Tsiang concludes Poems of the Chinese Revolution with â€œCanton Soviet,â€ which is an epic, two-part, ten-page, thunderi ng dramatic poem that incorporates margin notes, footnotes,
166 endnotes, and over fifteen speakers in a series of dialogues culminating in an exclamation of revolutionary slogans. In this re spect, Tsiangâ€™s project can be s een as sharing certain aesthetic strategies of such high modernist works as â€œT he Waste Land.â€ The margin notes indicate the speaker and stage directions, f ootnotes serve as translations, and endnotes provide historical context for the poem.27 Closing Poems of the Chinese Revolution with a long dramatic poem indicates the next step he would take in his literary career as a dramatist who involved himself in practically all aspects of the st age, writing and performing the plays â€œHanging at Union Square,â€ and â€œWedding at a Nudist Colony.â€ The dramatic element of the â€œCanton Sovietâ€ foregrounds Tsiangâ€™s use of personae, slogans, exclamation marks, apostrophe, violence, and even muted landscapes to enhance poetic and public readings at a time when modernist poets from Vachel Lindsay to Edith Sitwell were pushing the possibi lities of poetry as performance. Similarly, May Fourth poets, like Guo Moruo, attemp ted to not only break closed fo rms, but to cross genres. The mixing of genres and the stress on performance show the experimentation that went into discovering literary tools that could do the work of a proletarian revolution. Throughout the poem, Tsiangâ€™s point of vi ew floats among members of two opposite political forcesâ€”the â€œWhitesâ€ and the â€œReds. â€ White signifies members and supporters of Chiang Kai-shekâ€™s KMT party, while reds signify heterogeneous revolutionary groups of the left, corresponding to counter-revolutionary and re volutionary forces within more general revolutionary iconography. In Tsiangâ€™s â€œCanton Sovi etâ€ there is an anxiety that one will become the otherâ€”the soldiers switch sides, party opportuni sts appear, a lover is betrayed. The voices of each color merge into each other such that the voices of th e red include revolutionaries, 27 Tsiang was interested in drama, and during the 1930s would often recite from Poems of the Chinese Revolution to the audience as the stage was being prepared fo r a performance, see: â€œArticle 13â€”No Title.â€ New York Times . Oct 22, 1939: 130.
167 Bolsheviks, workers, students, while whites incl ude the businessmen, military leaders, and even a poet. The colors, Red and White, have a historical context, but they al so have the cultural meanings. Red is a color of good fortuneâ€”tradi tionally, a Chinese brid e wears red on her wedding day, New Yearâ€™s gifts are put in red en velopesâ€”and white is a color of deathâ€”white headbands and clothes are worn as a symbol of mourning. The poemâ€™s twopart structure begins with â€œWhite Terror,â€ and concl udes with â€œRed Terror,â€ underscori ng the bifurcated world-view that pervades the poems. The narration in each sec tion corresponds to the political point of view of the title, such that the â€œwh itesâ€ associated with Chiang Ka i-shekâ€™s Guomindang control the discourse in the first section, wh ile the revolutionary â€œredsâ€ (a noticeably pre-Mao revolutionary group) control the discourse in the second set of dialogues. In the â€œwhiteâ€ section â€œbobbedhaired girlsâ€ (signifying femini sts) are attacked and raped with bayonets, students are assailed, and foreign Red Russians are also assaulted. What is noticeable a bout Tsiangâ€™s Chinese revolution is how it is saturated with foreigne rs (Russians, Japanese, and Europeans). Tsiang plays with notions of whiteness and non-whiteness in creating this two-side d world such that at one point in the poem a â€œwhiteâ€ foreigner and a â€œr edâ€ Chinese engage in a dialogue. The margin notes indicate that a â€œStupid Wh ite misinterprets the meaning of class-distinction,â€ and says: â€œMy body is much taller than my masters! / Were there â€˜classâ€™ it is not my masterâ€ (Tsiang 19), which seems to catch the â€œwhiteâ€ as engaged in a different discourse of â€œclassâ€ than the â€œdefier.â€ After a stanza break the â€œdefierâ€ responds â€œForei gn Devil! / Imperialist! We know that all our lives / Will be reported to you / You so-called â€˜civilized racesâ€™, / With death in your pockets / and kindness in your facesâ€ (19). The â€œredâ€ begins the litany of imperial offences from naval blockades, to unfair trade treaties that came w ith forced â€œopen doorâ€ policies. Tsiang accentuates
168 the difference in discourses through the change in poetic construction. Firs t, there is a stanza break between the two speakers. Next the â€œwhite sâ€™â€ free verse is replaced by regulated rhymedverse (e.g., â€œracesâ€/â€œfaces,â€ â€œcryingâ€/â€dyingâ€), su ggesting that on the linguistic level their discourses are different and clas h. And the dialogue is ended by Chinese â€œwhitesâ€ who then gag the â€œdefiers.â€ The eventual silencin g of the â€œdefierâ€ is replaced in part two by the silencing of the â€œwhiteâ€ discourse through the â€œred â€ slogans at the end of poem. The multiplicity of characters that float w ithin the protean dialogue working within the white/red dialectic creates the poemâ€™s progression from a â€œwhiteâ€ victory (â€œAll the trade unions are closed, they say; / We bosses shall not have to worry about a strike. / All the peasant leagues have passed awayâ€ [page 17]) to the â€œRed Proc lamationâ€ (â€œGive them a blood shower! / To confiscate the land, do away with rent: To clean up all the man-ea ters, / Make the world belong to no one but the workersAnd make the world / A real â€˜Paradiseâ€™ / Forever!â€ [page 26]). The â€œRed Proclamationâ€ that closes the poem ends with a final message, explaining that violent bloodshed is necessary to carry out the revolution. This final proclamation closes Poems of the Chinese Revolution with a troubling disquietude. Throughout the collection of poems , revenge is discussed, but it is not put into violent action until the â€œRed Terrorâ€ se ction of â€œCanton Soviet.â€ The section begins with a violent strike, narrated by a â€œwhiteâ€ fleeing from striki ng workers; he is attacked by his maid, cook, rickshaw boy, and finally soldiers. The narrat or meets up with other â€œwhitesâ€ and in the confusion of their flight the na rrative voice changes to the â€œredsâ€ in pursuit. They catch and exact revenge on a philanthropist , poet, and an â€œopportunistâ€ ( 24-25). After a stanza break, the narration shifts to a son killing his father, and fi nally to a lover killing his unfaithful mistress who assisted her â€œtraitorâ€ liaison (26). Each episod e is treated with a dialogue, in a fashion of a
169 trial where the â€œredâ€ responds to the â€œwhiteâ€ plea for mercy with an explanation for the death sentence. A Poet makes known his vindication and is answered â€œI am a poet. I make ripe the peace of the human raceâ€ â€œYou so-called poets sigh for nothing! Winds; clouds; moon; flowers; tearsâ€”all nonsense!â€ â€œOf course, poetry is poet ry and not propaganda!â€ â€œNot propaganda? You propagate sex and nonsense! You burn incense for the ruling class. You oil the machine of th e capitalist class!â€ (24) The death of the poet inside of a poem produces a touch of irony, but it is the logical conclusion of the death of the trad itional poem in the modern revolution. The execution of the father by the revolutionary son annihilates the Confucian code of filial piety ; modern revolutionary affiliation replaces traditional Chinese filiations. Thus, Poems of the Chinese Revolution announces the death of the traditional Chinese poem, the trad itional Chinese poet, and ideally the death Confucian â€œChinese-nessâ€ as stereotypically represented in American poetryâ€”a shocking pronouncement when traditional Chinese poetry was becoming widely available to the American reading public as synecdoche for Chinese culture. The poem ends with the emphatic slogans s uggesting optimism for the revolution: â€œDown with Feudalism! / Down with Capitalism! / Down with Militarism! / Down with Imperialism! / And make the world / A real â€˜Paradiseâ€™ / Foreve r!â€ (26). However, there is an endnote that explains: December 12, 1927, the Chinese workers and peasants set up the Canton Soviet. It existed three days. On the fourth day the re actionary Chinese Nationalistâ€™s counter-attack ended the Soviet. So this was another â€! (26) Tsiangâ€™s representation of the revol utionary energy that builds in the poem is quickly deflated by the events surrounding the poem and the poet. Th e last note explains, â€œSo this was another 1905!â€ and Tsiang aligns his part in the history of the Canton S oviet with the 1905 Boycott in
170 which the â€œChinese in China identified with thei r American compatriotsâ€™ struggle against racial discrimination with their ownâ€ (Chen 157). The boycott of 1905 was a protest that took place on both sides of the Pacific in response to the re newed and strengthened Chinese Exclusion Acts. Eventually, the ruling Qing government, sensing destabilizing elements in the movement, opposed the boycott in 1906 (158). By that time, however, the damage had been done, and the transpacific boycott in response to American legi slation had created a he ightened awareness of the political consciousness of Chin ese in America and China. On the surface the boycott was a failure, neit her denting the economic relations between the United States and China, nor affecting th e Chinese Exclusion Acts. However, the impact would be lasting, especially in raising the consciousness of the connection between racism that Chinese suffered abroad, and the capitalist ente rprises and imperialism that eroded Chinese sovereignty. The boycott would have an effect on the literature of Chinese in China and America, much of which is anthologized by Ah Ying in the 1960 Fan meihua gongjin yue wen xueji ( ) that included writings from Chin a in 1905 as well as items such as the Angel Island Poems. The sim ilar reactionary responses that the different official Chinese governments had taken in the 1905 Boycott and the Canton Soviet situate Tsiangâ€™s revolutionary project into the slipstream of modern Chinese and global mode rn political thought and action. Tsiangâ€™s Poems of the Chinese Revolution were written and published when several translations of Chinese poetry began to appe ar in America in the wake of Ezra Poundâ€™s Cathay . These collections consisted of almost exclus ively traditional Chinese poetry, making the Tang (618-907) and Song (960-1279) dynasty canonical poets recognizable to modern American readers and writers. Except for little magazines, like Harriet Monroeâ€™s Poetry: A Magazine of Verse , it was not until the second half of the tw entieth century that â€œmodernâ€ Chinese poetry
171 become available to American readers. Duri ng the first half of the twentieth century, ambassadors of Chinese culture to the United St ates like Chiang Yee and Lin Yutang published works that reinforced the notion that Chinese poetry was an essentia l quality of Chinese exceptionalism different from and even superior to â€œWesternâ€ culture. The works of writers like Lin show that Asians in America were much more likely to be published as cultural informants, which is a long-standing issue in Asian American literature. Ho wever, such literary production became a kind of chinoiserie to teach Americans how to appreci ate traditional Chinese culture at the expense of the Chinese thinkers and poets in China who were experimenting with new Chinese poetics designed to revolutionize what they saw as a corrupted and degenerated tradition. If Tsiangâ€™s Poems of the Chinese Revolution is supposed to re present not only the Chinese Revolution but also Chinese poetry he is clearly taking the side of the antitraditionalists. It is in this gesture that within Tsiangâ€™s poetry one does not find allusions to Li Bo or Su Dongpo. Instead Walt Whitman appears as one of the major influences. Tsiangâ€™s appropriation of Walt Whitman is not merely an attempt to insert himself into the American literary tradition, but to represent the Poems of the Chinese Revolution as May Fourth, or New Culture Movement, poetry. According to Hua ng Guiyou, the May Fourth Movement, can be described as, â€œdemanding the downfall of Confuc ianism and the introduction of democracy and scienceâ€ (2000, 409). Though this movement began by elites, it would have far reaching effects in China: The New Culture Movementâ€”initiated by Chen Duxiu of Peking University, editor of â€œthe leading journal of Chinese intellectuals,â€ The New Youth, and Hu Shiâ€”broke out and soon swept the whole country. A little la ter the movement was joined by Lu Xun, Guo Moruo, Mao Zedong, and many other enthusiastic young people. (Huang 2002, 409)
172 One of the central issues that the May Fourth Movement addressed wa s the institution of a Chinese vernacular written language to challenge the dynastic court la nguage of traditional Chinese; this official literary language of the Confucian mandarin system was the written language for Chinese poetry. By examining hist orical precedents of literary uses of baihua as well as the political needs for expressing Ch inaâ€™s modernity, writers in the May Fourth Movement attempted to provide Chinese poetry w ith a â€œmodernâ€ Chinese written language that did not existâ€”a written language that would matc h the values of a modernized, democratic, and scientific China. As Jonathan Arac explains, â€œt he vernacular tradition is not only a matter of characteristic language; it also carries with it social , specifically politic al valuesâ€ (45). The vernacular, representing the valu es of the May Fourth Movement, was influenced not only by baihua but also by translations that entered into China via Japan. May Fourth Whitman Works of Whitman and Marx were two such sets of influential translated materials that would have a tremendous effect on one of the Chinaâ€™s most popular poets to emerge from May Fourth Movement, Guo Moruo (1889-1978), when he was a student in Japan (Zhu 121). In fact, Guo Moruoâ€™s first major work in 1921, The Goddess ( nshen ), was modeled on Whitmanâ€™s Leaves of Grass (Zhu 123). The Goddess was one of the first and remains one of the most famous examples of May Fourth poetry. G uo claims, â€œWhitmanâ€™s unconventional style was particularly in line with the storming spirit of the May Fourth Movement. I was entranced by his unrestrained powerful toneâ€ (qt d. in Huang 1997, 43). Whitman influenced May Fourth poets other than Guo Moruo, but also Guo Moruoâ€™s infl uence itself on twentieth century Chinese poets was widespread. It is not strange that Tsiangâ€™s poetics would appear inde bted to Whitman as a â€œMay Fourth Whitmanâ€ who â€œbecame a significant pa rt of the larger quest for alternatives and cultural development, in which intellectuals stood at the center of the cross-cultural stageâ€
173 (Huang 1997, 57). â€œMay Fourth Whitmanâ€ is a Wh itman whose hybridity is best described by Lisa Lowe as â€œthe formation of cultural objects and practices that are pr oduced by the histories of uneven and unsynthetic power relationsâ€ (67) . In other words, Whitmanâ€™s transpacific manifestation is not the product of equal exchan ge on some cultural market, but comes out of a specific historical situation where Chinese wr iters self-consciously attempted to modernize Chinese culture as a bulwark against imperial incursion. It is upon this stage that Tsiangâ€™s Whitman enters into the 1928 radi cal American poetry sceneâ€”a scene that was having its own Whitman fever. During the late 1920s Whitman wa s a major influence for modernist American writers like Ezra Pound and William Carlos Willia ms who were experimenting with new voices for an American cultural nationalism. Whitmanâ€™s internationalism, his transgressive experimentation with form, his ecstatic language, and his attempts to incorporate a vernacular diction would make him an attr active figure for literary move ments around the world during the twentieth century. Alan Trachtenberg argues that Whitmanâ€™s â€œecstasy (ex-stasis), which comes with recognition of oneself in othersâ€ is â€œa way of freeing people from the hold of money and ownership to seek possession of themselvesâ€ (173). At one level Whitmanâ€™s poems represent an oblique critique of capitalism, or perhaps even liberation from having to consider experience through the lens of economic relationships. Tsiang uses this communal ecstasy that exists in Whitmanâ€™s language for the purpose of social revolutionâ€”a revolution where economics is understood as the center of power and soci al relationships. Whitmanâ€™s panoramic gaze accumulates the world into lists that describe the fullness of a situation, of a place, of an event, which Tsiang uses pragmatically to depict th e Chinese revolution in English-language poetry. Tsiangâ€™s intertextual use of Whitman brings Chin ese literature into modern American poetry not
174 as something that is exotic, ancient, and obscure , but as something that is immediate, familiar, and modern. The trope of the list signifies co mplexity and hybridity by breaking from the ideology of a specific closed form and allows for the inclusion of any form . Lists also become an enduring feature of modernism, not only as they appear in Ezra Poundâ€™s The Cantos , or James Joyceâ€™s Ulysses , but in the contextualizat ion of daily life where everything from consumer products to the war dead became represented through catalogues of lists. A comparison between the beginning of Whitma nâ€™s â€œPassage to Indiaâ€ and the beginning of Tsiangâ€™s â€œShanghaiâ€ reveals the degree to which Tsiangâ€™s Poems of the Chinese Revolution absorb Whitmanâ€™s style. â€œPassage to Indiaâ€ Passage to more than India! Are thy wings plumed indeed for such far flights? O soul, voyagest thou indeed on voyages like those? Disportest thou on waters such as those? Soundest below the Sanscrit and the Vedas? Then have thy bent unleash'd. Passage to you, your shores, ye aged fierce enigmas! Passage to you, to mastership of you, ye strangling problems! You, strew'd with the wrecks of skeletons, that, living, never reach'd you. Passage to more than India! O secret of the earth and sky! Of you O waters of the sea! O winding creeks and rivers! Of you O woods and fields! of you strong mountains of my land! (lines 1-16) â€œShanghaiâ€ Pacific Ocean! You must be ashamed of your thundering flood To drown your frantic noise. Pacific Ocean! You can no longer be proud of your deep blue Dress!
175 It is now crimsoned by the blood of myriad Chinese workers Rocky Mountains! You must cease to take pride in your height! For your lofty peaks Fail as a white curtain To hide from the American workers The heaped heads of the Chinese toilers That are high against the sky. (lines 1-15) Both poems consistently employ i rregular line lengths of free vers e that occasionally rhyme, but mostly are organized through anaphora, enjambme nt, counterpoint, dramatic call and response, rhetorical questions, assonance, and alliteration. The stanzas tend to be erratically patterned for emphasis. The diction is decidedly vernacular. Punctuation includes barrages of exclamation marks and dashes. Often, adjacent lines will be di sconnected in terms of syntax, but suggest the accumulation of ideas in lists of slogans, or obser vations, as if they are being reported within the fullness of the events in which the poet is encountering. Geographic names and features are addressed as agents of histor ical destiny. Tsiang, however, repl aces Whitmanâ€™s transcendental, American-centered internationalism with a revo lutionary internationalism. In doing so, Tsiang challenges the unspoken imperial assumptions behind Whitmanâ€™s ideas of an expansive American democracy. In â€œPassage to Indiaâ€ Whitman celebrates tech nological inventions such as the steamship, and events like the completion of the transcontin ental railroad as fulfillments of Columbusâ€™s original desire to reach the â€œOrient.â€ This hist orical destiny connects th e imperial expansion of America, reflecting an expansion of US pow er that continued throughout Whitmanâ€™s writing career. Or as Malini Schueller writes, â€œHistory emerges here as the unavoidable, even as the cadences of the poem attempt to elide itâ€ (192) . John Eperjesi remarks that â€œWhitman reads national destiny into the built landscape, repeatin g one of the defining features of the Puritan
176 errand into the wilderness, the fusi on of secular and sacred time, fo r an emergent age of empire,â€ (53). In Tsiangâ€™s â€œShanghaiâ€ th e blood of Chinese laborers (â€œTh e heaped heads of the Chinese toilers / That are high against th e skyâ€) is the price of the emerging American empire and its newfound passages to â€œthe East.â€ Tsiangâ€™s poe m engages Whitmanâ€™s content in order to demonstrate the imbalance of exchange as well as the imperial design of Whitmanâ€™s â€œpassageâ€â€” a capitalist fantasy of unrestricted exchange of commodities (in this case culture as commodity) facilitated by a frictionless techno logies of global transportation. Whitmanâ€™s democratic inclusiveness is not something that Tsiang necessarily rejects. Tsiang finds within Whitmanâ€™s style and open stru cture an inclusiveness that would otherwise make English-language poetry an inaccessible medium for a second-language speaker of English. The kinds of linguistic structures th at Whitman employs are not simply culturally specific to the English language. Like Whitmanâ€™s attempt to incorporat e everyday language in his poetry, Tsiang avoids elevated poetic di ction. Avant-garde poets like William Carlos Williams and Ezra Pound argued that modern poetry needed to break away from the rhetoric and the forms that made poetic language artificial and contrived. While the avant-garde poets were arguing about a theoretical proble m of representation, Tsiangâ€™s poe tics address a more pragmatic issue. Tsiang had only lived in the US for one year by the time he had written these poems, and he explains in his foreword to Poems of the Chinese Revolution, â€œEnglish is still unfamiliar to meâ€ (Tsiang 1929, 4). In addition to the possible linguistic advantage, Whitmanâ€™s poetry appeals for a democratic inclusion of voicesâ€”an attracti ve model for a poetics of an international revolution. The poems come across as roughhewn, rhetorically allowing Tsiang to produce a documentary-like effect of rushed and irregular reports from the front lines of a revolution, and to give Tsiangâ€™s proletarian Ch inese workers a unique and identifiable voice. In this way
177 Whitmanâ€™s poetry itself becomes a transpacific passage that enables East-West cultural exchange through international networks. Ho wever, instead of an America that can transform the world by serving as the conduit between the transcendent, spiritual â€œEast,â€ and the civilized, rational, and modern â€œWest,â€ which Whitman proj ects in â€œPassage to India,â€ Tsia ngâ€™s â€œEastâ€ in the form of the Chinese laborer serves as a force that ca n potentially transform Am erica by bringing about social revolution. At one level, then, Tsiangâ€™s Poems of the Chinese Revolution is both borrowing from Whitmanâ€™s style and responding to Whitmanâ€™s global vision. In addition to â€œPassage to India,â€ Tsiangâ€™s â€œShanghaiâ€ addresses the subjective assumptions of Whitmanâ€™s â€œFacing West from Calif orniaâ€™s Shores.â€ In this poem, an American, presumably of European immigrant stock, g azes out over the Pacifi c (â€œInquiring, tireless, seeking what is yet unfound Look off the shores of my Western Seaâ€” the circle almost circledâ€ [lines 2-5]). Whitmanâ€™s Asia gazer is a figure that co nsecrates Manifest Destiny, such that America, like the immigrant, progresses we stward from Europe around the â€œcircle almost circled,â€ originating with Columbus. The poem pr oceeds to list geographies of Asia as a lost Edenic and mysterious home that has somehow remained outside of history (â€œBut where is what I started for, so long ago? / And why is it yet unfound?â€ [lines 10-11]). The poem re-creates a nineteenth-century historiography of progress that posited a westward transmigration of civilization, traced in phi lological explanations of language families to interpretations of the history of technological advancement. Likewi se, Whitman assumes that ever since the sojournerâ€™s mythic departure, Asia has had no history, remaining an ideal if not idyllic preservation of a golden age. Romantics in general thought that it was possible to exist independent of the tempest of human history, which was a good thing because it meant being outside of the corrupted and corrupting forces of industrialization. But close scrutiny of the poem
178 shows that the invitation of the gazer to come back home to â€œdiscoverâ€ Asia is a subjective response to an imaginative geography. It is an invitation to fulfill an American destiny of providing a conduit to the mythic Cathay of Marc o Polo that later became Columbusâ€™s elusive East Indies. Even after several voyages Christop her Columbus continually interpreted new world geography within as adhering to Marco Poloâ€™s map of Cathay (Laufer 89). The search for â€œCathay,â€ represents the attempt to fulfill a my thic American destiny and carries with it the imperative to ethnographically and geographically chart the East and discover new trade routes to these marketsâ€”a task taken up by American military and economic forces in the latenineteenth century (Eperjesi 84). In this way Whitmanâ€™s gazer replaces Americaâ€™s western territorial frontier with a western cultural front ier for Euro-American imperialism in Asia. The Asian is fixed as not only the subject of the g aze, but also subject to American expansion of power, which Whitman positions as destiny. In â€œShanghaiâ€ Tsiang makes the white American the object of the Chinese workerâ€™s gaze, and Tsiangâ€™s Chinese worker become the active speaker, thus, inverting Whitmanâ€™s East/West binary. Such an inversion repl aces nineteenth-century imperi al Euro-American historiography with a modern revolutionary hi storiography. This can be seen in the subheading of the poem, â€œAppeal of the Chinese workers to the American Labor Movement,â€ which indicates that the lyrical voice of this poem is the Chinese labo rer (13). The gaze is no t towards the unknown but towards geographic barriers that substitute for po litical barriers. In fact, unlike in Whitmanâ€™s poem, Tsiangâ€™s gazer seems to know what is exac tly over the horizon and de sires to explain what is unknown in America: Do you know why Our native bosses, foreign bosses, militarists And imperialists should Cut off our heads? (14)
179 The speaker in Shanghai addresses America from a position of weakness, announcing the brutal confluence of capitalist and imperialist forces which have dominated the Chinese worker. Paradoxically, the gaze from China to America creates an imbalance whereby Tsiangâ€™s Chinese workers seem powerless at the hands of â€œnative bosses,â€ â€œforeign bosses,â€ and â€œimperialists,â€ yet the very direction of the address towards Ameri ca reveals the power of the Chinese laborer in creating a revolutionary consci ousness. Unlike the gazer in â€œFacing West from Californiaâ€™s Shoresâ€ who looks out onto an uncharted, myster ious Asia, Tsiangâ€™s worker hails America as known and familiar: â€œDear brothers! / Raise your voi ce in protest! / Break the darkness with your cries!â€ (14). Tsiang incorporates the worker in Shanghai with the American workers, such that boundaries do not produce alienation and division but instead are experienced as shared horizons that pass from the night into a promised future : â€œHark! Hark! / The cocks are crowing! / Look! Look! / The Dawn is approaching!â€ (14). Revolut ion for Tsiang appears in mimetic symbols of consciousnessâ€”daytime, wakingâ€”in order to sugge st that the future can only be achieved by working consciously towards a utopian horizon, wh ich is an impossibility in Whitmanâ€™s gaze where the horizon disappears backwards into the mists of an imagined cultural memory. The intertextual presence of Whitman in Poems of the Chinese Revolution represents a cultural battle that was first waged during the May Fourth Move ment, which Tsiang continues in his collection of poems: the battle over the Chinese poetic tradition. In the poem â€œShanghaiâ€ the Pacific Ocean is addressed: â€œPacific Ocean! You must be as hamed of your thundering flood, / When the wails of the Chinese to ilers rise / To drown away your frantic noiseâ€ (13, lines 2-4). The poet insists that nature is drowning out th e message of the Chinese workers. Eastward moving, the narrator then hails th e Rocky Mountains: â€œFor your lofty peaks / Fail as a white curtain / To hide the American workers / The he aped up heads of the Chinese toilers / That are
180 high against the skyâ€ (lines 11-15). In this second stanza, nature is figured again as a foil to the solidarity of the workers. On the surface, natu re seems like an awkward, if not mixed, metaphor where the mountains and the ocean oppose the revolution. The metaphor does not represent nature as a force that actually opposes the re volution, as do the capitalists, militarists, and ignorance throughout the collection. The images of nature are dulled if not ugly; for example, Tsiang writes: â€œ[Pacific Ocean] can not longer be proud of your deep blue / dress!â€ (lines 6-7), or, â€œRocky Mountains! / You must cease to take pride in your height!â€ (lines 9-10). The language that Tsiang uses to paint his landscape r ecapitulates his rhetorical use of apostrophe to address to each geographic featur e. To call the Rocky Mountains a â€œfailed white curtainâ€ and the Pacific Ocean â€œa dressâ€ is to mark nature as di minutive. The dress and th e veil are also tropes of femininity, which if anything fl atten the backdrop for Tsiangâ€™s action. This does not seem very progressive for a revolutionary poe t, but considering the woodblock prints and sculpture of leftist artists of the 1920s and 1930s, Tsiang creates a po etic image that corresponds to proletarian visual art. Workers are represented as extremel y masculine with hard edges, erect postures, gripping phallic-shaped tools and weapons amid a yielding mi se-en-scene. In this way Tsiangâ€™s poetic aesthetic coheres with the stylistics of populist and prolet arian art where the workers are strong and the landscape, an obj ect of aristocratic and bourge ois appreciation, becomes muted and weak. Tsiangâ€™s representation of the landscape make s sense in the context of the May Fourth Movement. The first two stanzas present mountains and waterâ€”in Chinese these two words form the collocation shanshui ( ), which means landscape. Shanshui poetry is a tradition that traces its roots through tianyuan poetry to at least the Jin Dynasty (AD 265-420), becoming a conventional genre through th e work of landscape poets like Xie Lingyun (Guiyou Huang 1997,
181 111). Shanshui poetry represents a conventional and id eologically conservative genre of poetry or shi ( ). From its very beginnings shanshui poetry was written by scholar-officials and aristocrats who had the luxury to travel, and the leisure to visit mountains and observe nature (Chang 48). The genreâ€™s importance continued as it became a part of the cultural literacy of members of the ruling elite, and it appeared in religious, social, and political spheres for purposes of meditation, dcor, and examination. Shanshui poems were a cultural mapping of the imperial Chinese imaginary: mountains and water were important in the arrangement of political space (mountain ranges and bodies of water created ad ministrative and linguis tic boundaries), social space (rivers were a chief means of communicat ion and commerce especially in Southern China), and mythic space (mountains were not just the boundaries between territories, but also between heaven and earthâ€”the site s of spiritual transformations like Buddhist enlightenment or Daoist immortality; the location of mountains and rivers are stil l important for the placement of memorial spaces, like cemeteries); they have al so been important for the arrangement of poetic space. To read Tsiang as a May Fourth writer as having been influenced by the modernism of May Fourth writers like Hu Shi, Guo Moruo and others would be to read a poet who is trying to write against such traditional modes as shanshui poetry. Both as an alle goric representation of Confucian order and a Daoist cosmology of an interpenetrating nature, traditional forms were seen as obstacles to producing a modern Chinese literature. In the first two stanzas of â€œShanghai,â€ Tsiang uses the landscape to narrate an address from China across to America in the mode of Whitmanâ€™s â€œPassage to India.â€ These stanzas poetically bring China to Ameri ca without using the most stereotyped of Chinese poetic forms, the shanshui landscape poem. Thus, in fidelity to the May Fourth project, Tsiang does not allow his Poems of the Chinese Revolution to ideologically reproduce tr aditional poetics. He also
182 avoids the reproducing China as an object for cons umption as in the mode of Orientalist dcor. The shanshui aesthetic had been clichd in Chinese poe try and painting (parti cularly in the late Qing), and had become the dominating trope in chinoiseries that were manufactured in Europe and the United States. By avoiding conventi onal landscape tropes, Ts iang represents an intertextual â€œChinaâ€ in a modern American poem that is not a cultural commodity for exchange and consumption. The poem â€œShanghai,â€ like th e city which became an emblem of modern China, radically opposes traditional paradigms and it is entangled, absolutely, in the aesthetics and politics of modern America. In the third stanza of â€œShanghai,â€ Tsiangâ€™s we st to east movement within the poem has been completed at the Statue of Liberty. In this stanza, Tsiang allows the reader to realize that the journey which takes place is eastward gaze of the workers in Shanghai who are standing on a pile of heads, which we learn are the heads of executed revolutionaries. In this stanza, Tsiang asks why the Statue of Libert y is facing east, towards the At lantic: â€œWhy would you look toward the Red Flag / That is flying on the top of Leninâ€™ s tomb. Worry about that Red Flag?â€ (lines 2123). Tsiang continues to address th e Statue of Liberty, explaining th at â€œrevolutionary fireâ€ will burn across â€œthe four corners of the earthâ€ (lines 25-26). The Stat ue of Liberty becomes a mask concealing accumulated contradictions between American ideals and violent injustices in American history. Among the most obvious of these contradictions is the Chinese Exclusion Act. The Statue of Liberty, located near to Ellis Isla nd, metonymically represents a double standard of American immigration. Ironicall y, 11 years after composing the poem Tsiang would be detained on Ellis Island for violating the terms of his visa . Tsiang postulates that masking social injustice with an illusory simulacrum of nationalistic se ntiment rhetorically conceals the necessity for revolution within the â€œland of libertyâ€:
183 Oh! Statue of Liberty! Donâ€™t you care about th e land under your feet? â€œMy country, â€˜tis of thee, sweet land of Liberty, of thee I sing.â€ Liberty! Liberty! Liberty! Where is Liberty? Who has Liberty? Sacco-Vanzetti? Negroes? Workers? Do you carry your liberty To the people of Nanking and Nicaragua? Oh! We know They meet you only in the dream of their dreams (lines 27-40) Tsiangâ€™s use of apostrophe switc hes from the landscape to the Statue of Liberty, a central national emblem associated with immigration such that racist exclusions point to tensions between national policy and Amer icaâ€™s founding revolu tionary ideals. By switching his address he acknowledges the rhetorical c onnection between the landscape, the map, and cultural artifacts as national symbols. He then takes an abstract nationalistic song â€œAmeri can,â€ which performs a similar national mapping, juxtaposing it with th e execution of Sacco and Vanzetti who were executed a year prior to the pub lication of the poems. Tsiang dryly maps American â€œlibertyâ€ as an empty, coercive rhetoric. This cutting and pa sting creates a dissonance between the sugary fragment of â€œSweet Land of Liberty,â€ and the so cial realism represented in rapid, hard breaks of one word questions. The abrupt stress and int onation of the words: â€œNegroes? / Workers?â€ recapitulate the stress on race and class inequalities in America that Tsiangâ€™s Chinese laborer brings together and questions. Tsiangâ€™s depictio n of race and class domestically within America is related to his representation of the internationa l extension of American power. As in the other poems in the collection, the Chinese revolution is tr ansformed into an appeal for an international revolution, just as the poem â€œSha nghaiâ€ transforms the American spatial imaginar y into a smooth space accessed by the gaze of the worker. Furthe rmore, any such revolution must account for
184 class and race-based oppression, especia lly in the United States. Tsia ng builds an affiliation of people of color, and workers that connect Sh anghai with the United States. The connection between workers represents a coun ter line-of-flow to the imperial extra-territorial extension of American power in places like â€œN anking and Nicaraguaâ€ (line 38). Throughout Poems of the Chinese Revolution the reader is consistently oriented by the point of view of a subject of the hypocolony. Howeve r, the perspective is not stable as seen in the fifth stanza of â€œShanghaiâ€: Oh! Statue of Liberty! Why donâ€™t you turn your face And look at the easte rn Asiatic land, Where four hundred million toilers live? They are thirsty for you! They are hungry for you! They are fighting for you! They are dying for you! The aeroplane speeds Swift as lightning How soon, Oh, Liberty Will you come to us? How soon will you come to us? (lines 41-53) The laborerâ€™s address to the St atue of Liberty, â€œWhy donâ€™t you tu rn your face / And look at the eastern Asiatic landâ€ (lines 4243) creates an allegorical fram ework through which a shared revolutionary vision redeems the Statue of Li berty. Should the gaze of liberty turn towards Shanghai, the statue would see the â€œfour hundred million toilersâ€ (line 44) who are â€œthirsty for you! / They are hungry for you! / They are fighti ng for you! / They are dying for you!â€ (lines 4548). The gaze not only registers as flows of power but also of revolutionary consciousness. The symbolic attainment of consciousness is repres ented in the next line through the â€œaeroplaneâ€â€” â€œThe aeroplane speeds / Swift as lightningâ€ (lines 49-50) offering a modernist image of technologies that produce sudden transformation. This simile correlates a natural symbol for
185 enlightenment, lightning, with the modern. It is important that th e airplane is introduced because of the transformative effect it has on ways of seeing. In shanshui poetry the vantage point is always from a space where one could observe nature within a scenic panorama like a mountaintop or cliff side, and often an observe r is mimetically include d in the frame of the representations of the landscap e. The modern airplane tr ansgresses the landscape poem by removing the seer from the ideologically fram ed landscape, and providing the possibility of a transnational vision. The airplane accelerates Whitmanâ€™s passage to Indiaâ€”trains and steamships. It brings the global American democracy project that Whitman describes in Leaves of Grass into a new revolutionary dimension. As â€œShanghaiâ€ closes, the address shifts to from abstract symbols of the American national imaginary to the American workers themselves. They are implored to join the imperiled Chinese laborers in their struggl es. Though no response is made, Tsiang creates an image of revolutionary destiny looming on the horizon: Hark! Hark! The cocks are crowing! Look! Look! The dawn is approaching! (lines 100-103) As works of revolutionary historiography, the poems also function as revolutionary memory, enshrining events of the Chinese revolution in to an allegorical framework through which a coherence can be gathered between events of the Chinese revolution and the American reader. This is seen the poems â€œSacco, Vanzetti,â€ â€œMay 30th,â€ and â€œGum Shan Ding,â€ where Tsiang is able to create a network of events in China (â€œMay 30thâ€) and the United States (â€œSacco, Vanzettiâ€) as experienced by the Chines e of the hypocolony (â€œGum Shan Dingâ€). It is the international qual ity of the Chinese revolution in response to oppressive national governments that makes Tsiangâ€™s Chinese laborer not only the hero of his poems, but also the
186 agent that will conduct the oppressed present into the utopian future. If the reader were to somehow miss that point, on the back cover of Poems of the Chinese Revolution is a striking graphic political cartoon by Robert Minor titled, Workers of the World, Unite! Underneath this title is the Chinese translation that reads, << >>. Below the English and Chinese titles is a column of the proletariat ma rching signified by the star on the cap and the flag of the foremost rank of marchers . The line curves into a vanishi ng point suggesting an infinite number of marchers. In the fore ground to the right are three figur es that dominate the visual field, stretching their arms out as if to beckon th e marchers forward. Each of the three figures is shaded darker than the marchers on the left, but practic ally undifferentiated in terms of shading and body features. The shading separates them from the marchers on right, suggesting the marchers are European. Each of the figures is la beled and wields an emblematic instrument: for example, â€œChinaâ€ is written on the headband of the leftmost figure who is shouldering a rifle and bayonet; â€œIndiaâ€ is written on the headband of the figure in the center who is holding a hammer; and â€œAfricaâ€ written on the left flank of the rightmost figure who is bearing a pick-axe. In the empty space between these two sets of figures is an absurd miniature Kipling waving his finger at an insect with the words â€œThe East is the East and the West is the We st and never the Twain shall meetâ€ hanging over his Figure 4-3. Poems of the Chinese Revolution Cover Art by Robert Minor (Tsiang, Back Cover).
187 head. The insect has a word bubble arising from its head within it the wo rds â€œyou are a liar.â€ The Kipling characterâ€™s small size, and position betw een left (West) and right (East), exposes the frailty of imperialist discourse that separates the white workers. Kipling is an important figure in the image. He represents a kind of stumbling bl ock not only because he is a poet of the British Empire and he is associated with jingoistic â€œW hite Manâ€™s Burdenâ€ variety of versification in Great Britain and the United States, but also beca use at the time of the publication he was still a major living literary figure, whose earlier work had an influence on English-language poetsâ€” particularly the writers of popul ar ballads in the English spea king world. The cover denigrates Kipling, signifying that not only the content of his writing but the very style of his regulated verse is not a suitable aesthetic for the revoluti on. In this way the cover explicitly states what Tsiangâ€™s style implicitly suggests, that the conv entions of the English language popular ballad are ideologically flawed. The artist creates an unusual arrangement in this image by putting â€œChina,â€ â€œIndia,â€ and â€œAfricaâ€ in the foreground waving the white re volutionaries to march through the gap where Kipling stands and join them, suggesting that â€œC hina,â€ â€œIndia,â€ and â€œAfricaâ€ are at the vanguard of the revolution in their role as laborers, and armed resistance . The representation of â€œChina,â€ â€œIndia,â€ and â€œAfricaâ€ radically reth inks vulgar Marxist historiographies of development that say that â€œChina,â€ â€œIndia,â€ and â€œAfricaâ€ need to be developed by European industrialization before they could develop the class consciousness nece ssary to join the revol ution. The image of an emblematic China front and center with the ri fle and bayonet in a vision of international solidarity is a corollary of the title of the book: Poems of the Chinese Revolution . Tsiang creates the Chinese revolution as front and center in a global revoluti on, recreating Marxist historiography in order to clear out a space for th e events of contemporary China to be relevant
188 an audience of Americans. China, then, is not the ancient China of â€œCathay,â€ but a future possibility. The Chinese in these poems are not de picted as a curious people who live far away and practice unique customs, but as an allego rical everyman at the forefront of a world revolution. Conclusion: Revolution and the Racial Frontier While particular uses of traditional Chinese literature in modern American poetry do not always follow stereotypes of â€œthe Orient,â€ â€”monolithic, timeless, unchanging, feminine, inscrutable, passive, obscureâ€”the Chinese language itself tends to be treated in such a way. Euro-American poets whose Orientalist aesthetic derived from traditional Chinese poetry continued a racialized pairing of a passive (and often feminized) â€œEastâ€ with an active (and, thus masculine) â€œWest.â€ This was nowhere more evident when T.S. Eliot referred to Pound as the â€œinventor of Chinese poetry for our timeâ€ (Kern 2). The same East-West binary reaches into many areas of cultural production and analysis; for example, in an early study of Asian American immigrants Roger Daniels states, â€œother immi grant groups were celebrated for what they accomplished; Orientals were important for what was done to themâ€ (Wong vii). Imbricated in the notion that modern American poetry could inve nt Chinese poetry is the notion that a modern America could reshape Chinese immigrants; or more accurately, European-American immigrants shaped America, which in turn shaped Chinese immigrants. Tsiangâ€™s poetry represents China within a new horizon of modernity, by creating a historiography of Chinaâ€™s anti-imp erial struggles as an essential front in a worldwide revolution determined to defeat capitalist domination. As a result, Tsiang not only re-casts Chinaâ€™s modernity, but it also forces the reader to come to terms with what David Palumbo-Liu identifies as the â€œracial frontier.â€ This virtual frontier form ed modern America â€œat the edge of the Pacific mark[ing] the limit of Americaâ€™s ability to extend the European race (and, by implication,
189 European culture and civili zation) beyond its own geographic limitsâ€ (31, Palumbo-Liuâ€™s emphasis). These limits were manifested in th e 1882 Chinese Exclusion Acts, which were the United Statesâ€™ first use of immigration policy as a race-based system of exclusion. The passing of the acts represents another example of how r acial formation represents a salient feature of American modernity. On the one hand the Chines e Exclusion Acts reveal the racist worldview that secured America as a â€œwhit eâ€ nation, but they also cloud the fact that America was taking up what Kipling called â€œThe White Manâ€™s Burd enâ€ of empire. As Erika Lee points out: The Chinese who migrated to the United Stat es during the exclusi on era were just one part of the immense international migrati on of labor accompanying the global expansion of capitalism during the nineteenth century. The European and American presence in China set in motion important preconditions fo r large-scale migration abroad. In other words, the Chinese went to America becau se Americans went to China. It is no coincidence that the Chinese who immigrat ed to the United States during the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuryies orig inated almost exlcusively from the Pearl River Delta in Guandong province, a center of American and European trade in China. (2) As Sun Yat-sen posited, global capital had tran sformed China into a hypocolony. This situation would have tragic consequences for Chinaâ€™s na tional stability, creating conflict beginning with the Opium War that would last for over a centu ry. As a subject of the hypocolony, the Chinese laborer represents a radical potential of a new horizon for an internati onal revolutionary which would transform American political conscious ness. Tsiangâ€™s ChineseAmerican laborer, excluded from American polity due to racism, shares the bonds of the oppressed with the Chinese laborer in China, revealing a connectio n that implicates racism as an essential mainspring enabling both capitalism and imperialism. At the beginning of Poems of the Chinese Revolution , Upton Sinclairâ€™s â€œStatementâ€ iterates the need to look at Tsia ngâ€™s poems as not a poetry of aesthetic spectacle, but as a medium for a political message. Si nclair states, â€œWhat he [Tsia ng] has written is not perfect
190 poetry, but it is the perfect voice of Young Chin a, protesting against th e lot of the under-dogâ€ (4). Tsiang did in fact write for the Guom indang-sponsored, Chinese American journal, Young China , but it is unlikely that Sinc lair knew anything about that. Si nclair might not have even known that the May Fourth Movement expres sed itself through small publications like New Youth that launched an endless wave of attacks on traditional Chinese culture. For Sinclair â€œYoung Chinaâ€ corresponds directly to the American cultural nationalism of the early twentieth century. Sinclairâ€™s target has to do with the value-laden term â€œperf ection,â€ which at once valorizes the romantic vision of poetry as an ar t in which aesthetic perf ection can be realized, while at the same time Sinclair acknowledges th at such â€œperfectionâ€ comes with ideological limitations. The claim that Tsiang is â€œthe pe rfect voice of Young Chin aâ€ gives Tsiang the distinction of not representing an Orientalist ve rsion of a static China but of a dynamic China. Additionally, Sinclair po ints out in the â€œStatement,â€ as does Tsiang in his poems, that â€œYoung Chinaâ€ represents a catalyst for change in America. Sinclair states: â€œThis is a voice to which the white world, the so-called civilized world, will have to listen more and more as time passes. I do not mean to this particular young Chinese poet, but to the movement which he voicesâ€ (4). Sinclair creates an extended drama to the co llection of poems by expl aining: â€œHere is a young Chinese student whom the American authorities sought to deport and deliver to the executionerâ€™s axe at homeâ€ (4). Sinclair is referring to the in cident at Stanford University where Tsiang was arrested and threatened deportation after distribu ting communist leaflets in China (Ma). He was able to transfer to Columbia because of intell ectuals who interceded, knowing that he had fled execution in China for his involvement with left wing politics (Ma). According to Ma Shigao, in 1927: â€œ [When Nanjing, Wuhan and other cities had revolutionariesâ€™ heads hanging
191 from telephone poles, he was across the Pacifi c getting in trouble for â€˜spreading communismâ€™]â€ (Ma). While the details of this story are not told in Upton Sinclairâ€™s â€œStatement,â€ the allusion to it adds a layer of gravity to the collection, recapitul ating to the reader that there is more at stake than the poemsâ€™ aesthetics. One of the main reasons why leftist poetry ha d for a long time never received scholarly attention, in addition to the obvious postwar political constellation, is that critics assumed that it lacked artistry. In Tsiangâ€™s case, this excl usion is exacerbated by race. Though mainstream newspapers did not review his poetry when it was printed, the Washington Post describes a scene at a Greenwich Village poetry reading as follows: But even in that untrammeled atmosphere cen sorship reared what has been technically designated as its ugly head. H.T. Tsiang, youthful Chinese radical , who wrote â€œChina Red,â€ attempted to exhibit his â€œPoems of the Chinese Revolution,â€ with foreword by Upton Sinclair. Francis Lambert McCrudden, f ounder of the Raven Poetry Circle of the Village, in charge of the show, unceremoni ously removed them. He said, â€œpropaganda was bannedâ€28 Cary Nelson observes that â€œcritics for decades claimed all this poetry was both undistinguished and indistinguishable. Since neither they nor virtually anyone else in academia read it that was a safe evaluation to makeâ€ (6). Nelsonâ€™s argumen t points to the institut ionalization of â€œhighâ€ modernism, like that of Eliot a nd Pound, whereby the explicit priv ileging of texts controls the discourse on what determines good and bad. Th e sloganeering, rough diction, and ubiquitous exclamation marks in Tsiangâ€™s collection makes it an easy target for such critical censure as not standing up to the aesthetic innovations of high modernism. In the foreword to Poems of the Chinese Revolution , Tsiang acknowledges that until seven mont hs prior to the publication he had never written a poem in any language, compoundi ng the problem that English is still an â€œunfamiliarâ€ language to him (3). Tsiang also ex plains that the didactic message was more 28 See: â€œâ€˜Villageâ€™ Pegasus Gallops For Coins of Bourgeoisieâ€ The Washington Post . May 22, 1933; 2.
192 important than technical mastery of poetry: â€œI am now publishing all of them [poems] in various languages so as to let millions of readers b ecome more familiar with the Chinese revolution, which is a part of the world-revol utionâ€ (3). The poetics that Tsia ng adopts is not the cultivation of superlative aesthetic, but one that is educational, commun al, and transformative. For readers today, Tsiangâ€™s Poems of the Chinese Revolution provides insight into the complexity of transnational and local issues facing Chinese Americans during th e exclusion. More than that, Tsiangâ€™s poems in their exuberance, polemics, and urgency are a reminder of how modernism should be read as the literature of utopian hor izons, and, more frighteningly, how easily the ideals that make up such visions can be made to disappear.
193 CHAPTER 5 GARY SNYDERâ€™S RIPRAP AND COLD MOUNTAIN POEMS IN 1950S CONTAINMENT CULTURE: THE POETICS OF SHAN SHUI TIBISHI AND THE POLITICS OF EXCLUSION In this chapter I will explore the ways that Gary Snyderâ€™s poetic translations from the Chinese Hanshan shiji ( Cold Mountain Poems ) inform his original poetry, Riprap , as the beginnings of a sustaine d experimentation in which he applies the conventions and philosophy of classical Chinese shanshui (landscape) aesthetics in his English-language poems. Looking at his poetry this way, Snyderâ€™s collection Riprap and Cold Mountain Poems can be read as a unified postmodern assemblage , revealing the rhetoric al, if not political, potential of traditional Chinese aesthetics within mid-century American poetry. Interested in more than just aesthetics, Snyde r develops religious and philosophi cal ideas associated with the shanshui landscape tradition in Riprap and Cold Mountain Poems , which represent both personal and political strategies for negotiating 1950s dom estic containment culture. To this end, Snyder is also able to coordinate the characteristics of the tibishi (wall poetry) subgenre, characteristics to which the original Cold Mountain Poems cohere, with his interests as a Beat poet and a cultural critic. In this way, traditional Chinese literature serves as a tool and a model for Snyderâ€™s modern American poetr y. As a critic of domestic containment, Snyder uses figures of â€œChinesenessâ€ to create a landscape that is literally outside of the domestic sphere and to position the Beat poet as an outside r. Like a large amount of the or ientalism that appears in Beat literature, Snyderâ€™s poetics of the classical Chines e landscape represents a creative possibility for new forms of poetic enunciation in a way that enga ges a Chinese culture that had been marked as subversive and inassimilable to mainstream America. It is not coincidental that the privileging of
194 philosophical ideals of absence a nd silence, as well as the tropes of being outside that appear in Riprap and Cold Mountain Poems , together trace the literal enfo rced absence and silencing of Asian American communities during the first half of the twentieth century. Domestic Containment as Beat Recently declassified documents, and de tailed studies by scholars like Elaine May, reveal that the Cold War foreign policy strate gy of containment was equally applied to the administration of the American home front. This â€œdomestic containmentâ€ consisted of national, state, and local government policies that collap sed the term â€œdomesticâ€ to mean at once home and the nation. May describes this situation as follows: Domestic containment was bolstered by a power ful political culture that rewarded its adherents and marginalized its detractors. More than merely a metaphor for the Cold War on the home front, containment aptly describe s the way in which public policy, personal behavior, and even political valu es focused on the home. (14) Political mobilization of the Cold War and cons umer culture created a rhetoric of normative values and a â€œfulfilling lifeâ€ at home, affecting new media and advertising techniques that began to saturate and transform the practice of everyday life in the 1950s. The ideology behind American Cold War politics became a powerful tool for the expansion of economic and national security forces. Thus, a secure home, paradoxical ly, was a driving force behind the projection of US power abroad, reinforcing cont ainment strategies (May 16). The Beat movement was one of the most explosive cultural responses to domestic containment within the United States during th e 1950s. Not only do works of Beat literature break with literary conventions, but also the unconventional persona l lives of Beat writers can be understood as political resistance to the norms of 1950s containment culture. For example, when Gary Snyder was in Japan studying Zen Buddhism in 1957 he received a letter from Jack Kerouac that included a warning about what to expect upon returning to America: â€œgoddamn it
195 inside of six weeks I remember and realize th e real horror of this place with its TOO MANY COPS AND TOO MANY LAWS and general killjoy culture and general old dreary oldpeople [sic] horseshitâ€ (Charters 44). In Beat fashion, Kerouac describes the well-policed home front using generational terms to descry the repressive environment. This complaint about the heavy policing of everyday American lif e doubles the Beat rejection of the New Criticsâ€™ regime of close reading that subjected lite rature to be governed by the â€œcopsâ€ and â€œlawsâ€ within academic institutions. While Kerouacâ€™s complaint focuses specifically on the citations he received from San Francisco police officers, at this time he was also concerned about the containment of Beat cultural production. Ginsbergâ€™s Howl was to be banned for obscenity, and Kerouacâ€™s draft for On the Road appeared to be heading towards an eterna l shelf in Viking Press because the publishers were weary of obscenity charges (Charters 42). The Beat Generation almost never made it to print due to official censors hip and reluctant publishers. The Beats were not as much interested in th e political conflicts be tween, say, capitalism and communism as much as they were intere sted in resisting the politics of domestic containment. Andrew Grossman describes the di ssolved distinction betw een inside and outside as follows: The early Cold War period was a historical moment in which the Truman administrationâ€”with bipartisan support in Congress and within the body politicâ€”moved to collapse distinctions between external and internal threats because the emerging Cold War was conceptualized as a type of real war and because American national security policy reflected a strategic culture that saw th e postwar world in Manichaean terms. (6) Rejecting these terms for imagining the United States, Beat works like Howl and On the Road became anthems of breaking free from containment. Recurring representations of border crossing in these works can be seen to critique American identity as a set of well-defined boundaries that in the name of national security should not be crossed. Beat writings incorporate ideas and
196 spaces that existed in the margins of America, such as from Buddhism, gay subculture, and ghetto culture, that did not fit into the offici al image of the model consumer society. This explains one of the reasons Chinatown became an important location for the Beats. Not only was Lawrence Ferlinghettiâ€™s City Lights bookstore located on the edge of San Franciscoâ€™s Chinatown, during the 1950s Chinat owns across the United States registered in popular culture as marginal spaces where Ameri can identity was contested. More than any poet of the B eat generation, translation pr actice has informed Gary Snyderâ€™s original poetry. Also, more than any other Beat writer, Gary Snyder would become identified by his knowledge of Asian cultures and literatures. Snyderâ€™s interest in Asian culture comes at a time when the United States was at tempting to exert its influence on the dynamic shifts in power structures in Asia. During the Korean War, American propaganda replaced the Japanese with the Communist Chinese in its â€œY ellow Perilâ€ discourses (Rogin 517). Within the United States, this meant Chinese Americans in the 1950s faced the same rhetoric that resulted in the internment of Japanese Americans dur ing World War II. Throughout the 1950s Chinese Americans faced increasing surveillance from the US government with the US justice department and the INS performing several high pr ofile investigations an d setting up â€œconfession programsâ€ to catch immigration fraud and depor t supposed communist th reats. These were a continuation of the tactics used to silence H.T. Tsiang, as seen in Chapter Three (Lai 30-32). The immigration and the naturalization process for Ch inese would not be put the same footing as other nations until 1965. During the years when the Beats were writing, within mainstream America, Chinese Americans were relegated to a resident alien status . Paradoxically, though the recycled discourses of the Yellow Peril would be come a powerful rhetorical tool in propaganda for containment policies abroad in Asia as well as within Chinatowns in the United States,
197 official government policy encouraged the learni ng of Asian cultures and the establishment of cultural relationships across the Pacific for st rategic purposes (Klein 19-21). The official construction of Chinese alterity and the governme ntâ€™s need of Orientalism coherently worked together to reinforce a normative â€œAmericanâ€ identi ty that the Beats would subvert by continuing in the modernist tradition of using Orientalism not reinforce normative cultural boundaries, but to transform them. During the early Cold War 1950s, the American home and domestic ity was represented both as threatened by as well as the protective bu lwark against the infiltration of communists and other subversives. It is this aspect of 1950s Am erican normative bourgeois culture that made the Bohemian self-fashioning of the Beats a radi cal opposition to mainstream American culture, which was augmented by the way that they i nhabited spaces once affiliated with Americaâ€™s radical past, such as Greenwich Village, migr ant communities, and inner-city ghettos. Their polemical flights from domestic American life, not only meant inhabiti ng â€œotherâ€ spaces within the United States, but also traveling and living ou tside of the United States in places like Peru, Mexico, Japan, Tangiers, India, France, and Engl and for extend periods of time. Americans with transnational identities (like Americans with trans-gendered identities) represented an unacceptable perversion to mid-century national id eologies like McCarthyism. For example, one of the contradictions of Mc Carthyism is the term â€œun-American.â€ Un-American does not necessarily mean â€œanti-American,â€ which would assume some kind of active opposition against America; â€œun-American,â€ means â€œotherâ€ than Americanâ€”a negative condition which requires positivistic definitions of essential, homogenous American characteristics with no room for the foreign, the subversive, the alien, the queer, and the other. â€œAmericaâ€ becomes de-territorialized, because â€œun-Americanâ€ might exist within the sa me geographic boundaries as the â€œAmerican.â€ It
198 is in this obfuscation of inside and outside where the logic of containment posited peopleâ€™s domestic lives as being as tac tically important Cold War battl egrounds as foreign territories. Ironically, the policy of containment require d an unprecedented expansion of US power into the world and an engagement with foreign countries. The US presence in East Asia had a particular impact on the curriculum of Amer ican universities. Du ring the mid-1950s, after receiving his bachelorâ€™s degree in anthropology, Gary Snyder studi ed in the Oriental languages departments in Reed College and at Berkeley. As Edward Said shows in his foundational work, Orientalism , one of the reasons for â€œOrientalâ€ language s and literature departments is to produce knowledge of the â€œOrientâ€ to meet the demands of managing colonies in Asia. This operation necessarily contains the â€œother â€ as a product of the colonizerâ€™s knowledge (Said 3). During the Cold War, American power in Asia was different than European coloniza tion in the Middle East that Said describes, such that the clear binaries of colonizer/ colonized were obscured by Cold War rhetoricâ€”American policy makers were care ful to frame the expansion of US power in terms of security, and shared gl obal interests and not â€œempireâ€ (K lein 62). Despite the difference in terminology, the importance of â€œOrientalâ€ Language studie s and the development of Area Studies in the 1950s grew from the need to ma nage sustained strategic military and economic posts in Asia. The resources put towards the de velopment of East Asian studies in the United States created the opportunity for cross-cultural contact, as Area Studies became the American institutional base for Cold War Orientalism. In th is regard, Snyderâ€™s transl ations can be said to be much more like the â€œrealâ€ work of profe ssional Orientalism, as opposed to Ezra Poundâ€™s cryptic translation method used in Cathay . Riprap and Cold Mountain Poems include poems from Snyderâ€™s graduate studies in an â€œOriental Languagesâ€ program. The work also includes his life as a student of Zen Buddhism in
199 Japan. In terms of the Cold War, Japan became a place that had a large US military and economic presence, and became an ideological mode l for Americaâ€™s ability to use its occupation to develop a democratic, and capitalist Asian nation (Harootanian and Sakai 594). Moreover, it was and remains a strategic garr ison for containment of communist Asian countries like North Korea and Mainland China. Furthermore, Snyder returned from Japan working on a cargo shipâ€” an emblem of global circuitry. In the Riprap poem â€œT-2 Tanker Bluesâ€ Snyder describes the cargo as â€œmilitary oil.â€ Because of the ways th at Gary Snyder worked, traveled, and studied within the sphere of Am erican power his work from this period can be said to participate in the field of Orientalism as a discourse of power, even though it can be seen as a critique of containment culture. From the institutional academic Orientalism, to the imperial contact zone, to the figure of the ship that connects the two, Gary Snyderâ€™s composition of Riprap and Cold Mountain Poems charts the transpacific extens ion of American power during 1950s. The larger contours of Americaâ€™s presence in the Pacific that can be traced in Riprap and Cold Mountain Poems present a stage for the autobiograp hical moments when Snyder was most closely associated with the Beat writers. The publishing history of the poems reflects the high water mark of the San Francisco Renaissance, even though Snyder spent most of his time outside of San Francisco. Also within the publishing hi story, we can see Snyderâ€™s poetics as a kind of cross-pollination between his life outside of the academy as he became a poet, and his commitment to the study of Asian languages and culture. The translations, Cold Mountain Poems , and his original poems in Riprap were published around the same time. Cold Mountain Poems first appeared in 1958 in the Evergreen Review , a year before the collection Riprap was published in 1959 by a small press in Kyoto (Snyde r 1990, 66). Ten years la ter, in 1969, North Point Press published them in a single volume, Riprap and Cold Mountain Poems (Snyder 1990,
200 title page verso). So while in the current form of Riprap and Cold Mountain Poems the two sections are placed front to bac k, these two projects were occurring side by side, ten years before they were juxtaposed in pr int. In its current form, Riprap and Cold Mountain Poems reflects Snyderâ€™s interest in Chinese poetry, particularly in the Chan -inflected landscape poetry, as a methodology for poetic composition and, la ter, social activism (Hunt 8). The image of the Tang dynasty (618-907) poet Hanshan ( ),29 or Cold Mountain, first appeared to Snyder in 1953. Snyder attended an exhibit of Japanese art and was riveted by a print of a â€œrobe-tattered wind-swept l ong-haired laughing man holding a sc roll, standing on a cliff in the mountainsâ€ (Chung 89). Snyderâ€™s visual imaginat ion began to inform the persona that would appear not only in his translations of Cold M ountain, but also in Snyderâ€™s own work. That is to say Snyderâ€™s identification with Cold Mountain be gan well before Snyder was introduced to the poems. The imaginative identification would play a major role in Snyderâ€™ s translation theory. Snyder says, â€œthe translator who wishes to enter the creative territory [of the text] must make an intellectual and imaginative leap into the mind and world of the poet, and no dictionary will make this easierâ€ (Snyder 2000, 137). Snyderâ€™s Tang dynasty subject matter al so shared, if not informed, Snyderâ€™s vision of translation. The Sinologist, An thony Hunt explains, â€œpainting, like literature, had the power to reve al the mind of the creator and thus function as a medium for intellectual discourseâ€ (Hartman 476). Snyder follows what ma ny Tang dynasty artists claim to be a religious and ethical aspect of the artsâ€”t he experience of viewing a poetic or painted landscape allows the viewer to participate with, a nd in the process interpenetrate, the mind of the 29 Technically, â€œCold Mountainâ€ the person is usually referred to as â€œHanshanziâ€ by scholars in Chinese while the poems and the landscape he describes is referred to as â€œCold Mountainâ€ â€œ Hanshan â€; in the collection of poems, the Hanshan Shi Ji , the poetry plays on the interpenetration of the landscape and the po et. Snyder does not distinguish between Hanshanzi and Hanshan in his translations.
201 creator. The Japanese print that Snyder encoun tered opened an imaginary world inhabited by a Chinese poetâ€”one who may never have existed, a nd who was re-discovere d within a Japanese aesthetic and religious context from which the print was created, which Snyder first saw in 1953. The transnational circulation of the cultural subject matter, like the transnational circulation of the material print, allows for Snyderâ€™s site of translation to exist in an abstract â€œcreative territory.â€ This requires a concep tion of art in the work carries special properties, preserving the intellectual spirit of the creator at the moment of the workâ€™s creation, and can be channeled through the attuned imagination of the translator. Traditional Chinese landscapes were believed to have this property, which made them object s of contemplation. The complex relationship among an artistâ€™s spiritual/intellectua l state, the art object that is produced, and the translation, at least in Snyderâ€™s formula, depends upon a remova l of the art object from its original context while at the same time supposing th at the art object reta ins the intellectual a nd spiritual matter of the artist. In this way the art object exists as an ahistorical vessel of an intellectual and spiritual encounter that is at once contex t dependant and universal. The task of translation depends upon interpenetration and not linguistic recoding. Furthermore, this pro cess would suggest that artistic production and translation are antithetical to containment culture. Because the Chinese Hanshan Shi Ji ( Collected Poems of Cold Mountain ) is already a literary work where this kind of transcultural sharing has occurred (as in the case of the Japanese incorporation of Cold Mountain into the Zen tradition), Snyder conveniently has, at once, a subject and a model for his translation practice. Snyder says that the reason he could make the imaginative leap into the world of Cold Mountain is because â€œthe imagery of cold, height , isolation, mountainsâ€”is still available to our contemporariesâ€ (Snyder 2000, 138). This expl anation helps to identify Snyderâ€™s
202 historiographical method for translating Cold Mo untain, the poet, as well as the choice for envisioning Cold Mountainâ€™s landsca pe poetry. It also suggests a search for a subject matter that is â€œoutsideâ€ of normative American domestic li fe through the poetry of a cultural outsider. The poet, removed from the cultural la ndscape of postwar America, rea ppears in a territo ry outside of the home, in a wilderness where the â€œfulfilling lifeâ€ of consumer culture cannot be pursued. Gone, too, is the America that Kerouac describes as â€œgeneral killjoy culture and general old dreary oldpeople horseshit.â€ This territory, however, is a reterritorialization of American landscape poetry into an imaginary Yellow M ountain region of Tang Dynasty China, and a deterritorialization of Cold Mount ain. Snyder participates in a practice of traditional Chinese literature through integrating â€œpas t textual tradition with present visual imageâ€ (Hartman 471). As I will discuss later, the expa nsion of the American landscape to include Cold Mountain (the mountain, the poetry, and the man) within the United States through translation lite rally brings the Chinese landscape into modern American poe try. Snyderâ€™s poetic form and content, coupled with the vocabulary he uses to explain his poeti c and translation processes, show that he is applying theories of landscape that would take on religious significance in terms of Chan (Zen) Buddhism: The earliest Chinese texts on lands cape painting, by Ku Kâ€™ai-chih [ Gu Kaizhi ] and Tsungping [ Cong Ping ] (375-443), describe the use of landscape images as a substitute for the experience of the actual landscape itself. Meditation, either in fr ont of or about a landscape painting aided the â€œrealizationâ€ of the union between the practitionerâ€™s mind and the perceived landscape. (Hartman 477) What Snyder hopes to achieve through translation is a linguistic practice of meditation in the mode that was developed as early dynastic Ch inese landscape. To follow this logic into the critical dimensions of 1950s literature, Snyderâ€™s poetics, based on the landscape as meditation practice, transforms what is c onsidered a cultural product into a cultural practice. The difference
203 between the two is important with in the critical framework established by the New Critics, which depended on close readings of literary texts as self-contained art objectsâ€”cultural products. Poetry as enunciation, a cultural pr actice, is a social act that fo rces critical interpretation to consider meanings off of the page. Cold Mountain Tibishi Cold Mountain Poems has a transnational literary inher itance delineating several forms of textual practice. The historical Cold Mountain(s) supposedly wrot e his (their) poems on rocks, trees, and bamboo in the tibishi subgenre ( â€œwall poetryâ€). In the Tang dynasty Tibishi was often written on rocks or pavilions such that the poem inscribed in a public space marked the poetâ€™s internal transformation within a specific ge ographic frame of reference, inviting the reader to mimetically share the experien ce. In this process, the social participation within a specific geography created a rhetorical landscape, wher e the landscape itself also served as the palimpsest. The poet, poem, and poetic subject matter would interconnect through the traces of absence inscribed in the material presence (Zeitl in 76). Gary Snyderâ€™s translations work within this rubric, as he states: I have spent much time in high mountains, and feel at home in the land of Han Shan in a way I never could with the Su mmer-palaces or Battlefields of much other Chinese poetry. So part of the effort of tran slation here has been an almost physical recall of the Ponderosa and Whitbark pine, granite cliffs, frozen summer lake. (Leed 179) Just as the physical connection between landscape and poet is mediated in the tibishi lyric, Snyderâ€™s translation practice demands a full physical encounter with the landscape. The translatorâ€™s mind interpenetrates the mind of the au thor through the practice of everyday life. In the process, Cold Mountain (the landscape) is re-placed within Snyderâ€™s Sierras and Cascades. As a collection of tibishi , the Hanshan Shi Ji has proven difficult to da te and authenticate. Subsequent scholarship across diffe rent cultural traditions over the course of twelve hundred
204 years has created altern ative narratives for how the collection came into being. The literary history of the collection of poems reveals a resistance to cr itical containment. Most scholars agree that the inscribed poems we re later recorded and compiled by the monks of Tai Shan in China, during the Tang Dynasty. This collection was then transcribed and brought to Japan by a monk in the Song Dynasty (960-1279) (Borgen 579). Linguistic evid ence points to the possibility that during the Song Dynasty imitations had been incorporated in the Hanshan Shi Ji (Chung 86). However, by the ninth century, some promin ent poets began writing imitations of poems from the Hanshan Shi Ji , suggesting that the collection of poems exerted some influence during the Tang dynasty. One scholar has suggested that the Cold Mount ain legends are derived from Zhi Yan, a monk who wrote one hundred ye ars prior to the Tang dynasty (Chung 86). Cold Mountain was neither a Buddhist monk, nor a Daoist priest. In his poetry he mocks the institutional bureaucracy of both religions, which most likely account s for his absence in both the canons of Buddhist and Daoist poetry throughout the history of dynastic China. It is not surprising that his positio n as an outsider would endear him to the Beats and the counterculture movement (Chung 87). The poems in the Hanshan Shi Ji are written in the Tang vernacular, which had led an appreciation for the raw and sp ontaneous lyrical style, which some scholars take to be written in the mode of Tang Dynasty vernacular folk songs. Later generations of poets and scholars, particularly after the 1919 May F ourth movement when Chinese scholars like Hu Shi found the Hanshan Shi Ji an important resource for experi menting with modern vernacular poetry. However, it was for this reason that the Hanshan Shi Ji was kept out of Chinese poetry canons, which explains why the volume of poetry ha s, from time to time, almost completely dropped out of literary consciousness on main land China (Chung 87). In Japan during the Song Dynasty the Hanshan Shi Ji thrived in Zen Buddhist poetic a nd painting traditions, which made
205 orthodox the iconoclastic traditions of the Chinese Chan sect, such as the gong an ( koan ). The collection and dispersion of texts reveals as much as the literary content about cultural values. Cold Mountain Poems have had more than a thousa nd year tradition of breaking cultural containment, gaining circulation acros s different cultural, linguistic, and geographic boundaries. Rediscovered and transl ated, they have indicated th e values of the translator. In the â€œAfterwordâ€ to the 1969 edition of Riprap and Cold Mountain Snyder sets his poems and translations in dialogue with each other. He states, â€œEzra Pound introduced me to Chinese poetrywhen it came to writing out of my own experience, most of modernism didnâ€™t fit, except for the steer toward Chinese and Japaneseâ€ (Snyd er 1990, 65). This afterword not only brings the translations of Cold Mountain and autobiographic Riprap into a dialogue with each other, but also brings the poems into dialogue with Ezra Pound, modernism (the modernism that â€œfitâ€), and Chinese poetry. Snyder shows how the two part s of the book are a culm ination of studying Chinese, traveling abroad, and working in the Pa cific Northwest as a â€œtrail crew laborerâ€ (66). He also briefly describes publishing Riprap ; in Japan, Cid Corman and Lawrence Ferlinghetti helped to publish 500 copies of the book (66). After two printings, Riprap sold out, and an American publisher was willing to print it together with the Cold Mountain Poems . The production sites reveal an important link between the pub lishing history and the policy of containment. After the Second World War, Japan, stripped of its military, became an outpost for US presence, which in turn opened up opportu nities for Americans to live, work, and study there. During this postwar period, an expatriate American poetry circle would thrive in Kyoto, involving Corman, Ferlinghetti and Snyder, a nd later including Kenneth Rexroth and Alan Chong Lau (who would in the 1970s play a role in the Asian American poetry scene) (Chang 118). Interestingly, Snyder in a 1992 interview states that his orig inal destination was not Japan,
206 but China to study Buddhism; however, the politi cal situation made that desire impossible (Snyder 1999, 327). He also mentions in this intervie w that he had plans to travel to Japan three years before his eventual departure, but th e passport office would not grant him a passport because of his supposed â€œpolitical connectionsâ€ ( 377). The bureaucratic polic ing of his â€œpoliticsâ€ at home and his time abroad in Japan during a time of massive US presence explicitly demonstrate the extent to which the containmen t policy is entangled wi th Snyderâ€™s early work. In the afterwords to Riprap and Cold Mountain Poems , Snyder describes the translations that his professor, Chen Shih-hsiang, performed on Lu Chiâ€™s Wen Fu : â€œWhen making an axe handle, the pattern is not far offâ€â€”a poetics that Pound also tr anslates and applies (Snyder 1990, 66). Snyder would later write a poem, â€œAx Handlesâ€ recapitulat ing what he states in the afterwords. It serves as a pe dagogical model for Snyderâ€™s Buddhi st notion of interpenetrationâ€” and it is a rich and suggestive allusion that further connects S nyderâ€™s translations with his creative work. Each set of poems in Riprap and Cold Mountain Poems provides a mimetic function of translation â€œaxe handles,â€ where the â€œusable modernismâ€ of Riprap informs the translations of Cold Mountain Poems , and Cold Mountain Poems helps to â€œformâ€ Snyderâ€™s original poetry. Snyderâ€™s professo r, Chen, likewise connects Easter n and Western literature: â€œhe quoted French poetry from memory and wrote virtually any Chin ese poem of the Tang or Song canon from memory on the blackboardâ€ (66). This ad hoc positioning of Pound and Chen in terms of Snyderâ€™s own writing is a re-investment of the value of tradition and experience as essential technics of poetry in addition to placing his wo rk among those border-crossing, polyglot poets and scholars engaged in translingual poetics. More importantly, by discussing Professor Chen in this account of publishing of Riprap in Japan and Cold Mountain Poems in the United States, Snyder not only claims Chinese â€œe xpertise,â€ but also situates himself as one
207 whose translations are authenti c and whose own original poetry is genuinely hybrid and thereby â€œnew.â€ In Gary Snyderâ€™s Riprap and Cold Mountain Poems the original poetry and the translations can be read in terms of interpenetrationâ€”a philosophical concept embedded in Snyderâ€™s ecological and Buddhist writing. Ayako Takahash i, writing about Snyder, points out: â€œThis favorite analogy of â€˜Avatamsakaâ€™ that Snyder often used illustra tes the major theme of Hua-yen Buddhismâ€”the mutually identical and interpenetrati ng relationships of all phenomena which interweave into an inseparable, interdependent , infinityâ€ (Takahashi 327). Like his poetry, Snyderâ€™s eco-criticism originates from Buddhist c oncepts of interpenetration as a challenge to the reigning official and popular constructions of American culture. Buddhism registers politically within the dynamic of containment culture because it una mbiguously states that reality cannot be constructed upon systems of duality (Norton 42). The philosophical fountainhead of Snyderâ€™s poetics and translation can be found in his understanding of the Buddhist ideal of the void and absence, which correspond to the Daoist principle of WuWei or â€œNo Action.â€ Like interpenetration, these ideas were made available by the works of the famous Japanese Zen proselytizer, D. T. Suzuki, which Snyder had read while working in the mountains in the early 1950s (Suitor 20). These religious principles that began to circulate in mid-century religious discourse would re-inscribe Asian culture within 19th century stereotypes of inscrutability, passiveness, and relativity. It is in these qualities that we find Snyder re-deploying 19th century stereotypes of Chineseness to create both Cold Mountain and his own poetic voice. As Rey Chow suggests: The point, in other words, is not simply to re pudiate stereotypes and pretend that we can get rid of them as liberals tend to do, but also to recognize in th e act of stereotyping (such as
208 Derrida's fantasy about Chinese inscription) a fundamental signifying or representational process with real theoretical and political consequences. (Chow 71) The stereotypes of Chinese and, more generally, Asian culture that appear in Snyderâ€™s poetry construct a usable grammar of et hnic difference in a way that is consistent with Beat writing. Snyder mobilizes â€œChinesenessâ€ w ithin a religious framework to create a coherent persona and later to theorize a sustainable eco-critical projec t. And as he does this he attempts to erase ethnicity as the determining factor for cultural practice. More simply, Snyderâ€™s attempt to â€œpassâ€ as a Tang dynasty monk is a protest against 1950s American culture. So while Snyder separates culture from ethnicity (and he does this not entirely through imagination but through his own academic and cultural authority as a graduate student of â€œOriental Studiesâ€ and a practicing Buddhist monk in Japan) we find repetitions of et hnic stereotypes (albeit positive ones) that even today are represented in American popular culture as essential pr operties of a â€œspiritualâ€ if not â€œmysteriousâ€ Asia. Traditional Chinese Literature and Snyderâ€™s Innovations Snyderâ€™s poems in Riprap like Cold Mountain Poems specifically represent a challenge to the values of American literary culture espoused in the New Criticism ideal of an isolated text. The poems can be read as a lyrical sequence na rrating events and descri bing people and places important to Snyderâ€™s life, ranging from his work in the mountains of the Pacific Northwest, his life in the engine room of an o il tanker on the Pacific, and his studies and religious devotion in Japan. The first poem in Riprap , â€œMid-August at Sourdough Mountain Lookoutâ€ introduces the reader to the start of this journey that concludes with the title poem, â€œRiprapâ€: Down valley a smoke haze Three days heat, afte r five days rain Pitch glows on the fir-cones Across rocks and meadows Swarms of new flies
209 I cannot remember things I once read A few friends, but th ey are in cities. Drinking cold snow-water from a tin cup Looking down for miles Through high still air The poem suggests Ezra Poundâ€™s â€œRock Drillâ€ Cantos where the fierce parataxis harkens back to Poundâ€™s early imagist Chinese transl ations that app ear in the 1914 des imagistes anthology.30 Snyderâ€™s â€œIâ€ intrudes, unifying the imagist cobb ling of phrases into a first person gaze. The persona, like the omniscient observer that domin ates the imagistic lyric becomes in the 1950s a confessional â€œI,â€ which is at once a gesture of verisimilitude of a poetic biography and a conscious effort at self-fashioni ng. Snyderâ€™s innovation to this aesth etic is to use a convention in Chinese landscape poetry where the viewer that frames the landscape is the poet, and the poetic composition is inscribed within the landscape. â€œMid-Augustâ€ begins with five lines of images that develop through cinematic-like cutting along the poetâ€™s privileged field of vision. The first stanza delivers exterior images, while the second stanza frames the poetâ€™s mind as it en counters nature. The â€œIâ€ has been separated from two disconnected thoughts by th e Lethe water of in the tin cup. Water pervades the poem. It penetrates both stanzas, providing the metaphoric h aze of an auraâ€”an alchemical mist that fades the landscape into the canvass. The disconnected thoughts result from a transformation that takes place through the narratorâ€™s direct experien ce of drinking water while on the mountain top, commanding a sublime view of the valley. Judy Nort on argues that the elliptical syntax and the breaks that occur betwee n the disconnected memories and th e narratorâ€™s sudden attention to the 30 In a Paris Review interview Gary Snyder states: â€œWhat I found in Pound were three or four dozen lines in the Cantos that are stunningâ€”unlike anything else in English poetryâ€”which touched me deeply and Iâ€™m still indebtedâ€ (Snyder 1999, 324).
210 immediate surroundings after drinki ng mountain water that Snyder us es to represent Zen ideals of â€œformlessness,â€ such that the ly ric can present absenceâ€”the void (62). The diction of the poem suggests not onl y the interrupted thoughts, but also foreignnessâ€”the sentence formed by lines 6 and 7 is not written idiomatica lly. This subtle quirk in the grammar flavors Snyderâ€™s English with fo reignness while avoiding any signifier to place anything in the poem as specifically foreign. Unle ss one is familiar with the conventions that Snyder is using, â€œMid-Augustâ€ reads like a literal translation of a foreign language text. That is to say that Snyder is mimicking the translat ion practice of Chinese poetry espoused by Ezra Poundâ€”an aesthetic of compactness. The Sinolog ist Stephen Owen describes this kind of translation as follows: â€œTranslation which seeks to reproduce the apparent characteristics of the Chinese poetic dialect will collapse that range into a pidgin English as uniformly impersonal as it is unnaturalâ€ (127). Snyder incorporates this fa miliar defamiliarizing process used in modernist translation to pattern his syntax. His imagistic fi rst stanza tattoos it to a tradition of translation which attempts to represent Chinese poetry as co mpactness, as well as the modernist ekphrasis of traditional Chinese landscape paintings, which by the 1950s had become a mainstay of American and European museum-art culture (Qian 22). The visual tropes of Chinese landscape pain ting (mountains, haze) and the broken diction combine to de-center the fixity of English lite rary and linguistic elements as purely English. They create an uncanny doubling of Chinese aes thetics that appears not only in Snyderâ€™s Cold Mountain Poems but of traditional Chinese landscape tropes that had become familiar in America through museums and chinoiserie ornamentation. The almost invisible trace of Chinese figural tropes in the poem marks a reworking of imagist technique s, stripping the poetry to its â€œdirect treatment of the â€˜thingâ€™ whether subjective or objectiveâ€ (Pound 1935, 3). Pound states in
211 â€œA Few Donâ€™tsâ€ that the poetic image should â€œpresent an intellectual and emotional complex,â€ which â€œgives that sense of sudden liberation; th at sense of freedom from time limits and space limitsâ€ (Pound 1999, 847). The â€œcomplexâ€ of whic h Pound speaks sounds similar to Buddhist and Daoist principles that inform Tang dyna sty aesthetics. The subjective response to a landscape within Snyderâ€™s poem mimetically simula tes an idealized readerâ€™s response to the poetic landscapeâ€”sudden transformati on. The landscape crafted from the shanshui tradition with its corresponding Buddhist and Daoist motifs, through wh ich Snyder restructures the American West as a cultural frontier within a â€œnon-Westernâ€ metaphysical semiotics. The politics of such aesthetical trea tment in the context of domestic containment would indict Snyder as engaging in un-American activities by convert ing the American West into a traditional Chinese landscape. The poem, â€œMid-August at Sourdough Mountain Lookout,â€ takes its form and dramatic structure from the classical Chinese landscape poetry shanshui shi (literally â€œmountainâ€ â€œwaterâ€ â€œpoemâ€). Not only does the poem contai n dominant motifs, but the placement of the content follows conventions of the genre. The fi rst stanza lists external data; this empirical information then has some bearing on the thoug hts and emotions of the subject. The Tang dynasty poet, Zhang Zhi, in â€œMap le Bridge Night Mooring,â€ ( Feng Qiao Ye Bo) provides a famous example for the kind of imitation that Snyder is performing in his performance of classical Chinese poetry:
212 Moon falls, crow caws, frost fills the sky River Maple, fishermanâ€™s fire, anxious sleep. Outside Suzhouâ€™s walls, Cold Mountain temple Sounds of the midnight bell reach the travelerâ€™s boat.31 The poet notices six separate events in the firs t two lines of the poem. In the second two lines, these items disappear as the poet seems to forget , or is transfixed by a sudden awareness of a single eventâ€”the distant bell ring ing. â€œMid-Augustâ€ follows this pa ttern, in addition to applying rhetorical devices of the Chin ese poem, like parallel construc tions (â€œDown Valley/ a Smoke hazeâ€ or â€œthree days heat / after five days ra in). This device provides both a linguistic and thematic cadence. Linguisticall y, the cadence is kept through sy llabic meter, patterns of modifier/modified, and word stress. Thematically, there is a rhythmic rev ealing of the landscape, which renders itself from large (the valley) to sm all (swarms of flies), fr om banal observations to a sublime sense of being transfixed, and from exterior to interior similar to Zhang Jiâ€™s transformation that is completed in the respons e to an external sound. The pre-existing physical environment affects the subject, providing a me ditative space that comes from a state of reflection, such that there is a transition from not knowing to knowing, which is paradoxically a process of unknowing or forgetting (Owen 167). The motif of friends parting al so connects this poem with the shanshui tradition as often the poets wrote of their travels to take up remote posts as officials, or their state of exile (or retirement) into landscapes far away from their homes. For example, in Zhang Jiâ€™s poem the scene places the subject aboard a travelerâ€™s boat, indicating sepa ration. In these landscape poems, parting provides a dramatic emotion further in terpenetrating the poetâ€™s biographic presence with the pathos of the landscape, and it also gives the poem its performative value. Just as the poems 31 My translation.
213 can be read aloud at the sites of inscription, poems of separation can be read aloud to mourn the parting of friends. As such, poetry enters into so cial practice and readers can identify themselves within the poetry. Gary Snyder, in his afterword, proudly claims that â€œ[ Riprap and Cold Mountain Poems ] is now read by firelight in work camps in the back countryâ€ in a way that is strangely similar to Poundâ€™s prid e that his tran slations of Cathay were read in the trenches during World War I (Snyder 1999, 67). The workers can identify with the poet and poetry. Autobiographical details are impor tant, not only for Snyderâ€™s pract ice of the Chinese poem, but in order to create an imaginative identification with the poet who is framing a shared situation with the spectator of the poetâ€™s vision. The shanshui poem attains a performative value from the reader and the poet sharing an aesthetic, spiritual, and intellectual reaction to a landscape. Shanshui conventions apply not only to poetry but al so dictate aesthetic styles for each of the san jue , or three perfections: pain ting, calligraphy, and poetry. For example, in the Tang dynasty, one of Chinaâ€™s most celebrated poets, Du Fu, began writing ti hua , or inscription poems that represent scenes taken from landscap e paintings (Hartman 475). Zhaoming Qian demonstrates the role that traditional Chinese landscape paintings in the British Museum played in Ezra Poundâ€™s translations because they provid ed the visual details necessary to fill in poetic materials missing in Fenollosaâ€™s notebooks (Qia n 56). Gary Snyderâ€™s â€œaxe handles,â€ Chinese traditional arts and high modernism, would merge in the construction of landscape poetry such that in â€œMid-August Sourdough Mountain Lookout â€ the â€œIâ€ of the poem drinks the mountain water from the tin-cup. Not only does the poet re port a direct experience in which words are replaced by a moment of silence, as thoughts in memories are replaced by the keen awareness of the present, but also the â€œmountai n waterâ€ becomes a part of the â€œI.â€ Gary Snyder imbibes the
214 shanshui (which, again, literally tran slates to â€œmountain waterâ€) tr adition, leavi ng the English landscape poem immersed in Chinese shanshui aesthetics. Thematically, â€œMid-Augustâ€ poem begins Riprap with the overtone of B uddhist interpenetration that Snyder draws from his understanding of the Chinese landscape . As a leitmotif, it harmonizes the Cold Mountain Poems with the poems in Riprap . On a larger scale it allows Snyder to reterritorialize imaginatively an American landscape within the conventions of traditional Chinese landscapes. Using conventions from the shanshui genre, Snyder creates an inte rtextual network of references between Cold Mountain Poems and Riprap . Snyderâ€™s translations share landscapes embedded in Snyderâ€™s pseudo-autobiographical poe ms of travel, friends, work, and meditation. Throughout the volume Snyder employs consistent tone, diction, and point of view. This is especially apparent when comparing the first poem in Riprap , â€œMid-August at Sourdough Mountain Lookout,â€ with the first poem in Cold Mountain Poems32: â€˜ 1 â€™ Gary Snyderâ€™s â€ is actually poem #3 in the Chinese anthology The path to Han-shanâ€™s place house is laughable, delightful A path, but no sign trace of cart or horse . Possible allusion to the Han Dynasty poet Tao Qian (365427) â€œI built my hut beside a traveled road, ye t hear no noise of passing cars and horsesâ€ Converging gorgesâ€”hard to trace to keep track of their twists Jumbled cliffsâ€”unbelievably rugged nobody knows how many layers there are. A thousand grasses bend with dew the dew sheds its tears on thousands of kinds of plants, A hill of pines hum sighs and moans in the wind. And now Iâ€™ve the subject is ambiguous in the original lost the shortcut home lost the track of the path, Body asking shadow your form must ask your shadow which way to go, how do you keep up this is another possible allusion to Tao Qian, in this case, his â€œSubstance, Shadow, Spiritâ€? In the Chinese poem there is no explicit â€œI.â€ Inst ead the pronoun can be assumed; the â€œIâ€ or the â€œyouâ€ has to be inserted in order to main tain grammaticality in English. Gary Snyder consistently uses the â€œIâ€ in the Chinese tr anslations just as he uses the â€œIâ€ in Riprap . As Cold 32 The commentary inserted here in the smaller font comes from Robert G. Henricksâ€™ annotated volume of Han Shan translations, and the bold text is Snyderâ€™ s translation. See: Robert F. Henricks, The Poetry of Han-shan: A Complete, Annotated Translation of Cold Mountain (Albany State University of New York Press, 1990), 34.
215 Mountain has â€œidentified himself with the mountain, instead of with his family, his clan, or his society,â€ Gary Snyder has identified himself with the man who has given up his identity for the identity of the mountain (Chung 95). Cold Mountai n can be seen as â€œBeatâ€-ified, and Gary Snyderâ€™s poetic subjectivit y, Sino-fied. Both â€œMid-August Sourdough Mountain Lookoutâ€ and poem â€ have conventional shanshui landscape tropes, chiefly the mountain and their various rocky and vegetative assemblies along with water in its myriad manifestations. The perspective of the viewer is privilegedâ€”above, looking dow n, out and across the landscape. The visual frame conforms to discourses of Buddhist enlig htenment and epiphany where the poetâ€™s physical position serves allegorically for a raised leve l of consciousness where illusions are stripped away. The subject experiences a re alization of a loss of boundary be tween self and â€œthose objects we take to be outside ourselvesâ€ (Takahashi 318 ). In a figurative sense, Cold Mountainâ€™s path signifies spiritual libera tion, especially as Cold Mountain incor porates the Daoist belief that it is in the mountains where mortals can become tran sformed into immortals (Chung 89). If we are to read the poems in Riprap as a road that is patched together to form a mounta in trail as Snyder declares in the final poem of the collection, â€œR iprapâ€ (â€œLay down these words / Before your mind like rocks.), then the destination of this way of riprap would be the Cold Mountain Poems . The path of the Beat poet leads to the immortal of the mountains. In the first line of poem â€ appears the character dao which creates a set of figural associations. Dao can mean path, and it is the character us ed in the term â€œDaoism.â€ As such there is a path, but no â€œtraceâ€ of the pathâ€”Cold Mount ain constructs in the landscape the Daoist concept of â€œa way-less wayâ€ (poem â€ line 2). Th is connects the poem to a tradition of Daoist philosophy, allowing the author an ironic â€œhow laughable the Dao of Cold Mountainâ€ (line 1) giving a sense of the poetâ€™s humility, and iconoclast ic stance towards the Daoist tracts that
216 discourse on what should, ideall y, be left nameless. The laughter is also a characteristic of Chan (Zen) poetry, where non-verbal communication, or â€œwordlessness,â€ is thought to communicate direct experience, much in the way that the lands cape is suppose to rela y a direct experience. This sense of wordlessness is something that Snyder tries to communi cate through his poems. The latent iconoclasm hidden in the term â€œpathsâ€ in poem â€ can be seen as a trace of Beat iconoclasm and a politics which rejected Leni nist-styled communism as well as American consumerism (Snyder 1999, 326). Snyder admits that the attitude did not advance any useful political action, but he still believed that the Beats provided â€œthe quality of dissent,â€ which helped to change the pol itical scene (Snyder 1999, 326). Gary Snyder uses Cold Mountain in order to directly respond to American domestic culture; for example, he writes: â€œGo tell families w ith silverware and cars / â€˜Whatâ€™s the use of all that noise and money?â€™â€ (Poem ,â€ lines 7-8) . Here, middle class consumer goods are inserted into Tang Dynasty material culture so that they ca n be refuted as having no value. In a letter to Herb Fackler, Snyder acknowledge s that he â€œsubstitutedâ€ Tang dynasty objects, bells and ceremonial pots, in the source material with Am erican cultural signifiers of â€œaffluenceâ€ (Leed 177). The discussion of materialism is an important aspect of both Beat literature and American containment policies. May explains that domestic consumerism figured as an essential ingredient in establishing Americaâ€™s ethos as a world pow er with a model society (as in the famous Nixon/Krustev â€œKitchen Debateâ€): â€œH e [Nixon] proclaimed that th e â€˜modelâ€™ home, adorned with a wide array of consumer goods, represented the essence of American freedomâ€ (May 16). Snyder translates this model home laden with ma terial things as bondage . Both Cold Mountain and Snyder suggest that freedom from â€œnoise and moneyâ€ can only be found outside of the home. The overt anti-consumerism expressed th rough the translations brings us into a non-
217 domestic world where the home is absent, and replaced with a nomadic life among the mountains. Again this is a recap itulation of the world through wh ich the autobiographic â€œIâ€ of Riprap consistently challenges norma tive domesticity. Even in the poems like â€œPraise for Sick Women,â€ and â€œFor a Far-Out Friend,â€ Snyderâ€™s c onstructions of femininity come through tropes of nature and goddess figures and not through representations of the domestic sphere. However, it is the man in nature, who is the determining figure in Snyderâ€™s Cold Mountain Poems â€”the man of nature uncontained. And as Robert Kern points out, in this way Snyder fixes Cold Mountain to the American transcendentalis t tradition. Indeed, Thoreau crops up in Riprap in the poem â€œA Stone Garden.â€ Snyderâ€™s translation pract ice thematically incor porates Cold Mountain into the American landscapes of â€œCivil Disobedience.â€ This is done through an editorial fashioning of Cold Mountain. Of the thr ee hundred eleven of the anthologized Cold Mountain Poems Snyder chooses twenty-four, and twenty-t wo of which are landscape poems. This reduction has an effect of whittling out an image of Cold Mountainâ€™s oeuvre that is not necessarily reflected in the Chinese volume of poems. For example, through Gary Snyderâ€™s translations the poems that discuss the Cold M ountainâ€™s wife and previous life as a scholar are cut. Thus, the poems reflect both a mythic man of nature as well as an ideal of the New England transcendentalist reading the language of nature (Seele). In writing himself into the American transcendentalist tradi tion, Snyder preserves a status quo in his representations of masculinity and femininity as cast within archetypal molds. In doing so he privileges a kind of transcendentalist machismo with in his creation of Cold Mountai n, at the expens e of the actual complicated domesticity that is found within th e Chinese Cold Mountain anthology. In this way, the poems of Riprap , especially as they explore the my thic dimensions of confessional or autobiographical sketches, serve as a guide for reading the Cold Mountain translations. They are
218 not simply linguistic correspondences from cla ssical Chinese into English, but as a shaping influence on, and a destina tion to Snyderâ€™s Beat poetry. â€œMid-August at Sourdough Mountain Lookoutâ€ from Riprap and poem â€œ1â€ from Cold Mountain Poems suggest that there is a possibility of re-constructing poetic affiliation and identity (e.g., becoming Cold Mountain) through themes of memory and forgetting. In both poems memory is linked with reading. In poem â€œ1â€ the trail has literally overgrown, and has been forgotten. The trail has changed, and can no longer lead to the same place. Moreover, there is no place to which the trail can lead. This means that the teleological destination of the poet has been radically altered. Reading the path is a mi metic device in which reading is a process of going through the wilderness. In discussing Snyde râ€™s later poetry, Takahashi states, â€œSnyder is deeply involved with the wilderness, until there is no border between self and wilderness.â€(Snyder 1999, 320). In â€œSourdough M ountain Lookoutâ€ the forgotten paths are words in books that the poetic voice cannot remember, and while the poem is words on the page, the poem functions as a kind of Riprap or cobbled trail into the poetâ€™s memory. The discursive process of disclosure in Snyderâ€™s autobiographi cal sketches tends to break the teleological movement of the line. Syntactically speaking, Snyder often cuts his sentences either through enjambment or through incomplete syntax. Correspondingly, the memories in Riprap have a tendency to result in moments of unknowi ng, unthinking, and forgetting. Remembering and forgetting, body and shadow, trails and wilderness, rocks and wate râ€”these are not opposites, but retain relational values. Thus, Cold Mountainâ€™ s poem â€ suggests a comp lexity, and a contact with the other, which containment disc ourses deny. As Judith Zeitlin notes, â€œ[ Tibishi ] were traditionally imagined to be the kind of writing most prone to disappearâ€ (Zeitlin 107). Later collections and translations of tibishi represent a self-conscious attempt to illuminate a
219 disappearing trace. In dynastic China this was do ne for purposes of historiography; in terms of the Cold War home front, the poems celebrate le aving containment, and Snyderâ€™s complex of original poems and translation is a line of flight departi ng from the well-mapped grids of suburban and urban America. For S nyder getting lost is not a Dant ean tragedy that leads to an inferno, but a possible site of emancipation; for example poem â€ ends with the couplet: â€œFor ten years I havenâ€™t gone back home / Iâ€™ve even fo rgotten the way by which I cameâ€ (lines 7-8). During the time of the senate committee on un-Am erican activities, forgetting and getting lost were a threat to the entire project of containment. An assumption in Chinese classical poetry is th at the reader is expect ed to imagine the poet and the persona to be one and th e same. The mimesis in Chinese poetics, which is a poetics of autobiography, impels the reader to questi on boundary between the original poems and translation. And it is this method that Snyderâ€™s poet ry adds a nuance to the confessional poetry of the 1950s. Throughout Riprap the poet describes autobiographical enc ounters with old men â€œbucking hay,â€ life on a tanker, and cobbling together the riprap trail from which the name of the collection of poems is derived. The poetâ€™s life be comes the context and organizing principals for poetic assemblages in Riprap , tracing his movement from the m ountains of the American West (â€œMid-August at Sourdough Mountain Lookoutâ€) to Japan (â€œHigashi Hongwanjiâ€) and back again (â€œT-2 Tanker Bluesâ€). Likewise, Cold M ountainâ€™s poems on rocks and trees bear witness to a material presence of the poet among the wo rld of thingsâ€”the poem like the poet enter into and transfigure the landscape. A nd here Snyder departs from the transcendentalist tradition. At stake in Snyderâ€™s verse is not a romantic transcendental sublime that comes from merely reading nature. He stages an immanent nature within a poetic representation of a landscape into which the poet disappears, leaving behind only the trace of the poem.
220 Snyder was not the only mid-century poet invo lved with this proj ect; for example, the British poet, Charles Tomlinson, describe s the immanence of nature as follows: The poem tries to celebrate the fact that the help we gain from alien phenomenaâ€”even from water, in which (after all) we canâ€™t live â€”the help is towards relation, towards grasp, towards awareness of all that wh ich we are not, yet of relationshi p with it. It is a help that teaches us not to try merely to reduce objec ts to our own image, but to respect their otherness and yet find our way into c ontact with that otherness. (325) Tomlinsonâ€™s quote as an instructive reading for Snyderâ€™s Riprap and Cold Mountain Poems : the other of the poem is not â€œChinese,â€ but a subjectiv ity that interpenetrates the objective world of mountains and water. Again, interpenetration functions philosophically, and more important, aesthetically; water can create the mood of a landscape, such as the pensive and quiet atmosphere constructed through muted, gray mists. In Riprap and Cold Mountain Poems Snyderâ€™s poetic voice a ssumes the role of a medium through which he can communicate the voice of the other, Cold Mountain, and he s hows that he has the power to do so by representing his autobiographical poems as possessed by the ae sthetic, religious, and philosophical elements of Cold Mountain Poems . This creates a possible reading whereby Snyderâ€™s poetry becomes an act of possession, which is not surprising cons idering his anthropological and poetic interests in shamanism in Na tive American culture. At once th e voice is the Beat traveler as well as the immortal of the mountain. One important element of the stories that came out of the Cold Mountain lore in China is the legendary friendship between Cold Mountain and another outlandish recluse named Shi De Figure 5-1. â€œHan Shan and Shi Deâ€
221 ( ). Snyder describes this friendship in his free translation of the preface to a version of the Hanshan Shi Ji written by L Qiuyin ( ) (Snyder uses the Wade-Giles Romanization, Lu Chiuyin),33 the governor of the prefecture where th e Cold Mountain poems were found (Snyder 1990, 35). Like most collections of tibishi , the poems are often fragments that fill in a larger narrative that is explained by the compiler. As such prefaces were essential features for establishing the ethos of the compiler, and producing th e narrative of how poems written on walls, rocks, temples, or even leaves, were produced, found, then publishe d. By translating the preface and including it in his Cold Mountain Poems , Snyder participates in the story of Cold Mountain. Thus, Snyder uses the lyrical fragments left behind on Tiantai Mountain as bricks to build a new literary structure. In the Lu Chuiyin preface the governor descri bes his encounters with the famous pair who would work in the kitchen of the temple. He explains they have a wild look with unkempt hair, and â€œlook like poor fellows and act like madmenâ€ (36). Snyder molds Lu Chuiyinâ€™s description of Cold Mountain: â€œHe looked like a tramp. His body and face were old and beatâ€ (35). However, despite a crude outward appear ance, Cold Mountain is attributed esoteric abilities, like â€œunifying categor ies and interpenetrating thingsâ€ (35). This wild man, who would communicate Buddhist scripture through his laughter, served as a model for the Chan School that professed a non-liturgical procession of dharm a (36). While Snyder stays fairly true to the Lu Chiuyin preface, it is obvious that there is a transformation of Cold Mountain into an image of the Beats. 33 Lu Chiuyin also might be a fabricat ed figure, and the preface might have been written a hundred years after the anthology was first compiled. See: Ling Chung, â€œThe Recep tion of Cold Mountainâ€™s Poetry in the Far East and the United States,â€ China and the West (Hong Kong: Chinese UP, 1980), 86.
222 Snyderâ€™s inclusion of the preface gives the tran slations an additional drama, and sketches a presence and absence of the character in Chan lore, Shide, within the volume of translations; for example, in poem â€ Cold Mountainâ€™s mythic friend is absent, and his present companion is a â€œshadowâ€ (line 8). In â€œMid-August at Sour dough Mountain Lookout,â€ the poet depicts a haze in place of his absent friends who â€œare in citiesâ€ (line 7). The literary representation of parting friends is not only one of the striking features of Tang Dynasty landscape poetry, but also a hallmark of Beat writing. The close friendships among Beats like Snyder, Ginsberg, and Kerouac have become a part of American counterculture mythology, and their frie ndships are mythic in each otherâ€™s work. Kerouac appears in the Riprap poem, â€œMigration of Birds,â€ reading the Buddhist Diamond Sutra . The Beatsâ€™ literary production, pa rticularly in the 1950s, was greatly influenced by each otherâ€™s aesthetic values, a nd experiences with religion, sex, and drugs were circulated amongst each other. This sense of co mmunity in the context of containment culture can be seen as a subversion of the suburba n sub-division styled â€œcommunity.â€ Snyderâ€™s participation in the Beat literary coterie repr esents another layer of being â€œoutsideâ€ normative heterosexual domestic life of the nuclear family. The Beat circle is just one of the alternatives to the â€œfulfilling lifeâ€ of the home front that Snyderâ€™s work suggests; other possibilities that Snyder offers include the life of a trail worker, lu mberjack, sailor, monk, and, of course, Tang dynasty Chinese hermit. These occupations redefine notions of gendered domestic labor, and what constitutes home and family life. Idealizing this kind of labor cons tructs a masculinist domesticity (Snyder follows Luâ€™s preface whereby Han Shan and Shi De are cooksâ€”an uncanny repetition of popular representa tions of Chinese labor in th e United States as cooks and laundrymen). In one legend of Han Shan, Han Shan suspects that Shi De slept with his wife. After Shi De realizes Han Shanâ€™s suspicion he depa rts; after this a distrau ght Han Shan leaves his
223 wife to find Shi De and apologize for not trusting his friend and disciple. I bring this up because it represents the quandary of Snyderâ€™s masculinit y as a response to domestic containment. It certainly â€œqueersâ€ the relation between men, in the way that Walt Whitman depicts masculine labor as a way of coding homosexua l desire. However, at the same time it represents nostalgia for a primitive, active masculinity that 1950s cont ainment culture (especia lly corporate culture) was seen as putting in check.34 In this sense it positions female passivity as not only complementary, but archetypal, represented as se emingly cloistered away from communities of males, reinscribing the dominant feature of dome stic containment, which is the place of women in the home. Snyderâ€™s commentary adds to the Lu Chiuyin preface, which gives him an opportunity to further write Cold Mountain into the Beat generation by saying: â€œ They [Cold Mountain and Shide] became Immortals and you sometimes run ont o them today in the skidrows, orchards, hobo jungles, and logging camps of America â€â€”all settings that can be found in works like On the Road and Dharma Bums (35). These notes to the preface cr eate a Cold Mountain that is an ideal figure for the Beat refutation of mainstre am American culture. More importantly, the notes to the preface suggest an immane nce of the Beat gene ration within world cu lture where the true values of the Beats always already have existe d. The vicissitudes of frie ndship and loneliness of separation formed the endearing drama and elegiac atmosphere within Beat literature long before the 1950s. In her study of late Ming early-Qing (fif teenth-seventeenth centuries) dynasty tibishi , Judith Zeitlin points out: â€œThere is always the po ssibility that the narrat ives of discovery that frames a tibishi will overshadow the content of the insc ription unearthed. To rephrase this idea, sometimes what matters is not the thing found but the process (or multiple processes) of loss and 34 For example, see Man in a Gray Flannel Suit
224 recoveryâ€ (Zeitlin 98). Snyderâ€™s translation of and commentary on the preface to his translation Cold Mountain Poems allow him to construct a historiograp hy in which Cold Mountain serves as a cultural progenitor of Beat literature. According to an unpublished forward, Snyder acknowledges that scholarship has questioned the au thenticity of the Lu Chiuyin preface, as well as the problematic authorship and dating of the poems. However, in the published volume he chooses to stick with his roughhewn, terse, Beat-i fied version of the Lu Chiuyin preface. Snyder suggests that instead of a forged identity, Cold M ountain has a shared identity that is coordinated with needs and intere sts of the Beats. By participating in the te xtual hermeneutics of the an thology, Snyderâ€™s translation practice allows him to interpenetrate traditiona l Chinese literature and mid-century American poetry. As such, Snyderâ€™s concept of interpenet ration becomes manifest through intertextuality. This is evident not only in Snyderâ€™s work, but in the work of other Beat writers as well. Jack Kerouac visited Snyder at Berkeley when Snyder was translating the Cold Mountain Poems and includes this experience in his Dharma Bums , a book that Kerouac dedicates to Han Shan . The personal histories in Dharma Bums are fictional accounts of Ker ouac and Snyder living together for a couple of months, around the time when th ey both performed at the Six Gallery poetry reading where Ginsberg famously recited â€œHowl.â€ Dharma Bums represents not only the beginning, but also the breaking up of the Beat ge neration. As such, it created a nostalgia for a moment that was not â€œlong agoâ€ but present in the way that the Beat Generation has been continually recycled, as well as through Beat fads in popular cultu re, which Jameson describes as â€œthe incompatibility of a postm oderist â€˜nostalgiaâ€™ art language with genuine historicity.â€ (Jameson 19). Indeed, the preface of the Cold Mountain Poems bespeaks a nostalgia for a Beat aesthetic. Because the aestheti c and sites of American cultural production sought out by the
225 Beats reside in floating communities like â€œ skidrows, orchards, hobo jungles, and logging camps ,â€ Beat literature is laden with nostalgia. Ho wever, it is a nostalgia for a literature that came from encounters between Beats and people from these locations not from literature by migrant workers themselves. Like the collectors of tibishi , Beat writing registers a presence that bears witness to loss. In 1955 Snyder left for Japan never to see Kerouac again. Cold Mountain: Postmodern Exclusions In Kerouacâ€™s quasi-autobiographical novel 1957 novel Dharma Bums , the author inserts himself as the character â€œRay Smith,â€ and Gary Snyder as the characte r â€œJaphy Ryder.â€ In one scene these two characters disc uss methods for translating Cold Mountain Poems . At the end of their conversation, Ryder reads his translation of a â€œCold Mountainâ€ poem . Jacob Reed carefully shows how the poem appears in the novel almost ex actly the same as Snyderâ€™s drafts that were later published in the Evergreen Review (Leed 1984, 191). The poem inte rtextually aligns Cold Mountain, the Chinese mountain/poet who has become a figure of apocryphal tales, with Gary Snyderâ€”both become characters in fictional stories. The transl ation of the poem connects the historical poems appearing in the Evergreen Review with a poem in a fictional text. The doubling of biographical materials with fic tion culminates in the passage of Dharma Bums when the Ray character sees the imag e of Cold Mountain: I called Han Shan in the mountains: there was no answer. I called Han Shan in the morning fog: silence, it was saidAnd suddenl y it seemed I saw that unimaginable little CHINESE BUM standing there, in the fog, w ith the expressionless humor on his seamed face. It wasnâ€™t the real-life Japhy of rucks acks and Buddhism studies and mad parties at Corte Madera, it was the realer-thanlife Japhy of my dreams. (Chung 91) It is the â€œrealer-than-lifeâ€ aspe ct of the poems that seems to br ing the image of Cold Mountain in Dharma Bums back to the image of the print of Cold Mountain that had captured Snyderâ€™s imagination years before the poems were translate d. Perhaps this is why in the North Point Press edition of Cold Mountain Poems uses that Japanese print of Co ld Mountain facing the first page
226 where Snyder translates Lu Chiuyi nâ€™s preface. The â€œrealer-than-lif eâ€ Japhy is none other than the Tang dynasty Cold Mountain as he is manifest ed in Snyderâ€™s translation practice. The hallucination of the figure coming out of the fog ge stures toward the stories of the Chinese artist who disappears into his landscape pa inting. However, Kerouac reverses the myth such that out of the mist the Chinese artist suddenly appears as a manifestation of th e hyper-realâ€”the simulation of something that has never rea lly existed, just like Snyderâ€™s reconstruction of Cold Mountain through the unwitting Buddhist and Da oist practices of tramps, migrant workers, hobos, and loggers. These are hyper-real re ligious practices by people whos e utter ignorance of Buddhist and Daoist discipline transform them into realer-than-life Chan sages. Snyderâ€™s and, correspondingly, Kerouacâ€™s Cold Mountain as an example of the hyperreal brings this discussion back to the Cold War domestic culture of containment, and the construction of Chinese-ness within the United States. The geopolitics of the early Cold War created shared anxieties that would be manife sted in many different areas of 1950s American cultural production. For example, The Invasion of the Body Snatchers has been shown to reveal not only fears of â€œcommunist infi ltration, atomic warfare, and hyper-conformity,â€ but also the â€œpotential disruptions of the gender, racial, and sexual status quo.â€(Mann 49). The sudden appearance of the â€œCHINESE BUMâ€ in Kerouacâ€™ s hallucination traces the disappearance of immigrant Chinese culture from America, and the sudden reappear ance of the Chinese-American as having legal rights as citizens af ter three quarters of a century of exclusion laws that denied or restricted citizenship, immigration, ownership of property, inter-racial marriage, and legal due process. In the 1950s the United States govern ment was closely watching the activities of Chinese Americans, and had nulli fied the citizenship and deported Chinese-Americans for fear of possible subversive un-Ameri can activities (Yeh 400). Chines e-American community leaders
227 in San Francisco had even carefully staged even ts in order to present an image of Chinese Americans as culturally woven into the fabric of American society. Like the aliens in The Invasion of the Body Snatchers , Communist China, especially after its intervention that led to the stalemate in the Korean War, appeared in the Am erican media as a sinister menace that recalled Yellow Peril discourses of a previous generati on. Through a questioned loyalty and subsequent model minority discourses, Chinese Americans, as with other Asian American groups, continued to be marked as â€œun-American,â€ and major As ian American authors who began writing in the 1950s tended to publish ethnographic accounts of the â€œChineseâ€ experience in America of Chinese Americansâ€”the accounts of resident a liens. Through ethnic profiling and policing, the Chinese American community remained, in politi cal terms, as a possible subversive community; thus, through containment the United States gov ernment maintained the enforcement of what David Palumbo-Liu calls the American â€œracial frontierâ€ (Palumbo-Liu 2). Conclusion: Innovations and Exclusions in the Cold War The erasure of Chinese culture from the Am erican national imaginary that continued through the 1950s, despite token changes in immigr ation laws, is an important factor for the place of Chinese literature within the poetry of the United States. This is especially true within a poetry that attempts to make an intervention into the aesthetics and politics of representation. In Poundâ€™s translations of tr aditional Chinese poetry in Cathay the personae expe rience some form of loss due to exclusion or exile which is re flected in the landscape. However, Snyderâ€™s translation of Cold Mountain creates a pres ence which comes through a participation (or interpenetration) with the landscape. The presence of Cold Mountain is a nomadic presence, and it is fraught with the anxiety of sudden absence. Just as the personae that were mobilized in an effort to construct Poundâ€™s poetic practice, Snyde râ€™s Cold Mountain informs, even on a technical level, his experimental poetic practice. The legal and political disc ourses of exclusionary
228 policies, which have framed Chinese Americans as resident aliens, create an uncanny parallel between the alienation of Chinese Americans and avant-garde textual strategies like defamiliarization. In the same vei n, intertextual applications of traditional Chinese literature in modern American poetry could not have ha d a radical potential for either aesthetic experimentation or political cr itique without the Chinese Excl usion Acts, because these acts created Chinese as both marginal and foreign w ithin America. As a result, the political and aesthetic topoi , which function on the level of metaphor for Anglo-American poets have become a sources of tension and ambivalence for Chin ese-American poets who use their poetry to negotiate their place in an American liter ary tradition after the exclusion acts. I do not argue that Snyder sees his work as having any direct rela tion to the political concerns of Asian American communities, nor do I suggest that Snyder had any racist notions that Chinese should be excluded; in fact, the opp osite it trueâ€”he has been a consistent critic of mainstream Anglo-American culture, and its tenden cies toward empire and wasteful destruction of the environment. However, Riprap and Cold Mountain Poems correlate the Beats with Chinese as social outsiders to normative 1950s domestic containment culture. The privileging of an idiosyncratic Tang dynasty text as a repr esentative document of both Buddhism and Chinese culture perpetuates Orientalist no tions of China as existing outsid e of history. In getting outside of containment, getting outside of the domestic sphere, getting outside of capitalist marketing and consumer culture, Snyder re-inscribes Chines e culture as outside of the American national imaginary of the 1950s. This gives a collection of Chinese poems a radica l potential to challenge the kinds of political narrativ es of the United States and its burgeoning suburban commercial culture during 1950s. As Amy Kaplan points out in Cultures of United States Imperialism , â€œinternational relations recipr ocally shape a dominant imperial culture at home, and how
229 imperial relations are enacted and contested with in the nationâ€ (14). As we have seen, Gary Snyderâ€™s early poetic career was shaped by inte rnational policies of th e United States, ranging from his Chinese language study at Reed College a nd Berkeley to his travels to Japan. However, Snyderâ€™s literary works do not contest â€œimper ial relationsâ€ as much as they contest the legitimacy of American domestic culture. For this reason it is important to read Riprap and Cold Mountain Poems as a cultural product of United Stat es power abroad, and the corresponding domestic containment at home during the Cold War. More than that, like the circulation of chinoiseries that acquired an important place in Amer ican culture due to its value as foreign exotica, Snyderâ€™s textual strategi es for characterizing Cold Mountai n as a part of the Beat on the margins of society is a tr ace of the marginalization of Chinese within America. In addition to Snyder, there are other lo cations where Cold Mountain traces the marginalization of Chinese culture in American literature. â€œ ,â€ Han Shan (Cold Mountain) had been a literary allusion on the American continent long before becoming a Beat icon by anonymous poet detained in the Angel Island immigration detention barracks. Sometime between 1910 and 1940 the anonymous poet inscribed a tibishi on the wooden wall revealing a landscape where birds dart into the mist sleeping over â€œCold Mountainâ€ [ ] (Lai, et al. 129, poem â€œ64,â€ line 3). In this poem the poet describes the landscape surrounding the barracks in the first four lines, and in the second four lines describes th e sorrow and anger at having been detained for half a year, only to be sent home. The reference to â€œ â€ did not receive any annotations in Him Mark Laiâ€™s anthology of Angel Island poetry, Island , even though Lai has carefully documented many of th e classical allusions found on the walls. The reason for this is that the phrase â€œcold mountainâ€ has become a c lich in poetic landscape rhetoric, and used by
230 several different poets, Du Fu being one. But we can say that the absence of any kind of hermeneutics and the absence of Cold Mountai n, who wrote about di sappearing into the landscape of Cold Mountain, bear a common them e of presence and absence. However, the authorâ€™s anxiety of absence is related directly to the laws, wh ich marked the American racial frontier, while Cold Mountainâ€™s absence is re lated to Daoist influe nce on Tang dynasty poetics that privileges speech only as an a ttempt to represent silence (Yip 29). The recovered anonymous poet in Laiâ€™s antholo gy is not a symbolic play of absence and presence within a philosophic and religious discou rse, but the terror that was the erasure of the presence of Chinese Culture in America that cam e with the construct of a â€œManifest Destinyâ€ and a protectionist immigration policy. This te rror was the response to nothing short of ethnic cleansing, because it took as a point of departur e the presence of the physical Chinese body as a contaminant of the American social body. The pro cess of containment and extermination of this threat included the massive and rapid developm ent of institutions that policed Americaâ€™s racialized western border that was given legal form through the American Chinese Exclusion Act of 1882, reducing the Chinese American popul ation of 132,000 in 1880 to 61,639 in 1920 (Hom 12). By the 1950s, the Chinese Exclusion Act policies were changed in order to align the policies of the Cold War with its rationale of American inclusiveness and exceptionalism. However, the Chinese American population conti nued to be carefully monitored, and with the precedent of the Japanese internment, the possibil ities of containing the Chinese American were enacted by the Title II of the McCarran Internal Security Act (Emergency Detention Act) in 1950, â€œallowing the internment of Communists during a national em ergencyâ€ (Yeh 399). Out of this context, Gary Snyderâ€™s Cold Mountain emerges as a rugged individual, who exists outside of
231 not only domestic containment, but also independen t of â€œthe racial frontie r,â€ and the historical forces of exclusion. The textual presence of Chin ese culture occurs as the physical presence of the Chinese body was subject to ca reful scrutiny, and exclusion. While the kinds of gestures that Snyder performs in Riprap and Cold Mountain Poems are not for the purposes of race pol itics, they are given their cohe rence in their relationship to orientalism and exclusion. That being said, the works of Beat writers in the 1950s helped to popularize the counter-culture movement in the 1960s that would politically engage the war in Vietnam, and provide support for radical race pol itics of Asian Americans. It was because of radical race politics and the Civil Rights Movement that made a project like the anthologizing of the Angel Island poetry possible. Conversely, these movements that occur after the Beat movement allow us to rethink the representationa l strategies that give their poetry an added illocutionary force. By challenging normalized and coercive categories of American identity during the 1950s, Snyder turns to an intertextual use of Chinese literature, which represents a postmodern construction of hyper-real Chinese cu lture within the United States. Critiquing Snyderâ€™s simulation should not insp ire a hunt for authentic â€œChines eâ€ literary production within the United States, so much as an understanding how the representational strategies of Asian culture within Snyderâ€™s Riprap and Cold Mountain Poems could be used as an innovative poetics and a critique of 1950s mainstream American cultu re. More importantly, such a critique allows us to understand the obstinate power that the Pacific racial frontie r retains in the production of an American national imaginary.
232 CHAPTER 6 CONCLUSION One of the common themes binding the chapters of this study is the relationship between exclusion and innovation, such that Chinese literature allows the writers to tran sgress real and imagined limits in modern American poetry. Fo r example the Angel Island poems not only have memorialized the tribulations of the immigrants who were detained by the Chinese Exclusion Acts, but also have transformed Angel Island into a monument of their own literary production. The site and situation in which the poems were produced became not only the content of the poetry but also have transformed the meaning of the space where they were written. As they have become a part of anthologies of twentie th century American poetry, the poems push the linguistic boundaries of American literature to include writing that was originally not English. The materiality and placement of the poems a nd relevant biographies of the authors were mobilized and given coherence by the Chinese Exclusion Acts. Thus, they encapsulate an ideology of race and culture that went into c onstructions and discourses of American legal identity throughout much of the twentieth century. As the excavat ed poems create what appears to be a historical record of voices that can be co nsidered as witnesses to history, they are at the heart of their conventions persona poems, cons tructed in several cases by â€œpaper sonsâ€ with forged identities. The Angel Island poems, the n, are important modern poems that comment on the discursive and performative di mension of a national identity. While the Angel Island poems provide the most direct link to the Chinese Exclusion Acts in this study, as I have shown, Ezra Pound creates one of the most notable uses of experimental translation to produce Cathay using traditional Chinese poetry to represent figurative exclusions. In this work Pound introduces a recurrent theme of exclusion (exile, abandonment, and separation), coupled with a use of personae, as a way of presenting Vorticis t poetics that call into
233 question stable subjective identities. These aspects of Cathay , through the Chinese subject matter, can be thought of as refl ecting the imminence of the Chinese Exclusion Acts in American literature as much as they can be argued as e xpressing the loss and alienation as found in World War I poetry. Exclusions as subject matter in po ems ranging from â€œThe Exileâ€™s Letterâ€ to â€œThe Seafarerâ€ bring a self-consciousness to the collec tion as translations in which the modern English versions constitute a remembering of an absent origin, mirroring the linguistic impossibility of accessing the original within the transl ated copy. This trace of absence in Cathay certainly adds to Poundâ€™s haunting lyricism. The translations as vers libre lyrical fragment s of broken meter and plain phrasing would transf orm translations of Chinese poetry for years to come, representing one of the hallmarks of American poetry after Pound and his circle (HD, William Carlos Williams, Amy Lowell) began actively putting forth a poetics of the â€œdirect treatment of the thing.â€ Pound attempted to construct traditiona l Chinese poetry as a medium for the modern. And it caught on. H.T. Tsiangâ€™s work, like the Angel Island poe ms, did not receive much attention during the time when it was first written. However, retr ospectively we can see that the poems represent political interventions into Amer ican poetry. This can be seen th rough the content that attempts to figure the modern Chinese worker as an embl em of postnational futurity, urging Americans to catch up and catch on to an emerging internati onal proletarian revoluti on. Likewise, his poems capture the way that leftist Chinese May Fourth poets used Walt Whitma nâ€™s style of poetry to voice a revolutionary poetics. Ts iangâ€™s poetry parallels the â€œhi ghâ€ modernist use of Chinese poetry as a cultural motive force to transform and express a new and thus modern American poetry, yet Tsiangâ€™s Chinese intertexts are not trad itional, but modern. In Tsiangâ€™s revolutionary program, poetry works to raise re volutionary consciousness. As su ch, it is one of the only early
234 twentieth century works publishe d in English to use modern Chinese poetics (May Fourth poetry) with modern Chinese subject ma tter. Audenâ€™s China sonnet sequence in Journey to a War is one of the few other examples, and it, like Pound and Snyderâ€™s poetry, creates a China in which a European-centered poetic voice experi ences fragmentation and alienation of being absolutely out of place. China and the experience of being out of place are combined in Snyderâ€™s Riprap and Cold Mountain Poems . Snyder, however, embraces this aspect of appropriating Chinese literature, because it allows him to represent the wilderness and the radical alterity of things like trees and rocks. Snyderâ€™s poems use such represen tations as a critique of being â€œin placeâ€ in 1950s Cold War America. China as â€œout of placeâ€ can even be read as a symptom of the Cold War. In the 1950s Snyder could not travel to Mainland China, and even if he could he would not have been able to study Buddhism as he did in Ja pan. The China of his poetry is an absolutely de-territorialized space, but one available for Be at refashioning such that it exists imaginatively as a countercultural, ecological, and spiritual realization. This vision of China occurs as the Chinese Exclusion Acts had been repealed, and an even more stri ngent quota of 105 replaced it. The Chinatowns in Beat writing reflects this use of the extreme margin of American identity as a central space for imagining and reclaiming an Am erica unsullied by consumerism, materialism, and conformity at a time when Chinese could only begin to legally naturalize but could not migrate. The pattern that emerges in this study refl ects a racial design of immigration law that informed and reflected the legal and cultural iden tity in the United States. While all of the poets have contributed to the transnational dimensi on of American literature by using poetry as a vehicle for an intertextual travel of Chinese so urce texts, the works of Angel Island poets and
235 H.T. Tsiang might allow us to reconsider the meaning of Pound and Snyderâ€™s poetry in terms of the Chinese Exclusion Acts. The alienation and defamiliarization in the latter is figural and virtual while in the former it is literal and actua l. It is in these pairings that the story of exclusions and innovations has a bearing on la te-twentieth century and contemporary Asian American poets. The goal of this study is not to simply identify the ways that Chinese literature has functioned as a signification of exclusion; it is also to show that the Chinese Exclusion Acts have racially inflected the figural meanings of China in American literature, and that this has had a continuing effect on American poetry. Joseph ine Nock-Hee Park describes the situation as follows, â€œAsian American poets have a singular p light: they write within the constraints of an American poetry indelibly marked by Orient alismâ€ (123). She continues by stating, â€œThe influence of Poundâ€™s Orientalist turn simply canâ€™t be overstated; poetry workshops today adhere to the dictates of Poundâ€™s Imagist manifest o â€˜A Few Donâ€™ts,â€™ paring down rhetoric and sharpening the poetic line in order to show us sudden collisions of intellect and emotionâ€ (129). Park treats Orientalism as a self-evident pr oblem that causes a vexed relationship between contemporary Asian American poets and the inherita nce of literary modernism. As I show in the previous chapters, Orientalism was attractive to twentieth century experi mental poets because it provided metaphors of distance and foreignness betw een American and Asian cultures that allow for an articulation of radical difference, whether it be Poundâ€™s attempt to differentiate his elegies with the predominant Victorian ly ric of his early poetic career or Snyderâ€™s attempt to separate his poetic values from the 1950s consumer-driven do mestic containment. Though this distance was productive to poets like Pound and Snyder it was something that was policed and enforced through domestic immigration policy and fore ign economic and military policy. The actual violence through the institution of biopolitical cont rols that reduced and marginalized people of
236 Asian heritage in the United Stat es appears represented in the poetry of the Angel Island poets, and the work of the H.T. Tsiang. In this way Or ientalism operates as a signifier of Chinese, which shares key features of the exclusion of other Asian nationalities in the United States. Several Asian American women poets in the late-twentieth century would deal with the conflicting traditions of Orientalis m, and marginalizati on of Asian American poets within the American literary canon. As I mention in the introduction, the main body chapters of the study do not cove r the work of female poets. This exclusion reflects both racial and gendered exclusions originating fr om the Chinese Exclusion Acts and to the exclusive field of academic Sinology (a field from which Pound and Snyder draw authority as poets and explicat ors of culture) during the first half of the twentieth century. With the end of the token quota system and with the normalization of Asian immigration and naturalization in the 1960s Asian Ameri cans had more access to property, education, and self-representation in literary and popular cu lture than during the first two-thirds of the twentieth century. From the sixties thr ough to the eighties, a cultural nationalist movement led by writers like Frank Chin and spawned by the civil rights movement first began to formulate an Asian American lite rature as representing the unique cultural formations of Asian American experience, part of which was celebrating the works of Asian Americans who had resisted the marg inalization due to the Chinese Exclusion Acts. As Elaine Kim notes, â€œAsian immigr ant communities were predominantly male until recent yearsâ€ (249). This observation corre lates to literary production, especially poetry, perhaps best represente d in the discovery in Southe rn China of several hundred Cantonese folk songs written by women descri bing their life of long separations from their husbands. These texts need to be studi ed more closely as a hermeneutics of the
237 transnational dimensions of American lit erature, because it complements the poetry written in Chinese bachelor communities in the United States. In analyzing the field of Asian American literature, Juliana Chang dr aws from Audre Lordeâ€™s notion of poetry as being the â€œmajor voice of poor, working cla ss, and Colored women,â€ because poetry does not require the same capital as say a novel (81). For this reason we have records of Cantonese folk ballads (like Homâ€™s anthology, Songs from Gold Mountain ) and Angel Island poems (like Lai, et al.â€™s anthology)â€”poe try was a way to produ ce literature that was feasible under such limiting conditions as imprisonment and heavy labor. As such, poetry figures prominently in the â€œhistoric em ergence of racial and ethnic consciousness movements in the United Statesâ€ (81) of the 1960s and 1970s only to submerge below the horizon of much of the critical work on Asia n American literature, which tends to focus more on fiction and novels. While poetry occupi es a marginal space in terms of American culture as a minor literature, the same is true in Asian American criticism. This space is one of specificity and vulnerab ility, particularly as poetic s ubjectivity is at once a fossil of the idea of a unified subjective voice, a nd an absolutely fragmented collection of refracting surfaces, mirroring the unities a nd heterogeneities of Asian American literature. Since the 1970s Asian American women writers have become a more prominent and vocal presence in American poetry. Kim notes that â€œMotivated by the sense that there exist few adequate portrayals of Asian Amer ican women in American literature, Asian American women writers have been attempti ng to depict the unique ness and diversity of that experience as an integral part of the American and Asian American traditionâ€ (253). It is in the American and Asian American tradition that we can see their work as
238 responding to the Chinese Exclusion Act similar to work described in the dissertation. By this I mean that they are negotiating literary traditions of Orient alism as a force of innovation on the one hand, and resistance to race-based marginalization and disenfranchisement. Josephine Nock-Hee Park points out that after the 1980s modernism and experimental poetry offere d an alternative to and some times functioned as a reaction against the social-realism and romanticism of Asian American cultural nationalism of the 1960s and 1970s (129) (it should also be noted th at there were also several experimental Asian American poets writing in the 1960s and 1970s who were not a part of the cultural nationalist movement). Artists like John Yau, Theresa Cha, Ho Hon Leung, and Marilyn Chin became interested in demonstrati ng the complexity of modernism while commenting on the ideological limits of race and gender in its use of Orientalism. Representing this complex ironically invol ves showing how the incorporated Chinese literary traditions as metaphoric distance and foreignness have made Asian literature an intimate part of American poetry. Furthermore, a complement to this shift is that discourses on Asian Americans have shifte d from the â€œYellow Perilâ€ to the â€œModel Minority.â€ Though the terms of the debate have changed, issues of ethnicity and cultural identity remain important topoi in American poetry and the incorporation of Chinese literature through allusion, tr anslation, and linguistic expe rimentation has become a tradition in modern American literature. Two examples of contemporary Asian American poets that engage in the tradition of incorporating Chinese literature are Marilyn Chin and Carolyn Lau. These two poets, first published at the end of the twenti eth century, have been engaged in reconstructing the voice of national culture, demonstrating the heterogeneity of Asian American responses to traditions of
239 poetics and politics in the American cultural land scape. One element that stands out in the foreground of Asian American poetry in the sec ond half of the twentiet h century is that it traverses the boundaries constructed by modernist di scourses of â€œOrientalâ€ culture as providing access to a lack, which is associated with the primitive providing a ground from which the beginnings of a â€œnewâ€-ness could be made possi ble in a devolved culture (e.g., WWI London, or Cold War American consumerism). Again, as Jose phine Hock-Nee Park shows, the tradition of modernist literature in the discour se of American poetry perpetuate s interpolating the identity of the Asian American as having an â€œotherâ€ identity , which is why memoirs a nd realist novels have been privileged as minority texts (1 29). Dealing with this issue of authenticity in an article titled â€œWhere have all the natives gone?â€ Rey Chow discusses some of the ways that â€œothernessâ€ has been constructed as a problematic identification; she states: But while Western artists continue to rece ive attention specifically categorized in time, place, and name, the treatment of the works of non-Western peoples continues to partake of sy stemic patterns of explo itation and distortionâ€ (133) The difference encapsulates the ways Asian Amer ican literature is forced to navigate dominant discourses which formulate inhere ntly race-structured binaries of being â€œWesternâ€ while at the same time located in untranslatable grounds of experience, being a perpetual foreigner in the West. Therefor e, Asian American writing has tended to be treated as ethnography, which results from, as Chow says, â€œthe genuine problem of the nativeâ€™s status as objectâ€ (133). In Asia n American writing, the representation of interiority and subjectivity ha s often been carefully studie d because many of these texts challenge the objectificati on of their work as transparently ethnographic writing. Carolyn Lauâ€™s work attempts to nego tiate the complexities of using imitation, allusion, and translation of Chinese literature to inform her modern American poetry that
240 takes into account specific i ssues of Asian American womenâ€™s writing. One of the ways that she does this is through using source material that ch allenges the typical interest in the long ago, far away dynastic poets. For ex ample, she translates the poetry of the activist revolutionary feminist, Qiu Jin, w ho was executed by the Qing government in 1907 for training and leading revolutionari es. Qiu Jin is another writer of tibishi , and her last poem was written on the wall of the hot el where she was held before her execution. Lauâ€™s translations position Ch inese literature within hi story and with a pedagogical function for social transformation. In addition, Lauâ€™s free translations wryly mimic issues raised in Lauâ€™s original poetry that deal w ith representations of Chinese in American culture. For example, her poems â€œTranslating â€˜Manâ€™ from Chinese in to Californianâ€ and â€œBeing Chinese in Englishâ€ que stion representations of e ssential ethnic features by drawing attention to the linguistic dimensi ons of identity, and describing subjective interiority through obscu re, abstract imagery. In â€œBeing Chinese in English,â€ she writes, The balcony gardens insisting We not, show While chasing. Orgasm. Outside, babies questioning their ears; therefore, Shifting twilight upside down In softspots Here the poet creates a tangible image of architecture and landscape as deployed to police sexuality only to be transformed into an eccentric, impossible place within the â€œsoftspots,â€ or imagined thought processes of infants. Lau is suggesting, too, the impossibility of spatializing sensations of a pr ivate individual experience that are given meaning through abstract and even assumpti ons of social convention. Lauâ€™s use of abstraction in her poetry foregrounds the constr ictions that language places on translating
241 subjective experience in to the grid of social meaning. She specifically focuses on how these social meanings are fixed by assumptions about ethnic and national identity. This is especially true of her â€œTrans lating â€˜Manâ€™ from Chinese into Californian,â€ the first stanza of the poem reads: Fearless, Number One, Scholar waits-on life; Body after body gambles all To mend and create new cracks in dream. The beginning of the poem introduces familiar figures of Chinesenessâ€”the mandarin scholar, gambling, and naming through familial hierarchy. She transforms the tone and imagery in the last stanza: The impulse to stop In the middle. Scoops Breast or cock Echo-la-la-ing Shifts in sculpture. Cool. Tan and muscles lying In my dress, slicings Of our sunny-rose flavors. In the second stanza, as in the previous poe m, Lau articulate a sexuality that is not reduced to tropes of Orientiali zed imagery. In the context of depictions of race in the United States in the 1980s and 1990s, Lau is ca lling into question th e construct of Asian as Model Minority by deliberately describing sexual desire outside of family values discourses. In fact, it is precisely the juxtaposition between ineffable emotional experiences, and oneiric if not eccentric spaces that address the issue of being out of place or alien, which is the anxiety of being-in-translation. The ethnic and gender dimensions of La uâ€™s work aside, bringing issues of translation into â€œoriginalâ€ poetry comments on the various a pplications of translation
242 which displaces the meaning of absolute origins, similar to Ezra Poundâ€™s cryptic translations of persona poems, which mour n not only masks of mourning, but are poems that signify poetryâ€™s loss of cultural releva nce. However, in these two poems, Lauâ€™s poetics is not of one of loss, but one of affirmation. It is in this sense that Lau translates from the feminist revolutionary martyr in her â€œSix Versions of Qiu Jin.â€ The translations are not complete translations, and they are fr agments of verse taken from different stages of Qiu Jinâ€™s life. Like Lauâ€™s original poetry, concrete details intermingle with emotional sensation in an abstract se tting, affirming not only Qiu Jinâ€™s sense of revolutionary praxis, but also Lauâ€™s poetics. This is very much in the tradition of Poundâ€™s Cathay , but, instead of an abstract China as a referent to a poetics of concre teness, Lau provides a historically present, modern China as a refe rent in a poetics that uses abstraction to signify experiences of emotion. For example, the first of the cycle of fragments begins: 1. â€œAutumn Rain, after My Friend Has Leftâ€ How my body flares an incense, Men and mother planting me. Alone, with friends my bones and flesh. Tears, a victim of old strain and habit. My lush part, pearl in Hades. Leaves drying free ghosts. Blood is raining from the sky Cry bells, singing, â€œGirls, girls.â€ The poem begins with the poet calling atten tion to her body and the sorrows of culturally enforced significance of gender, bemoaning her girlhood betrothal, and the complicity of her mother in such an arrangement. In this fragment, her gender has created a hell of torment within an apocalyptic mise en scene, as mourning bells toll for the â€œgirls.â€ Qiu Jinâ€™s poem is written within the conventions of the â€œpalace ladyâ€ poem in which exquisite
243 emotional sorrow of displacement, estrangeme nt, and abandonment has been in place for over two thousand years with famous write rs like the Han dynasty Lady Ban and the Song dynasty Li Qingzhao contributing to the ge nre. Lauâ€™s translation brings into focus the unconventional aspect of Qiu Jinâ€™s verse, and by making it a part of a series of portraits, she subordinates Qiuâ€™s individual poe ms as clippings in a collage, framed by Lauâ€™s own biographic prose prelude. In this way Lau avoids repeating Qiuâ€™s conventional scenes that have captivated imagist poe ts who have addressed elements of chinoiserie dcor and universal suffering in palace la dy poems. Lau instead uses fragments to highlight Qiu Jinâ€™s depiction of an encounter wi th a realization that her historical moment is apocalyptic and that the bells are a call fo r women to wake up, as they are tolling the dead. This sense of mission is reflected in Qi u Jinâ€™s poems represents an explicit reject the Confucian â€œThree Obediencesâ€ and the â€œF our Virtuesâ€ used to rationalize unequal labor, enforced illiteracy, concubinage, and footbinding (e.g., in the poem â€œJingwei Birdâ€ Qiu writes, â€œwith their theories and tricks men deceive us, / Since they claim / That Heaven established me nâ€™s superiority over women / How can women speak about affairs outside the home?â€) (Idema 788-790). Like the authors of the Angel Island poe ms, Qiu uses references to the Jingwei birdâ€”a drowned princess who was transformed in to mythical bird that fills the sea with rocks as a form of revengeâ€”as a figure of Chinese nationalism where the underdog accomplishes an apparently futile task through perseverance, sacrifice, and hard work. By the fourth fragment, we find another sim ilarity between Qiuâ€™s poetry and the Angel Island poems in which the poet uses the subgenre of the inscription poem to create a
244 persona. This fragment, taken from Qiu Jinâ€™s reflection of her crossdressing, we find that the poet is realizing th e action of her poetry: 4. â€œPoem Written on My Own Picture in Manâ€™s Suitâ€ Shaoxing Outlaw, dare you die? What a curse, love. If a dolphin reasons what to do When it hears a sound in water, Why does flesh meet so late What my tongue knows inside? Raising my heart into eye beyond Mirror, beyond sky, Jin Xiong [one of Qiu Jin courte sy names], yes, weâ€™re one. This fragment is an example of a portrait in scription poem, representing a modernization of the millennia-old sub-genre that it is written on a phot ograph and not a painting. The poem develops through apostrophe, where the addressee is an uncanny image (in Qiu Jinâ€™s poem she calls her body in the photographic image a phantom ) of the poet. Lau recasts Qiuâ€™s conventional depictions of the uncanny through the lines â€œRaising my heart into eye beyond / mirror, beyond sky, / Jin Xiong, yes, weâ€™re one.â€ Here the enjambment of â€œmirrorâ€ allows the phrase to invoke a transcendent and utopian aspect of her defa miliarized â€œotherness,â€ transgendered and render ed into a photographic image. It also captures the emotional exuberanc e that is muted in a more accurate rendering of the verse, such as Wa lt Idemaâ€™s translation: â€œTo my regret I met you lateâ€”feelings overwhelm me, / As I look up and sigh over our times, my energy is Figure 6-1. â€œQiu Jin in â€˜Manâ€™s Suitâ€™â€
245 stirredâ€ (795). Lau again creates within the fr agment a sense that each part is more than the sum of its lines, as the translations attempt to do more than mirror Qiu Jinâ€™s verse. Aesthetically speaking, Lauâ€™s imaginative tran sgression of the original material serves also to suggest Qiuâ€™s work as more complicat ed than a documentary film lens into the personal, historical, and ethnographic. In this sense we can see Qiu Jinâ€™s address to her photograph as an encounter with the poetâ€™s a ffirmations of a revolutionary decision to defy convention as a way of understanding the Carolyn Lauâ€™s translations as an affirmation of her poetics. In the fourth fragment the poe t addresses herself as Jing Xiong (Complete Hero), which is one of the many example wher e Carolyn Lau calls attention to Qiu Jinâ€™s play on naming. For example, Qiu (autumn) constantly puns on her name as a motif of impermanence and sorrow. Lau creates a rhetorical doubling that functions like photographs and mirrors where the poet is at once the image and that what is beyond the image in the poem. Qiu Jinâ€™s calling as a femi nist and a revolutionary, a calling which is sorrow-laden, is not something to be rejected, but instead registers as a fulfillment of her destiny. Lauâ€™s seemingly abstract obscurity can be thought of as an attempt to embody the way that Qiu Jin sees her struggles fo r modernizing China, womenâ€™s rights, and revolution as necessary ways of becoming w ho she is, and as a destination presently absent. Lau attempts to create this sense of optimism within the embrace of a tragic fate through the last fragment (ti tled â€œFragmentsâ€) taken from Qiu Jinâ€™s poem written on the eve of her execution: 6. Fragments The song in breath is light and dark.
246 Why me, spirit? How you push, mother! Autumn wind and rain, ah! This last fragment begins with an abstra ction where sound is give n visual properties, which in turn correspond to Daoist masculine and feminine principles of â€œlight and darkâ€ as a subtle hint at the recurring themes of e quality. The last line suggests a Zen inflected signification of (or perhaps a finger pointing towa rds) a realization that is not intelligible through formulated language. This last â€œver sionâ€ of Qiu Jin, reflects Lauâ€™s method of juxtaposition of abstractions as a mode of representing unexplainable emotional fulfillment, such as the abstract depictions of sexual fulfillment we find in her original poetry. Lau also draws from the iconography of revolutionary memo rialization whereby the climactic â€œah!â€ suggests that through revolutionary sacr ifice, the loss of self, the revolutionary vision can be re alized. While Qiu Jin was execu ted for her participation in the Chinese Nationalist revolut ion, she viewed her dedication to womenâ€™s rights as an international struggle as evident in her an them for womenâ€™s right s titled, â€œA Fighting Song for Womenâ€™s Rights.â€ Qi u Jinâ€™s poetry, through Lauâ€™s translation method, becomes the realization of a Chinese id entity, which serves to compli cate often stereotyped images of Asian women in American literature while at the same time Lau is writing herself into the tradition of modernism wher e Chinese literature serves as an intertext, and translation functions as a mode of poetic producti on. While Lau downplays the revolutionary didacticism of Qiuâ€™s verse, she highlight s Qiuâ€™s complexity and self-reflection. The figure of Qiu Jin serves a pedagogical functi on of incorporating Chinese literature and addressing concerns directly a ffecting Asian American women.
247 One of the noticeable aesthetic strategies that emerges from the title â€œSix Versions of Qiu Jinâ€ is the shifting of perspectives common to trad itional Chinese landscapes. It is also a familiar modernist technique of collage taken from an â€œOrientalâ€ poetics, perhaps most famously employed by Wallace Stevens in his â€œThirteen Ways of Looking at a Blackbird.â€ This technique is a significant example of the ways that Or ientalism provided modernism with methods for rupturing stable and absolute pe rspectives of nineteenth century realism and naturalism (or at least gave them rhetorical footholds to state su ch a case). Due to the mixing of influences, poems like â€œThirteen Ways of Looking at a Blackbirdâ€ can be thought of as hybrid poetry, especially because of the way that the border between East and West cultural traditions was thought to be firm. Not only modernists, but also Asian American authors have held this view. Lisa Lowe in Immigrant Acts refers to a Diana Chang short story about Chinese American women who have neither national nor cultural ties to China, yet â€œt hey have each internalized a cultural definition of â€˜Chinesenessâ€™ as pure and fixedâ€ (64). Lowe uses this example to detail conceptual differences between heterogeneity, multiplicity, and hybridity as structural signifiers of Asian American identity in American culture. Of these terms, hybridityâ€”a biological term used to describe an offspring of a mixed heredityâ€”Lisa Lowe frames it to mean the â€œthe formation of cultural objects and practices that are produced by th e histories of uneven and unsynthetic power relationsâ€ (67). For example, as di scussed before, Snyderâ€™s use of the shanshui aesthetic comes from academic knowledge. Marilyn Chin is another poet who can be seen as responding to representations of China in the Orientalist traditions of American literatu re, as well as the plight of marginalized Chinese American writers. The title of Ma rilyn Chinâ€™s recent book of poems, Rhapsody in Plain Yellow, interrupts the notion of Chinese-ne ss as a poetic (linguistic) c onstruction, and re-positions the
248 concept of Chinese-ness through th e racial construct of yellow-ness. This is an important distinction that marks the poetry with a uniquely American context because the poetry not only joins in the experimentation of classical Chinese poetry in the English language, but because it specifically writes back agains t the immigration act of 1882 wher e the legal language of race determined immigration policy, and in turn the material culture of i mmigrationâ€”networks of border surveillance and enforcement ranging from medical to legal to military bureaus. This construction of the border and immigration policy ha ve been a part of a naturalized idea of the racial categorization of America, and is one of the reasons for continual tropes of the way Asian Americans are represented in mainstream literatu re as one of the resident foreigner. Though Chinâ€™s texts are neither histories nor even comp lete biographies, they contain reflections of a poetic subjectivity with a persona l history, navigating through poetr y as it is understood both as a form of Chinese and American culture. In this way Chinâ€™s poems can always be seen as a performance of biography and history in lyrical verse. Marilyn Chinâ€™s Rhapsody in Plain Yellow begins with an epigram from William Carlos Williams The stain of love / Is upon the world / Yellow, yellow, yellow (10). The imagist poem comes from William Carlos Williams who, lik e Stevens and Pound, is another modernist American poet who theorized about in addition to writing translations of classical Chinese poetry. In describing the Tang Dynasty poet, Tu Fu, Williams writes: â€œThese men (a woman among the best of them) [referring to classical Chinese poets] were looki ng at direct objects when they were writing, the transition from their pens or brushes is dire ct to the pageâ€ (197). That is to say that Williams saw in the transl ation of Chinese poetry the possibilities of the â€œdirect treatment of the thing.â€ In the poems themselves, William Carlos Williams is seeing Chineseness as self-evident in the translations th at he reads. This repeti tion of the modernist poet
249 as cultural arbiter of poetry s hould also indicate the gendered st atus of the traditional Chinese poem, as well as how Chinese poetry serves as a female-gendered â€œHybrid muse.â€ The use of Williams as the epigram for her collection of poems allows Chin to perform two different acts that are in direct conflict with each other. Firs t she is able to â€œgraftâ€ (using Yaoâ€™s typology of hybridity) onto the American poetic traditi on. Second, she foregrounds how her poetic voice is already marked through the poetic voice of an-â€œ otherâ€ with ironic consequences. One of the meanings behind the irony is th e constructed raciali zed notion of color. The repetition in Williams of the word â€œyellowâ€ produces a realm of connotations that are different from the ones that Marilyn Chin uses in the repetition of thes e words. The repetition creates a bifurcated entry into the field of poetry where there is an acknow ledgment of the American poetic tradition as an exclusive discourse, and her entry into this disc ourse, even without using any of her own words can realign meaning through the poetâ€™s race and ge nder alone. Marilyn Chinâ€™s epigram creates a leitmotif of assimilation and identity for the co llection of poetry that resounds with varying intensities. Rhapsody in Plain Yellow begins with three poems that use hybridity to describe a landscape of separation. First â€œBlu es on Yellowâ€ appears as the chorus of the book that speaks with a collective voice of Chinese America. It is a poem about labor, and the shared sufferings and migrations in Chinese American history. She uses the point-counterpoi nt structure of blues lyrics to create a doggerel landscape of Asian America that includes the construction of the railroads, the gold rush, Chinese restaurants, ex clusion, Buddhism, class, and gender (13). In the second poem, â€œThat Half is Almost Gone,â€ Chin describes pain of forgetting, and her physical separation from a â€œChinese half,â€ which is intens ified through her inability to communicate, such that the poetic subjectivity repres ented linguistically is threatened with erasure through forgetting
250 (17-19). Finally, â€œThe Colonial Language Is English,â€ describes the relationship between linguistic communities in China and English, doubli ng the meaning of the colonial language as both the way to locate Hong Kong, as well as th e situation of the postc olonial subject in the United States (20-21). These three poems stand out because they explicitly relate the project in which Marilyn Chin is engaged w ith in the collectionâ€”that is to show how subjectivity can be re-imagined through language, but is localized and framed by the historical and material conditions that have marginalized Asian Ameri cans into specific typologies. Her poetry then becomes a site of agency where Asian American experience can be re-imagined linguistically beyond the dualism of the American poetic tradition that has created an American Chinese poem that tends to calcify representational possibilities of Chinese Americans. â€œBlues on Yellowâ€ by Marilyn Chin colo r is the overtone that foregrounds the metaphoric landscape through which her poetry travels. The canary died in the gold mine, her dreams got lost in the sieve. The canary died in the gold mine, her dreams got lost in the sieve. Her husband the crow killed under the railr oad, the spokes hath shorn his wings. Somethingâ€™s cookinâ€™ in Chinâ€™s kitchen, ten thousand yellow-bellied sapsuckers baked in a pie Somethingâ€™s cookinâ€™ in Chinâ€™s kitchen, ten thousand yellow-bellied sapsuckers baked in a pie Somethingâ€™s cookinâ€™ in Chinâ€™s kitchen, die die yellow bird die die O crack an egg on the griddle, yellow will ooze into white. O crack an egg on the griddle, yellow will ooze into white. Run, run, sweet little Puritan, yellow will ooze into white. If you cut my yellow wrists, Iâ€™ll teach my yellow toes to write. If you cut my yellow wrists, Iâ€™ll teach my yellow toes to write. If you cut my yellow fists, Iâ€™ll teach my feet how to fight. Do not be afraid to perish, my mother, Buddhaâ€™s compassion is nigh. Do not be afraid to perish, my mother, our boat will sail tonight. Your babies will reach the promised land, the stars will be their guide. I am so mellow yellow, mellow yellow, Buddha sings in my veins. I am so mellow yellow, mellow yellow, Buddha sings in my veins. O take me to the land of the unreborn, thereâ€™s no life on earth without pain.
251 On the first reading there is a striking awkw ardness of expression with lines like â€œSomethingâ€™s cookin in Chinâ€™s kitchen, die die yellow bird, di e dieâ€ (line 11), â€œI am so mellow yellow, mellow yellow, Buddha sings in my veinsâ€ (line 21) or â€œO crack an egg on the griddle, yellow will ooze into whiteâ€ (line 13). In â€œBlues on Yellowâ€ the poetry of the lines seem haphazard and untrained, yet not the roughness that gives bl ues lyrics their trademark patin a. The phrasing does not fit the cadence of her lines, which vary in lengths. The la st line â€œO take me to the land of the unreborn, thereâ€™s no life on earth without painâ€ (line 23) sprawling with too many syllables comes out sounding stilted. These discordant blues are also filled with surprising images, like a canary dying in a gold mine (line 1), and powerful slogans, â€œIf you cut my yellow fists, Iâ€™ll teach my yellow feet to fightâ€ (line 13). Putt ing the situation of the content in to the form of the blues, Chin makes and unambiguous political choice, which is to use a form that is both racialized and classed to suggest poverty and blackness, in additi on to being something that is identified as quintessentially American. Chin not only inserts herself into the poem, but she also fits her family, historical emblems of Chinese Americans, social calls for action (the basis for the Asian American literary movement), and a utopian vision for the future. This one poem encapsulates Marilyn Chinâ€™s poetic career, thus far: At the same time, Chin seeks to reclai m and reinvent her Chinese heritage by incorporating and transforming Chinese hist ory, culture, and liter ary traditions in her poems. She interweaves this process w ith her exploration of identity politics, constantly relating her personâ€™s identity and the experience to that of Chinese Americans in terms of Asian Americansâ€™ so cial status and issu es of assimilation and acculturation. (Huang 72) One tension that seems to exist in these blues, and exists thro ughout the collection of poetry, is her attempt at â€œtransforming Chinese history, cultu re, and literary traditi ons,â€ because in lines like, â€œDo not be afraid to pe rish, my mother, Buddhaâ€™s compassion is nighâ€ (line 18), Chin seems to struggle with Orientaliz ed stereotypes of Chinese spirit uality as it is represented in
252 America, and an affirmation Buddhism as a valid and non-Christian religi ous expression in the United States. As such, line 18 can be read either as parody, or as an authentic substitution of Chinese religion for what otherwise might be â€œmojo handâ€ or â€œJohn the Conqueror Rootâ€ in a more conventional blues song. But the overall tone of the poem is ironic. Irony seems to function on two levels: first, it creates a critique; sec ond, it deepens the topography of the poemâ€™s features by presenting the reader with two incommensura ble readings. Closely reading the poem reveals an array of references and suggestions, which overlap and intersect. Ul timately with this poem she is able to communicate through her references that the existence of Chinese in America dates back to the California gold rush, and the tr anscontinental railroads, and, yet, no cultural footprints have been left of the Chinese working class and their culture as in the ways that blues music from African American trad itions has become a centerpiece of American culture. As blues are lamentations, this is the lamentation. The discordance of Chinâ€™s blues eerily haunts an emptied space upon which Chin builds her work song. In â€œBlues on Yellowâ€ Chin is able to insert within the form of the blues an important element of Chinese traditional poetry. In line 19 she writes, â€œDo not be afraid to perish, my mother, our boat will sail tonight.â€ The boat is a significant detail because it is often used as a convention for representing poe tic subjectivity in classica l Chinese poetry (Eoyang 619).35 The detail not only adds a level of meaning to the opening chorus of her book, but it also represents a unique aspect of Marilyn Chin â€™s poetics that plays the Chin ese American poem off of the Chinese poem in the tradition of modern American poetry. Marilyn Chin is able to include within the blues a crystal of classica l Chinese subjectivityâ€”t he figure of the boat. Through the boat the poet is able to produce an â€˜â€œIâ€ imageâ€™ that is ab le to flow through the la ndscape, but also carry 35 Marilyn Chin would most likely have known this theory of Chinese subjectivity, becau se it was presented in an article by the Sinologist Eugene Eoyang, and Chin worked w ith Eugene Eoyang on a translation project (Huang 71).
253 connotations of solitary-ness. Inserted into th e blues, we are given a holographic style of presenting ideas of classical Chinese poetry. This projection of classical Chinese poetry into the blues reveals an aspect of Marilyn Chinâ€™s poe try, which draws from the cultural tradition of classical Chinese culture. Instead of trying to r econstruct linguistically a translated version of classical Chinese poetry, she tends to use a holographic style such that the medium does not in away way share the likeness of the image presented.36 Instead, classical Chinese poetics floats within the medium, like the boat (or the Buddha) in her blues. The creatio n of a poetic holograph demonstrates how integrated cultural traditions of ethnic communities are a central aspect of American identity, which can only be understood in terms of a simulacrumâ€”as in Chinâ€™s pastiche of traditional forms, blues and Chinese lyrics, which both create and displace the notion of a Chinese American identity. The haunting aspect of the illusions appearing within a holograph is that image can completely disappear if the forces that hold the eyeâ€™s focus are not aligned. The constellation Chin gathers for the readerâ€™s focus demonstrates how of the many synthetic cultural traditions that have emerged in American culture, Chinese American identity is one that is fraught with peril (due in part to immigration practices , and the historical legacy of the Chinese Exclusion Acts) of subsequent erasur e and at risk of excl usion (or relegated to â€œforeignerâ€ status) without continual conscientious efforts to a ssert an American identity. This is something that most European immigrant groups in the United States do not face, but is shared with other Asian American writers. In â€œThat Half is Almost Goneâ€ Chin recapitulates two maneuvers from â€œBlues on Yellowâ€; first, she brings together the â€œIâ€ of the poem that has a confessional address as a disclosure of the poetâ€™s personal life to the reader ; thus, the subjectivity of the poem, the persona, 36 I take this idea of the holographic image from Donald Aultâ€™s summer seminar of 2004 â€œBlake, Newton, and Disney.â€
254 enters the play of signs with in a poetic landscape. This land scape is organized by a second device that we have seen in â€œBlues on Yellow, â€â€”the use of the holographic form. The Chinese word â€œaiâ€ (love) is described throughout the poem, but is never directly shown. Instead the reader has parts of â€œloveâ€ descri bed, for example the radical â€œxinâ€ or heart resides in the center of the character, allowing for Chinâ€™s play on â€œI remember vaguely / the radical â€˜heart,â€™â€ (lines 9-10). In addition to the splitting of the charac ters, we have discontinuous set of images that juxtapose a â€œProtestant West Virginianâ€(line 27) with â€œthe gaffer-hatted fishmongerâ€ (line 31) bringing into the poem an image that can be s een as a subject of classical Chinese as well as an image that might come from National Geographic . The irony thematically recapitulates the splitting by doubling the subjectâ€™s re -representation of the subject. That is to say we not only have the confession, but also commentary on the se lf that confesses. W ith irregular line breaks and enjambment, the poem appears graphically on the page as having been split. The poem is about forgetting language, and in the process losing identity. The identity that we see replacing the one that could write in Chinese is one that is affiliated with clichs of Chinese women (â€œAnd the maiden behind the curtain / is somebodyâ€™s cour tesan.â€ lines 33-34) while at the same time has no access to the filial associations of Chin ese-ness (â€œYou are a Chineseâ€”said my mother / who once walked the fields of her deadâ€ lines 37-38). This leads to the question of how the linguistic community helps to form a coherent indi vidual identity, because it is something that is perceived as interior. Without language, identity becomes exteriorized, un stable, and subject to the vicissitudes of displacement. Again in â€œThe Colonial Language Is Englishâ€ we have a mixture of personal confessional poetry with elements of classica l poetry as seen in the closing quatrain: â€œThe Tao of which we
255 speak is not the eternal Tao / The name that we utter is not the eternal name / My mother is me, my father is thee / As we drown in the seepage of Sutter Mill (lines 2326). The lines from the Dao De Jing (The Tao) reflect back to the opening lines of the poem, â€œHeaven manifests its duality / My consciousness on ear th is twofoldâ€ (lines 1-2) . Foregrounding the problem of language, which is read in the title of the poem, these lines illustrate th e drift of the personal subjectivity against the backdrop of family and na tion. Again there is a split, a duality where the subjectivity embodies discontinuity, and, as such, ironically incorporates the banal (Sutter Mill) with the sublime (the eternal Tao). In an everyda y sense, English is the colonial language of her hometown, Hong Kong, but it is al so the reason that Chin cannot reproduce classical Chinese poems into English the way that Ezra Pound, Amy Lowell, or William Carlos Williams were able to do. Instead she uses a holograph of the cl assical Chinese to show something is there (an idea, a concept) that is not there. What is not â€œthereâ€ in Chinâ€™s quote from the Dao De Jing is the Chinese language; English has replaced it. Or, more accurately, English has colonized it. Playing on the theme of splitting and duality, the line that Chin quotes from the Dao De Jing is Laoziâ€™s philosophical commentary on the limits of language; thus, Chin is able to take the universalizing gesture of Laoziâ€™s critique of language and appl y it to the specificity of the problems of the colonization of language. In the process she is able to reterr itorialize Laoziâ€™s work into a pragmatic philosophical discourse, and away from its appropriated cultural position in the discourse of New Age religion in America. Within the first three poems we see a repetition that carries out throughout Rhapsody in Plain Yellow , which is trying to come to terms with the linguistic touchstones of Chinese representati ons within the discourse of American poetry. Through the linguistic divide she is able to insist upon her own corporeality through language, by presenting her embodiment of a split in cultural id entification. That is to say that the hyphenation
256 that goes into a term like Chinese-American, or Asian-American becomes emblematic for the uniqueness of the poetic voice, such that the poet is framed even before uttering a word by the production of race in American culture. Because langua ge is an important part of this process of identification and racialization, Ma rilyn Chin writes back against the way that classical Chinese tropes have entered into American culture as some thing that is ultimately â€œotherâ€â€”especially as it enters into American poetic discourse by canoni cal modernists who have become so influential as to the shape of American poetry on the page. Marilyn Chinâ€™s knowledge and application of classical Chinese poetics to her poetry reveals an institutional grounding from American sites of knowledge production of Asia; she received her bachelorâ€™s degree in Chinese la nguage and literature from University of Massachusetts, Amherst in 1977. She also studied cl assical Chinese literature at Stanford, as well as in Taiwan (Huang 71). As a translator of Ch inese she helped to produce a book of translations of an important twentieth-century, Mainland Chines e poet, Ai Qing. As I have shown in the Gary Snyder chapter, language programs offering Chines e in the United States began to develop under Cold War initiatives that were involved with â€œthe gearing up of a vast educational machinery designed to direct the attention of the American people to the wo rld outside the nationâ€™s bordersâ€ (Klein 22). The American study of foreign la nguages, including â€œOriental Languagesâ€ was done out of the need to preserve and strengthen global flows of power. At the same time that Chinâ€™s use of classical Chinese tropes is situated w ithin the university system not unlike classical Orientalism of the empires of England and France , it is also mediated by the personal. In an interview with Bill Moyers, Ch in voices her anxieties that are related to language: I am afraid of losing my Chinese, losi ng my language, which would be like losing a part of myself, losing part of my soul. Poetry seems a way to recapture that, but of course the truth is we can't recaptu re the past. The vector only goes one direction and that is toward the future. So the grandeur of Chinaâ€”the grandeur of
257 that past of my grandfather' s, of my grandmother's, of my mother's and so forthâ€” that will be all lost to me. I lose inches of it every day. Sometimes I think I lose a character a day. (â€œHow I Got My Nameâ€) In this brief autobiographical sketch, we can s ee two forces at workâ€”the presence of national and transnational structures of power and know ledge, and the individual making sense of the practice of everyday life. Chin approaches her us e of Chinese literature as a complex means of preventing the trauma of aphasia and permanen t linguistic loss, coding an English-language American poetry through the past of Chinese traditional literature. Chinâ€™s use of the Chinese language points to the anxiety of loss, and thus can be seen as a strategy for preservation, which parallels Joel Barlowâ€™s fear that the sign of au thentic American hieroglyphic language has been lost due to colonial practices (the Spanish and Portuguese de stroyed the indigenous peopleâ€™s hieroglyphic system) and must be sought by Ameri can poets for a truly American literature. In this way the practice of Orienta lism can be thought of as an attempt to reclaim a lost memory, and preserving what fragments are still around. It can be thought of spatially as an architecture designed for outward projection of power that can be transformed into a space of internalized subjectivity, or a theatre for th e performance of identity and m eaning. For example, Lisa Lowe explains: Although orientalism seeks to consolidate the coherence of the West as subject precisely through the representation of â€œorientalâ€ objects as homogenous, fixed, and stable, contradictions in the production of Asians and in the noncorrespondence between the orientalist object and the Asian American subject ultimately express the limits of such fictions. (67) As Lowe points out, of the many contributions that Asian American poets have made to American poetry, perhaps the most important is the relocating the Americanized Chinese poem that entered the poetic discourse as a prominent feature of avant-garde m odernism away from its
258 site as an unproblematic ethnographic represen tation of an other, and bringing it into the discourse of Asian American subjectivity that is both personal and political. In poetry such as Carolyn La uâ€™s â€œSix Versions of Qiu Jinâ€ and Marilyn Chinâ€™s poems from Rhapsody in Plain Yellow there exists a continuing dialogue on the use of classical Chinese literature as a â€œtranspacific displacementâ€ in American literature (H uang, Yunte 137). For Lau, the poetic form offers the possibility of direct political enunciation; therefore, when she writes back to the kinds of modernist assemblages of say a Wallace Stevens, she is able to not only critique his Orientalism, but also she is able to theorize the possibilities of a politically relevant use for representing â€œChinese-n ess.â€ Marilyn Chinâ€™s poetry fo regrounds the racial marking on the poet, and, therefore, as a woman of Asian de scent her representations of classical Chinese poetry will always already be read differently than that of modernist poets, like William Carlos Williams. In both cases issues of representing an Asian American identity within the discourses of modern American poe try reveal a dialogic37 and extra-poetic engage ment as well as an anxiety that lies in navigating assimilationist, an d culturally nationalist approaches to American identity. Chinese literature as a transpacific intert ext provides ways of writi ng in the traditions of modern American poetry, while at the same time calling attention to the problematic elements of Orientalism, shifting the possibili ties of what this Orientalism can represent. Also, by recalling forgotten works often excluded from discussion s of modern American like the H.T. Tsiangâ€™s revolutionary poems, or the Ange l Island poems. Literature, like history, in the words of Arif Dirlik, is â€œnot just a legacy; it is also a projectâ€ (409). 37 Dorothy Wang suggests that Bahktinâ€™s theory of the dial ogic, and the notion that â€œThe ideological becoming of a human being is the process of selectively assimilating the words of othersâ€ (and the inversion of this axiom) is critically important for the reading of co ntemporary Asian American poetry (16).
259 In the projects described in the dissertation, I suggest th at the intertextual source materials, the Chinese literary traditions, have be en incorporated into American literature. One of the reasons for this frame comes from the econom ic connotation of the word â€œincorporationâ€ in the sense of a legal charter design ed to maintain value as well as stability and integrity to an organization. The legal aspect of citizenship and representation can be seen to correspond to how the literary representations have come to take on relevance. With the relative histories of the two literatures, Chinese literary traditions certain ly add value to the concept of an American literature. But the metaphor of incorporation also signifies on literary traditions as a body, which is substantiated through incorporation. Literary traditions are empires; for example, the Chinese literary tradition was founded on th e collection of folk songs by imperial bureaus as a way of managing the empire. Taken separately, the body of literature in the Chinese and American traditions can be thought of as unique, separate, with definite boundaries that coincide with national and linguistic boundaries despite the fact that they ov erlap. In this way, even though each tradition can be seen as having elements th at are transnational, a nd containing free-floating, in-between works, these texts signify the ways in corporation represents the unique formation of a literary tradition, and thus the mean ing in a literary text is neve r simply the sum of the words on a page. Moreover, it attests to the power of th e modern nation state, and linguistic communities within that create coherence out of a disparate collection of texts. The incorporation of Chinese literature in modern American poetry represents the Janusheaded aspect of American culture as both an ti-colonial in its revol utionary beginnings, and imperialistic in its expansions. The story of the inco rporation is complex and heterogeneous, and its story traces national borders as shown in the unique attempts of each of the authors to transgress cultural boundaries . The authors covered in this study onl y tell a small part of a larger
260 story. The common thread they share is that they have challenged Euroce ntric assumptions about American identity, and exploded the temporality of American history and the spatiality of an American imaginary. They call into question th e label â€œAmericanâ€ and th e fixity of national literatures. However, as I show in this study these au thors demonstrate the difficulty of removing national labels and seeing people and literatures simply being of the worldâ€”writing in response to dislocations amid global economic disasters, violent social revolutions , world wars, and cold wars, these poets all demonstrate the power of the modern nation st ate to formulate identities that belie the transnational processes that gave such an identity form. They also demonstrate the possibilities of poetry as a for ce for transforming national culture and containing the seeds for utopian possibilities. Chinese literary traditions continue to allow the poets to create liminal spaces in American literary culture, ushering th rough such thresholds new visions of American literature. Future studies of the intersections between American and Chinese literature would help not only to better understa nd national literatures, but how to read world literature in an age when much of the real power of legitimating a nd enforcing identity rests in the hands of the nation state. And, more importantl y, further studies can give lessons from each cultural tradition, and allow us to understand the closeness of cultural traditions that are often cast as aliens to each other.
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273 BIOGRAPHICAL SKETCH James McDougall was born in Victoria, British Columbia, Canada in 1974. Of Victoria this is written: â€œAfter three days by horse you enter a now-forgotten land. The nation is governed by a certain King, who maintains a just rule in his dominions, but is himself subject to the Tartar. The country contains numerous towns and villages , and has everything in plenty; moreover, it is a great country for sport in the chase of all manner of beasts and birds. It is, however, by no means a healthy region, but grievously the reverse. In days of old the nobles there were valiant men, and did doughty deeds of arms; but nowadays they are poor creatures, and good at naught. Howbeit, they have a city upon the sea, which is called Victoria, at which there is a great trade. For you must know that all the spi cery, and the cloths of silk a nd gold, and other valuable wares that come from the interior are brought to that city. And the me rchants of Venice and Genoa, and other countries, come thither to sell their goods, and to buy what they lack. And whatsoever persons would travel to the interior (of the East), merchants or others, they take their way by this city of Victoria.â€38 He and his family immigrated to the United States later in the 1970s so James doesnâ€™t have any memories of this seascape of the West that twists and turns for a thousand miles like lichen that can be encoded and replicated into future recollecti ons of Victoria; as an immigrant he was never shocked to find himself detained in a wooden building on an island, and he later became a citizen.39 He was fed poetry for breakfast, al ong with strange-tasting bibles, and a vague memory of a world at perpetual war.40 He went to Monroe Community College because he decided not to join the Canadian Army as the first Gulf War had begun the morning 38 This is a pastiche from first part of Marco Poloâ€™s trav els, and it is an interpretive association with Victoria in terms of this dissertation and McDougallâ€™s personal biography, which are starting points, and frames (Brooks 26). 39 This sentence contains bits of Angel Island poem â€ from Lai et al.â€™s anthology. 40 This was meant to sound like a pastiche from something profound; but, alas, James made it up.
274 he went for his physical in St. Catherineâ€™s, and he had already finished high school early; it was before Perry Central High School implemented its senior stop-loss po licyâ€”one wouldnâ€™t think that a purgatory of study halls should be denied to any young Americanâ€”even one with dualcitizenship.41 He dropped out of community college to work full time in the pizza industryâ€”at that time in American history pizza had replaced automobiles as the dr iving sector of the economy. It was an industry that often provoked romantic daydreaming. Often failing at things, James would return home to his mother, father, sister, brother-in-law, and four younger brothers and together they would laugh, ye ll, play, fight, throw the footba ll, brood, sulk, howl, play guitar and sing songs, steal each otherâ€™s belongings, drink, and recite Service, Kipling, Burns, Houseman, Wordsworth, Shakespeare, Byron, Shelley, Pope, Hopkins, Browning, Coleridge, rarely an American, though sometimes Eliot and sometimes Poeâ€”all a lite rary geography of an imaginary nation somewhere in a collective past th at could be forged through the cobbling of old poems on the right nights of the year. Unfo rtunately, there are times when Romantic daydreaming sometimes must be supplanted by hard choices for the workaday world. So James decided to become a sailor. James transferred his floor hockey and honors sociology credits from Monroe Community College to SUNY Maritime. Hi s time at sea was recorded in these words: â€œMay he for his own self song's truth reckon, journey's jargon, how McDougall in harsh days hardship endured oft. Bitter br east-cares has he abided, know n on his keel many a care's hold, And dire sea-surge, and there McDougall oft spen t narrow nightwatch nigh the ship's head while she tossed close to cliffs.â€42 After working on the Great Lakes and realizing that poetry was a more stable industry than the Am erican Merchant Marines (a self -enabling situation that created 41 Notice the high school cafe teria irony at work here. 42 This is taken from Ezra Poundâ€™s â€œThe Seafarerâ€ from Cathay .
275 a need for more poetry in Jamesâ€™s life), he tran sferred to SUNY Buffalo. He received his BA in English from SUNY Buffalo in 1996 and then went to ply the English trad e in Asia (English is currently the linguistic oil that lubricates the transnational circ ulation of global capital; as he would later discover: he was burni ng incense for the ruling class, and oiling the machine of the capitalist class43). James worked as an English instru ctor in Busan, South Korea, teaching kindergarteners, middle school students, housewives , and dentists. The story of going to Korea involves the Chinese Peopleâ€™s Armed Police Colle ge and a hard bargainâ€”every revolution needs a semiotic transformation, Jamesâ€™s was Chinese. Jamesâ€™s revolution was a small one. And a fragment at that. He would again make a transpac ific crossing to find a different form of labor exploitation as a tree planter in northern Ontario where he would also find one of his favorite poems: He had driven half the night. From far down San Joaquin Though Mariposa, up the Dangerous mountain roads, And pulled in at eight a.m. With his big truckload of hay behind the barn. With winch and ropes and hooks We stacked the bales up clean To splintery redwood rafters High in the dark, flecks of alfalfa Whirling through shingle-cracks of light, Itch of haydust in the sweaty shirt and shoes. At lunchtime under Black oak Out in the hot corral, â€”The old mare nosing lunchpails, Grasshoppers crackling in the weedsâ€” â€œIâ€™m sixty-eight,â€ he said, â€œI first bucked hay when I was seventeen. I thought that day I started, I sure would hate to do this all my life. 43 The parenthetical comes from H.T. Tsiangâ€™s Poems of the Chinese Revolution .
276 And dammit, thatâ€™s just what Iâ€™ve gone and done.â€44 The last lines of the poem came to life as he began editing technical documents and compiling data on radio hardware at Harris RF communica tion in Rochester, NY. After breaking free from his cubicle, at twenty thousand f eet he passed the town of his birt h on his way to serve as a Peace Corps Volunteer in Chongqing, China. This same China had left him in Korea two years prior. He was stationed at the wartime capital, across from General Stillwellâ€™ s house on the Jialing River in Chongqing where he met Gan Liulu, w ho would become his wife. They moved to Gainesville, America, to attend the University of Florida; they are in America now, they live in the tundra of the logical, a sea of cities, a wood of cars.45 At the University of Florida he received a masterâ€™s degree in English and a cer tificate in TESOL in add ition to working one of his favorite jobs at the journal Early Medieval China . In December of 2005, his son, Gan Benzheng Colin Shan McDougall, was born. Coli n was born three months early; James and Liulu were filled with fear and trembling. However, the intensive care unit vanished into a happy ending. Together with Liulu and Colin, James has fo rmed an invincible team of superheroes. In their hearts they truly believe that together, th ere is nothing that they cannot do. He has finished up his PhD degree using the poets noted here in th is biographical sketch to advance an argument in a dissertation about immigration, imaginati on, the nation, and poetry. He is thinking about scriptwriting voiceovers for neonoir detective films. The tundra is beginning to melt, and its logic to transform, which might mean James will be going off to the desert or to the sea. Maybe James and his gang of superheroes will be appear ing in a town near you. As a poet executed in her youth once said, â€œif you live long, everywhere is home.â€46 44 This is Gary Snyderâ€™s â€œHay for the Horsesâ€ from Riprap and Cold Mountain Poems . 45 Taken from Marilyn Chinâ€™s â€œWe Are Americans Now, We Live in the Tundra.â€ 46 From Carolyn Lauâ€™s translation of Qiu Jinâ€™s â€œThe Pavilion of Moon Worship.â€