Kenneth Rexroth on the Web

Poet Kenneth Rexroth reading a book. (Photo by Nat Farbman/The LIFE Picture Collection via Getty Images)

Rexroth, a poet and translator I’ve long admired, was also a fascinating individual. He was orphaned at an early age and sent to live with his aunt in Chicago in the 1910s, dropped out of school, studied painting at the Chicago Inst. of Art with Wen Yiduo, and traveled to Europe where he met the DADA poet Tristan Tzara among other people. A lifelong anarchist, his poems are often lyrics about the wilderness and his experiences traveling. Later in life he was a kind of big brother figure to some of the Beat poets, Gary Snyder esp., and because of a native ability with languages began translating Roman, Chinese, and Japanese poetry. His most famous translations are Women Poets of China and The Collected Poems of Li Ch’ing-zhao, a female poet of the Song Dynasty, both done in cooperation with scholar Chung Ling. Fortunately there’s a good bit of material on Rexroth on the web. The venerable, invaluable Rexroth site The Bureau of Public Secrets has been around forever. Morgan Gibson’s book, “Revolutionary Rexroth: Poet of East/West Wisdom,” has long been available online and my favorite chapter is the one on “Translation as an Act of Sympathy.”

 

“The Young Companion” and modern China

First published the same year Hugo Gernsback came out with his legendary science fiction magazine, Amazing Stories, in 1926, The Young Companion《良友》catered to the tastes of young middle class people, but it was also a force for social change. This fascinating article (in Big5) talks about 《良友》the “natural breast movement” 「天乳運動」 among young women in the 1920s-30s, and this sohu article (GB) discusses the fashion sense displayed in the pages of the magazine. In this pic you can see that the bobbed, flapper hairstyle we associate with the West was popular in China of the 20s also. The Young Companion is often thought of as product of Shanghai’s hybrid culture, but this article talks about its founding by a Guangdong native, Wu Lian-de (伍聯德).

 

 

 

Monkeys of Mayhem

In March we saw a big brawl between two rival gangs of monkeys in Lop Buri, Thailand, and then their  final take over of the town. Then, in June, came a life sentence for Kalua, the alcoholic Indian monkey who terrorized  over 250 pedestrians and will be spending the rest of his days in solitary confinement. According to the reports:

Local authorities said Kalua was formerly owned by an “occultist” who routinely supplied him liquor to drink, which turned him into an alcoholic. They said the monkey became very aggressive three years ago when his owner died and left him no avenue to acquire more alcohol.

Can’t help but feel sorry for the guy, and wonder why he didn’t join a monkey gang if he wanted to raise so much hell? The Lop Buri story reminds me of that Strugatsky novel “Doomed City”, where:
Could it be another portent of some kind?

 

Villains, Outlaws, and Antiheroes workshop

It was again a fun event, and I got to hear a lot of interesting talks. I was worried that 7 presenters might be too many, that folks would become tired, but it wasn’t too bad. (At least not for me). At the November workshop we only had four talks and that seemed to work out pretty well, though we only started in the afternoon. The after-dinner was fun too, although only 5 people were able to attend and the restaurant kicked us out after 2 hours. Nice to sit in the hole and consume Japanese food with friends, have a few beers, and talk about old times. Not sure if I want the responsibility to continue doing these events, but I do enjoy them and think that they could lead to better scholarship. As I told one participant, what I value in them is the scholarly community, the ability to talk with openly and freely about work we care about. In the US, starting my career, I imagined it would always be like this, but unfortunately I never found it in Taiwan.