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.”
Both Ye Yonglie (葉永烈) and Zheng Wenguang (鄭文光) were “struggled” during the ASPC of the 1980s. Zheng was a Vietnamese astronomer and emigre SF author of “Pacific Ocean Man” 《太平洋人》 and Mirror Image of the Earth《地球的鏡像》– the latter of which is about aliens who have developed an interest in the Cultural Revolution. Meanwhile Ye was singled out for ridicule in the official press for promoting “quack science,” and later condemned for writing a story in which AIDS has reached China.* In addition to Ye and Zheng, the archaeologist Tong Enzheng (童恩正）wrote very popular SF works and ran afoul of the authorities–only in Tong’s case it was a few years later, when he supported the students during the June 4th 1989 protests. Tong was a truly fascinating scholar and made a definitive contribution to Chinese SF with his highly influential personal essay “My Views on the Art of Science Fiction” (1979): 「我對科幻文藝的看法」 *
As i’m tweaking my paper for the fast approaching ACCL conference in Changsha I’ve run across a lot of interesting things on Chen Qiufan (陈楸帆, whose work I’m writing about), with perhaps the most intriguing being this (uncredited) image of the author posing in shades with the legendary Stan Lee.