Jonathan Stalling with Zheng Xiaoqiong

Zheng Xiaoqiong
Zheng Xiaoqiong

In 2007, I founded the Mark Allen Everett Poetry Series. This series curates between 10 to 15 readings a year in Norman, Oklahoma and features poets spanning a broad spectrum of poetry communities and styles. Past poets who have read include Tom Raworth, Hank Lazer, Mei-mei Berssenbrugge, Lorna Dee Cervantes, Arthur Sze, Natasha Tretheway, Myung Mi Kim, Charles Alexander, Joe Harrington, Afaa Weaver, Shin Yu Pai, Leonard Schwartz, Hugh Tribby, Gerald Stern, Sy Hoawhwah, Alexandra Teague, Kate Greenstreet, Dean Rader, Zhang Er, Julie Carr, Tim Roberts, Grant Jenkins, Keorapetse Kgositsile, Duo Duo, Wang Jiaxin, Glenn Mott, among many more.

One of the most exciting poets to emerge in China over the last decade, Zheng Xiaoqiong was born in 1980 in rural Nanchong, Sichuan, China, and spent eight years as a migrant worker in Dongguan City in southern Guangdong Province. Zheng’s poems are wrought from the materials of globalization rendered on an intimate scale. Zheng’s poetry draws upon the working lives of women caught in the tidal pull of China’s massive migrant labor force—with an unprecedented care and attention. She has won numerous awards including the Lu Xun Literary Award of Guangdong Province and the Liqun Literature Award from People’s Literature in 2007. In 2007 she was chosen by the popular magazine Chinese Women as one of the ten most influential figures of the times at home and abroad. Zheng’s poetry has appeared in English (with my translations of it in Chinese Literature Today, World Literature Today and in New Cathay: Contemporary Chinese Poetry, 1990-2012. In this interview, joined by Zhang Jie (Assistant Professor of Chinese at Oklahoma University), we discuss Zheng’s poetics in relation to issues of migrant-workers’ rights and gender. Jonathan Stalling

Zheng Xiaoqiong Interview:

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Zheng Xiaoqiong Reading:

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Jonathan Stalling at TEDx

Jonathan Stalling at TEDx Talk, February 22nd, 2014
Jonathan Stalling at TEDx, February 22nd, 2014

Over the years I have explored issues of “interlanguage” in my critical and creative work. As a translator, I often try to hover between the source and target languages as long as possible, in order to realize different interlingual states. But translation is only one way in which we can formally move between languages. Actually, transliteration has always been more interesting to me. My masters thesis at the University of Edinburgh was entitled “Prefacing the Text: Toward a Transliterative Telos,” and described a theory of reading that would work “against translation” as its end goal—instead offering a way to more powerfully transcribe one’s attending to the materiality of signification located in a phenomenology of enunciation/translettering. Since the mid-1990s, I have engaged in interlingual and transgraphic writing practices culminating in my book/opera Yingelishi, and in a series of poems I have been calling “DeRomanizing English,” where transcriptions of English in Korean, Arabic, Chinese and Japanese scripts articulate the space of what I call the “phonotactic rift.” Such a space indicates the exact points two languages diverge and overlap in their allowable sequencing of sounds (phonotactics). Transgraphic writing practices allow one to get to this place relatively quickly and intuitively. When we consciously compose a language in the script of another (digraphia), we enter this rift aesthetically/formally in what I would call “phonotaxis.” Whereas hypotaxis and parataxis compose by way of subordinating grammar or juxtaposition, phonotaxis composes by way of phonotactic constraints (the allowable sound sequences in a language). Yingelishi, for instance, is built upon such constraints. When we write across scripts (or read across them/transpronunciation), we can hear/feel the result of these constraints as an “accent,” a particular kind of prosody and music that I believe is fundamental to identity and consciousness (I call such spaces “interlanguage bodies,” for those bodies within which no accent is perceptible, beyond which everything is accent). Writing work attuned to this music is central to my poetics.

Jonathan Stalling with Qiu Xiaolong

Qui Xiaolong
Qui Xiaolong

In 2007, I founded the Mark Allen Everett Poetry Series. This series curates between 10 to 15 readings a year in Norman, Oklahoma and features poets spanning a broad spectrum of poetry communities and styles. Past poets who have read include Tom Raworth, Hank Lazer, Mei-mei Berssenbrugge, Lorna Dee Cervantes, Arthur Sze, Natasha Tretheway, Myung Mi Kim, Charles Alexander, Joe Harrington, Afaa Weaver, Shin Yu Pai, Leonard Schwartz, Hugh Tribby, Gerald Stern, Sy Hoawhwah, Alexandra Teague, Kate Greenstreet, Dean Rader, Zhang Er, Julie Carr, Tim Roberts, Grant Jenkins, Keorapetse Kgositsile, Duo Duo, Wang Jiaxin, Glenn Mott, among many more.

Jonathan Stalling with Afaa Michael Weaver

Afaa Michael Weaver. Photograph courtesy of Catherine Laine.
Afaa Michael Weaver. Photograph courtesy of Catherine Laine.

In 2007, I founded the Mark Allen Everett Poetry Series. This series curates between 10 to 15 readings a year in Norman, Oklahoma and features poets spanning a broad spectrum of poetry communities and styles. Past poets who have read include Tom Raworth, Hank Lazer, Mei-mei Berssenbrugge, Lorna Dee Cervantes, Arthur Sze, Natasha Tretheway, Myung Mi Kim, Charles Alexander, Joe Harrington, Afaa Weaver, Shin Yu Pai, Leonard Schwartz, Hugh Tribby, Gerald Stern, Sy Hoawhwah, Alexandra Teague, Kate Greenstreet, Dean Rader, Zhang Er, Julie Carr, Tim Roberts, Grant Jenkins, Keorapetse Kgositsile, Duo Duo, Wang Jiaxin, Glenn Mott, among many more.