First things first: this is a book of amazing, beautiful poetry, and you should read it.
In translating Xi Chuan's Notes on the Mosquito: Selected Poems
(New Directions, 2012), Lucas Klein
has given readers access to a bilingual journey through more than two decades of the Xi Chuan's evolution as a writer, a person, and a historian. The poems collected and rendered in Notes on the Mosquito range from evocative lyric verse about shepherds and loneliness to historical essays that consider the "New Qing History." (It is a striking range, and one that was quite unexpected for this reader and historian.) In our conversation, Lucas was generous enough to explain many aspects of his process and approach as a translator, and to read a number of the translated poems collected in the volume. We talked about several aspects of his work, including both practical issues and more conceptual questions about the linking of history and poetry in the writing of a poet and a reader's approach to the resulting work. It was a pleasure, and I hope you enjoy listening.