In Such Hard Times: The Poetry of Wei Ying-wu
Copper Canyon Press

The 2010 Lucien Stryk Asian Translation Prize winner is Red Pine for his translation of In Such Hard Times: The Poetry of Wei Ying-wu.

Bill Porter — known as Red Pine since his days in Chinese Buddhist monasteries — is an American Zen figure who is famous for over a dozen books of translation, including the Tao Te Ching, Poems of the Masters: China’s Classic Anthology of T’ang and Sung Dynasty Verse, and The Collected Songs of Cold Mountain. After studying at The University of California and Columbia University, he lived for 22 years in Asia, including four years in a Buddhist monastery in Taiwan. He returned to the U.S. in 1993 and in 2008 published Zen Baggage, an account of his pilgrimage to sites associated with the beginning of Zen in China.

Wei Ying-wu (737–791) is famous in China, but barely known in the West. 200 years after his death, his poetry was included in the great Sung anthology Poems of the Masters and again in the Ming period (1368–1644) in Three Hundred Poems of the T’ang. Although Wei’s poetry has been handed down by Chinese readers for more than 1,000 years, Red Pine’s bilingual collection of 175 annotated poems brings to English readers for the first time a poet who is considered by many to be on par with the famous Chinese poets Li Po and Tu Fu.

Red Pine’s reaction to winning the prize reveals much about the process of literary translation: “Translation requires such a close collaboration, that Wei soon became my best friend. I’m so happy I got to know him and am so glad there are others who feel the same way I do about this poet who slipped through the net of celebrity.”

The judges for this year’s Lucien Stryk Asian Translation Prize praised In Such Hard Times for “bringing out Wei’s apparent simplicity of style, which is particularly important as his poetry is in some ways simpler than the more celebrated poetry of the T’ang. Red Pine’s translation, in simple yet elegant modern English and with thoughtful footnotes, not only makes Wei available to English-speaking readers, but also, potentially, makes him more accessible to many readers in Wei’s native culture today.”

Red Pine