“Please forgive me.” These words appear in the beginning of Jonathan Stalling’s Yíngēlìshī—an experimental “transgraphic” work written in what he calls “Sinophonic English,” which strains the parameters of what we call “translation.” Stalling’s work evinces a deep knowledge of and sensitivity towards Chinese language, philosophy, and culture; yet, he plays with misrecognitions and mishearings that emerge in the heterocultural space of mistranslation.
Like Place’s iterations of Gone with the Wind,Jonathan Stalling’s Yíngēlìshī 吟歌丽诗 also takes as its impetus the copying of another text and also addresses racial stereotyping and the negative attitude toward accents and dialects of English that differ from enforced norms. In Yíngēlìshī , Stalling appropriates an English phrasebook for Chinese speakers. The phrasebook uses standard characters for representing English speech. These characters are not meaningless but their use is conventionalized and in this context they are meant simply to stand for the English sounds––their meaning in Chinese is considered irrelevant. Stalling reproduces the Chinese and English from the phrasebook.
As editor of Tinfish Press, which publishes experimental poetry from the Pacific region, I try to put different Pacific poets and poetries in conversation with each other. After 15 years of editing, I no longer think of myself as someone who simply publishes books. Instead, I offer up fields of books, islands of them. The point is to move between these islands, not to stay fixed in one place. In The Radicant, Nicholas Bourriaud (on whom I’ve blogged elsewhere) describes such a poetics this way: “It is a matter of replacing the question of origin with that of destination.” He writes of the importance of the “itinerary, the path” (55), and of the need for movement. I would like to use this space on Jacket2 to get some of these conversations moving. Many, but not all, will involve Tinfish authors; webs of connection attract across time and space and small press offices.
I had the good fortune to spend three days in the field, last week, with a wildlife biologist and her field crew, in their study area in the Southern Canadian Rockies, observing and helping the team “pull transects,” inventory tree growth, and track for wolf and other predator sign. They were compiling data for evidence of “trophic cascades,” in the ecosystems at the mountain-prairie interface. Trophic cascades are the energy that ripples out from the presence of a top predator, or a “keystone species,” in an ecosystem—not necessarily through direct predation so much as through an “ecology of fear,” which keeps herbivores vigilant and on the move, balancing browsing with scanning for predators. Removal of the predator can result in a collapse of the number and complexity of the energy cascades; presence of a predator amplifies and expands the energy ripples. Through such “cascade” effects, we ultimately might establish links between, say, wolf presence and songbird diversity. (For some ecosystems, a “mesopredator” like the coyote fulfills the function of the wolf.) Or so the theory goes.
Theoretical or not, I like to call it the wolf-songbird complex.