Chinese poet, translator, scholar,
professor and editor Zhang Ziqing
at a conference at Suzhou University,
2007. Photo by Wang Yukuo.
Chinese poet, translator, scholar and editor Zhang Ziqing was born on 26 January
1939 in Nantong, Jiangsu Province. He graduated from the Department of Foreign
Languages and Literature at Nanjing University in 1964. Zhang was a Visiting
Scholar as a post-doctoral fellow at Harvard University(1982-83), a Fulbright Scholar
at Harvard University and the University of California at Berkeley (1993-94), and a
member of the Standing Committee of China Association for the Study of American
Literature. Interests in poetries of the west led him to become a researcher and
professor at the Institute of Foreign Literature Research at Nanjing University
(1964-1999). In 1999, Zhang was invited to Sweden to give several lectures on poetry
exchanges between The United States and China as well as on Chinese American
poetry. While there, he met members of the Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences and
Letters. Zhang is a member of the China Writers’ Association and a Guest
Research Fellow of Chinese American Literature Research Center at Beijing Foreign
Studies University, Beijing.
U.S. 20th Century Literary Connections & Cultural Exchanges
Professor Zhang made close connections to writers across the United States:
American poets, critics, and Chinese American writers in Boston, New York, San
Francisco, Los Angeles, New Jersey, across the heartland and in Hawaii. In the
Boston area: poet Rodger Martin, critic and professor Michael True. In New York:
poets Anne Waldman and Simon Pettet. In New Jersey: poet Edward Foster, editor of
Talisman. In the Bay area: professor Marjorie Perloff at Stanford, Maxine Hong
Kingston at UC-Berkeley, poet Jack Foley in Oakland. In Los Angeles: poet Russell
Leong and critic King-kok Cheung at UCLA. In New Mexico: poet and critic
Nathaniel Tarn and poet Arthur Sze. In the west: poet David Evans. In Hawaii: poet
Wing Tek Lum. Zhang also had cultural exchanges at home and abroad with
Language poets Charles Bernstein and Hank Lazer, Zen poets Sam Hamill and
Norman Fischer, and the American Indian poet Duane Big Eagle. Zhang’s meetings
with poets, as well as his research and scholarship in the United States, would leadhim to explore the history of 20th century American poetry.
Allen Ginsberg and Zhang Ziqing, San Francisco, 1994.
List of recommended poets by Allen Ginsberg given to Zhang Ziqing
in a restaurant after Ginsberg’s poetry reading in New York City, 1994.
Zhang Ziqing in 1994 with Lawrence Ferlinghetti at City Lights Bookstore [top left], with Philip
Whalen at Hartford Street Zen Meditation Center [top right], with Michael McClure at his home
(bottom left) and with Jack Foley in San Francisco, 1994 [bottom right].
In China and the United States, Zhang Ziqing is known for his scholarship on 20th
century American poetry, including the literature of the Beat Generation. While a
Fulbright Scholar at the University of California at Berkeley in 1994, he met several
Beat Generation poets including Allen Ginsberg, Lawrence Ferlinghetti, Philip
Whalen, Michael McClure and Jack Foley. These meetings led to him writing his
essay “From the Marginal to the Mainstream: Reflections on the Beat Poetry” that
was included in Above the Peaks: A Collection of Essays on Modern and Contemporary
Poetics, edited by Liu Jie-min (Wuhan: The Yangtze River Art & Literature Press,
2011, pp. 632-642). Meeting poets with ties to Buddhism across the U.S. also led Zhang to
translate a set of these poets' Zen poems into Chinese for a piece titled “Selected
American Zen Poems” in Critique of Poetry Vol. 4, edited by Jin Di and Meng
Tian-lan (Chang Sha City: Northern United Publishing Media Co. LTD, 2014, pp.
310-339). Zhang is the author of A History of 20th Century American Poetry (1995,
1997, 2018). This three volume
massive edition includes three chapters on the Beats: an
overview and history (Part 5, Ch. 5), a review of major and minor Beat poets (Part 5, Ch. 6)
and a chapter on the neglected Venice Beats (Part 5, Ch. 7). Zhang’s epic History of 20th
Century American Poetry was the topic of a national symposium held by Professor
Yang Jincai, Dean of the School of Foreign Languages and Literatures at Nanjing
University in January 2019.
Postcard from Allen Ginsberg to Zhang Ziqing (NYC, 26 March 1990)
in which Allen mentions receiving a literary questionnaire from Zhang.
Page one of letter from Ginsberg to Zhang in response to questionnaire.
Page 2 from Allen’s written response to Zhang’s poetry questionnaire.
Ginsberg’s response to Zhang’s questionnaire (NYC 8 August 1990).
Letter from Allen Ginsberg to Zhang Ziqing (NYC, 13 September 1992).
Zhang Ziqing reading a poem at a poet’s
gathering in Nanjing, China, 2016.
Professor Zhang became intrigued by the idea of there being a genre of “Post-Beat”
poetry in the United States after his Chinese colleague Wen Chu-an first mentioned it
to him in 2000. As an editor of Contemporary Foreign Literature, Zhang was
encouraged by Wen to introduce the Post-Beat (also spelled “Postbeat”) to
China. Through Wen, Zhang met Vernon Frazer, the editor of the first U.S. anthology
to identify the genre of “Post-Beat” poetry, Selected Poems of Post-Beat Poets (2008).
Selected Poems of Post-Beat Poets, an anthology of American Post-Beat
poems edited by Frazer and translated into Chinese by Wen Chu-an and Lei Li-min
was published with Zhang's assistance by People's Publishing House, Shanghai, 2008.
Selected Poems of Post-Beat Poets included an essay on Beat and Post-Beat poetry by
Zhang entitled “Are Beats and Post-Beats Decadents or ‘Pituo School'?” as a preface
to the anthology. Zhang also had an essay entitled “On American Postbeat Poetry”
published in Heteroglossia Among Archipelagos: Selected Esseys of Modern and
Contemporary Poetics, edited by Liu Jiemin (Wuhan: The Yangtze River Art
& Literature Press, 2014, pp. 408-418).
Zhang Ziqing and Vernon Frazer at
the Nanjing City Wall, 2004.
At the invitation of American professor and poet Charles Bernstein, Anne
Waldman––co-founder of the Jack Kerouac School of Disembodied Poetics at Naropa
University in Boulder, Colorado––and Zhang attended an International Conference on
20th Century American Poetry at Central China Normal University, Wuhan, on 21-23
July 2007. At the conference, on July 22, Waldman and Zhang gave a poetry reading
together: she read passages from Fast Speaking Woman (1975, 1978, 1996) in English
while Zhang read his translations in Chinese. Zhang also introduced Waldman and her
poetry to Chinese readers in his translation of a group of her poems, and his essay
“Anne, an Outstanding Poet: from Beat to Post-Beat” that appeared in Contemporary
International Poetry (No.1, 2009) in Beijing.
Zhang Ziqing and Anne Waldman after her poetry
reading with Allen Ginsberg, New York City, 1994.
Zhang concluded that the first shot of American postmodern poetry came from the
Beat poets headed by Allen Ginsberg who became a patron or mentor of the Post-Beat
poets. Zhang identified poet Anne Waldman as a living bridge between Beat and
Post-Beat poetries. His research suggested that three American poets played critical
roles in Post-Beat poetry: Vernon Frazer, Jim Cohn and David Cope. As a poet deeply
influenced by the work of Jack Kerouac, Frazer promoted Beat aesthetics such as
spontaneity and the return of poesy to its oral tradition roots. Frazer’s contribution lies
in his editing of Selected Poems of Post-Beat Poets, an anthology that first introduced
the Post-Beat poets and their work to China. It was Frazer who first gave poetry
readings in China as a Post-Beat poet. Zhang saw Jim Cohn as a major elucidator of
Post-Beat poetry as a critic and former teaching assistant of Ginsberg. He saw David
Cope as a major Post-Beat poet, a friend of Ginsberg’s work and legacy as influenced by
Charles Reznikoff and William Carlos Williams. Zhang devoted a chapter (Part 5, Ch. 22)
on Postbeat Poetry in his A History of 20th Century American Poetry and also covers
the “Heart Sons” of Allen Ginsberg: the American poets Antler, Andy Clausen and
American poets Jim Cohn (l) and David Cope (r),
hiking the Arapahoe Pass Trail, Indian Peaks
Wilderness, summer, 1994.
Zhang and Cohn began a correspondence on 5 March 2010 and soon introduced Cohn
to Vernon Frazer and Frazer’s groundbreaking Post-Beat anthology. David Cope and
Zhang would begin a correspondence soon thereafter, culminating in Zhang’s
translation of a group of Cope’s poems published in Poetry Periodical, a Beijing
journal (2018, 58-61). In January 2019, Cope did a poetry reading tour in China at the
invitation of the Poetry Periodical journal.
Allen Ginsberg’s Heart Sons: American poets Antler and David Cope, Naropa University,
Boulder, 1994 (left). Poets David Cope and Andy Clausen, Hoboken, 1983 (right). Photo
by Sharon Guynup. In 1980, Ginsberg had proposed a book featuring his three favorite then
younger poets: Antler, Clausen and Cope to Lawrence Ferlinghetti at the famed City Lights
Bookstore. The project fell through, but Antler’s epic poem “Factory” was published in
the Pocket Poets Series (#38) by City Lights Books in 1980.
Two Sides of the Globe: Contemporary Chinese and American Literatures and Their
Comparison (Co-editor with Chen Liao and Michael True). Nanjing: Nanjing
University Press, 1993.
A History of 20th Century American Poetry. Chang Chun: Jilin Education Publishing
House, 1995, 1997, 2018.
Pearl S. Buck: Selected Works (Deputy Editor-in-Chief). Guilin City: Li Jiang
Publishing House, 1998.
Cultural Meetings: American Writers, Scholars and Artists in China (Co-editor with
David Evans). Guilin: Guangxi Normal University Press, 2003.
Chinese American Fiction in series (Editor). Nanjing: Yilin Press, 2004.
How do Westerners Look at China (Editor). Cultural Travels series. Nanjing: Nanjing
“The New Zen Poetry in China” in Talisman, Fall 1994/Winter 1995, 154-158.
“Does Poetry Make Anything Happen? A Dialogue between Chinese and American
Poets in the 20th Century” (original text) in Talisman, ca. 1993 (?).
"Does Poetry Make Anything Happen: A Dialogue between Chinese and American
Poets in the 20th Century” (revised edition) in Comparative Literature
East and West Vol. 11, No 1, 2009.
“From the Marginal to the Mainstream: Reflections on the Beat Poetry” in Above the
Peaks: A Collection of Essays on Modern and Contemporary Poetics, edited by Liu
Jie-min (Wuhan: The Yangtze River Art & Literature Press, 2011, 632-642).
“A Dialogue between Chinese and American Poets in the New Century: Their Poetry
Readings, Translation and Writing in Collaboration” in Contemporary
Comparative Literature: East & West, Autumn /Winter 2011, No. 2, Vol.15,
“On American Postbeat Poetry” published in Heteroglossia Among Archipelagos:
Selected Essays of Modern and Contemporary Poetics, edited by Liu Jiemin
(Wuhan: The Yangtze River Art & Literature Press, 2014, 408-418).
“Selected Zen Poems” in Critique of Poetry Vol. 4, edited by Jin Di and Meng Tian-lan
(Chang Sha City: Northern United Publishing Media Co. LTD, 2014, 310-339).
"Does Poetry Make Anything Happen: A Dialogue between Chinese and American
Poets in the 20th Century” (revised edition). First online version 6 August 2018.
Retrieved 15 November 2019.
Selected Poems from T. S. Eliot (Translator). Chengdu: Sichuan Art and Literature
Press, 1985, 1992.
Selected American Language Poems (Co-translator with Yunte Huang). Chengdu:
Sichuan Art and Literature Press, 1993.
Birthday Letters by Ted Hughes. Nanjing: Yilin Press, 2001.
On American New Pastoral Poems (Translator, Co-editor with Luo Zhu). Beijing:
China Drama Publishing House, 2006.
The Waste Land and Other Poems by T. S. Eliot (Co-translator with Zhao Luo-rui).
Beijing: Yan Shan Press, 2006.
Always A Reckoning And Other Poems by Jimmy Carter (Translator). Beijing:
Kunlun Press, 2006.
Zhang received the following awards for his monograph A History of 20th Century
First Chang Bai Shan Excellent Book Award (1997).
Third Jiangsu Philosophy and Social Sciences Excellent Book Award (1997).
First Prize, Humanities Research Science Foundation of Nanjing University (1998).
National Social Science Foundation Grant (2016).